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The Gold Humanism in Medicine Honor Society’s (GHHS) Solidarity Week for compassionate patient care was held on Feb. 15-19, 2016. The University of South Alabama College of Medicine chapter of GHHS participated in several activities to remind students and employees of the importance of compassion in medicine.
“To me, compassionate health care means taking the time to get to know each patient individually. It means not only understanding their illness, but also knowing other factors that will affect their healing process like stressors in the home or financial instability,” said Lindsey Stewart, a fourth-year medical student and GHHS member at the USA College of Medicine. “Getting to know patients also helps to establish a trusting relationship that will benefit the course of their care.”
Solidarity Week is focused on encouraging medical schools and patient care facilities around the country to show the importance of kindness to patients. On Monday, Feb. 15, 2016, GHHS members participated in the “Tell Me More” campaign. After obtaining consent, medical students asked patients to tell them unique information about themselves. After learning about their personal lives, the students crafted a poster to present to the patients. The posters were placed above their bed to showcase their favorite movies, nicknames or hobbies.
Dheepa Sekar, a fourth-year medical student and GHHS secretary and treasurer at USA, said the “Tell Me More” program serves two purposes. “The first purpose is for the student or caregiver to remember that patients are real people with real lives who have real meaning to those around them. For the patient, on the other hand, it is a break from the medicine; a minute to stop and chat and feel human.”
This year, Sekar helped organize the “Tell Me More” campaign. “I participated in the event last year and was struck by how much the patients appreciated the extra attention. Patients really lit up and enjoyed telling us about their lives. Knowing how much the patients appreciated the effort, it was important to me to have a successful event again this year."
“Solidarity Week really made me appreciate the importance of making a little more time to get to know the patient; a truly invaluable lesson,” Sekar said.
Stewart participated in the “Tell Me More” program with pediatric patients at USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital. “I think that it is especially important to practice compassionate health care with pediatric patients because being admitted into the hospital can be a very scary situation for them. Unlike adults, children may not always understand why they are in the hospital or why certain tests have to be run. Taking time to get to know the patient on an individual level may make the experience more pleasant.”
One pediatric patient in particular, Raven, stood out to Stewart. “The most memorable part of my day was being able to interview Raven. When I first met her she was having a very charming conversation with a few of her nurses at the nurse’s station. She appeared to be excited to participate in the “Tell Me More” campaign. Her family members got involved by helping her think of some of the activities she enjoys. I think her favorite part of the day was getting her photo taken,” said Stewart. Stewart and Raven then decorated her poster with stickers and hung it above her bed. During Stewart’s conversation with Raven, she repeated “I’m famous” multiple times, signifying how much she enjoyed the extra attention. According to her poster, Raven wants to be a nurse, doctor or a dolphin trainer when she is older.
Paul Hixon, another fourth-year medical student and GHHS member, said the “Tell Me More” campaign led to moments of laughter, encouragement and lifted everyone’s spirits. “The patients were a little shy at first, but when they started talking they enjoyed it,” Hixon said. “One patient talked to me about how she loved her children and grandchildren and wanted to be there for them. Talking about this allowed her to express what was motivating her to keep going and we were able to share that goal with her.”
Participating in Solidarity Week taught Hixon a valuable lesson. “It inspired me to not just focus on patients' medical needs, but also to care for the whole person.”
GHHS students are committed to practicing compassion in health care far beyond Solidarity Week. “Even though there will be time constraints, I plan to find at least some small way to connect with every patient that I encounter,” Stewart said. “Compassion can be shown in small ways like making sure to turn the patient’s TV back on if you turned it off to talk to them or making sure they are in a comfortable resting position before you leave the room."
Wednesday, GHHS members distributed Krispy Kreme donuts to residents to show their appreciation. To conclude Solidarity Week, GHHS sponsored their first annual luncheon on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016. Dr. John Lammers from Mercy Life Health Center presented a lecture on “Management of End of Life Care.” The luncheon was open to all first and second year medical students.
The GHHS Solidarity Day for Compassionate Patient Care was initiated after the 2011 shootings in Tucson, Ariz., to honor the humanistic actions of Dr. Randall Friese, the trauma surgeon who first treated Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. The “Tell Me More” project was developed in 2014 by GHHS chapter members at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai.
Click here to view more photos from Solidarity Week at USA.
To learn more about Solidarity Week, click here. Share your own posts and photos using the hashtag #SolidarityWeek.
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