Friday, January 31, 2014

A Call for Awareness: A New Goal

As I have shared before on this blog, I am very passionate about my work as an occupational therapist, and for many years I have considered myself an advocate for individuals with disabilities.  However, it wasn’t until I became a caregiver of a person with a catastrophic illness that I really “got it.”  It’s a club no one really wants to join, but at some point many of us will, and, through my experience in helping to take care of my dad as he went through treatment for the brain cancer that took his life a short time later, I learned things as a health care provider, as a daughter, and as a person that I likely wouldn’t have otherwise.  

In today’s health care system, the bottom line is so often seen as the dollar: what's stressed is funding and reimbursement instead of quality patient care.  As a medical professional, I know that it’s easy to get caught up in productivity quotas, documentation, and administrative spreadsheets and paperwork.  But very few of those of us, if any, got into this field for those reasons; by and large, we became health care providers to try to help people.  Somewhere along the way, though, in many cases, our priorities are shifted.  Our focus is changed: we go from looking towards the horizon to staring at the road just in front of us as we work to get through the day-to-day procedures of our jobs.

Like a lot of times when dramatic realizations occur, something happened in my life that caused me to rethink my focus, to shift my priorities, to change my perspective.  Through telling the story of the health care that was provided to my dad during his ten-week long battle with brain cancer, I want to challenge the way other health care providers think about their patients, in hopes that that shift in perspective will help them to provide better care to their patients, especially those who are facing life-altering illness or injury.  I have decided to set a goal of writing a book, one that will come from parts of the story as it has already been told through this blog and from added accounts of what happened during the time of my dad's illness.  My goal is to tell the story piece by piece on this blog so that it can be shared in book format with people who are involved in the treatment and care of individuals with life-changing illness or injury.  

Through this project, I want to bring awareness to other health care providers and rehab professionals about the importance of recognizing that every patient has a story.  I hope to encourage those in the medical field to remember to look towards the horizon as they care for each patient, to think outside of the box, to see things through the patient's eyes, to understand that what they think is important for a patient's recovery may not be the same as the priorities of the patient, and to realize that supporting a patient's family is part of every intervention.  I want to urge rehab professional and others in the health care field to do their part to assist families in accessing services for both themselves and for the patient so that adequate support will be available even after discharge.  I want to remind health care providers that they are in a position to share their expertise in ways that have meaning to the patient, regardless of changes in function or of life expectancy.  I want to emphasize the fact that compassion is a part of every good treatment plan.  I want to tell this story with a goal of inciting a shift in perspective by underscoring the importance of patient-centered intervention and care of the patient as a whole, not just in medical professionals but in everyone who may one day be involved in the care of someone with a life-changing illness or injury.

Stay tuned ...