Now that visitors are no longer allowed, we noticed that this not only took away embracing comfort for the patients but also removed their greatest advocates, their loved ones. We know family members play a critical role in patient care. They are a voice for the patient when they are too altered or too ill to speak. They advocate for quality care, explanations, and humane treatment. Our committee noticed early on that this component was missing. We feel a sense of responsibility to advocate for each of these patients as though they are our loved ones, suffering in a stretcher gasping for air from the terrible effects of COVID-19.
Nursing and ancillary staff shortages coupled with an overwhelming number admit holds in the emergency department lead to cracks in basic patient care. We noticed that many patients were sitting in soiled sheets or lying in bed at an uncomfortable and unproductive position for proper oxygenation. We helped maintain human dignity and comfort by changing patients to clean sheets and diapers, positioning them upright while eating, and moving them into a prone position for better oxygenation.
Have You Talked to Your Family?
We know that treating the human spirit can have beneficial effects on the healing process. A simple question of “Have you talked to your family?” or “Can we help you communicate with your loved ones?” brought large dividends.
If a photo is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million to patients’ families.
One day while we were rounding on admitted patients in the emergency department, there was a 65-year-old man on BiPAP who had forgotten his phone. It was shocking to hear that he had not spoken to his wife for three days, and when asked if he would like our team to send a message to his wife, he jokingly said, “I hope she hasn’t forgotten about me.” The patient’s wife, in turn, asked us to relay back, “I love you.” Even better, she dropped off a phone for him.
We reached out to our friends, family, and community for donations for phone chargers, headphones, iPads, and cell phones. We received an overwhelming response, as well as donations from companies that supply portable power banks. Logistical barriers included managing inventory of donations, accessing hospital Wi-Fi, and making numerous video chat accounts for each iPad. In retrospect, we wish we had started this initiative sooner.