“CRISES ALLOW for innovation at a faster rate. We’ve been able to enact things that we have talked about for years but could never get through the many roadblocks that exist within a health care organization. Things like taking cross-cover calls from home, paired with an in-house cross-cover person. We found that person at home is able to be much more responsive on the phone compared to our in-house cross-cover.
Another major innovation has been around communication with family members. In the past, it was very easy to leave the onus on family; if they really want to know what’s going on, they should come and visit or reach out. But now, they can’t. It’s our job to make sure they’re updated and present in the care of their loved one, especially when a patient isn’t doing well.
Another skill we were never formally taught is being able to walk a family through saying goodbye over the phone. I think back on the number of deaths that I’ve attended to where family wasn’t present when I could have used those skills to give them some type of closure. I wish I had found resources like Vitaltalk.org to learn these skills before this pandemic.
I’ve now put a phone up to an unresponsive, dying patient and guided a family through the things they could say. And for most families, it’s awkward, they’ve never done it either. It really requires prompting on our part and giving them examples.
I tell them, ‘Many people in this situation say I’m sorry or I forgive you, or thank you or you’re not alone. If any of these ring true for you, you could consider saying them.’ Allowing them to have that experience has been incredibly rewarding. It is now something I’ll do for the rest of my career when a family member can’t be present, even for an unresponsive patient. It doesn’t require being able to interact back for someone to have that closure.”
~ Kendall Rogers, MD
University of New Mexico