Now more than ever, we need to connect with those we love to stay healthy and well. Even as we self-quarantine, we have all made changes and found creative ways to communicate and connect with each other using video chats, phone calls, texts, or even hand-written notes. COVID-19 has created many challenges for hospitals and healthcare organizations globally, one of the most difficult being the struggle to connect patients with COVID-19 with their loved ones and to provide the emotional support they need while they are in the hospital.
Because COVID-19 is passed from one person to another, hospitals have been forced to put in place strict visitor policies. Recognizing how important physical and spiritual connection to loved ones is to a patient’s recovery and wellbeing, Brigham and Women’s Hospital has created several projects to bridge this connection and give patients the opportunity to connect with their loved ones even while they are in the hospital.
While family members are unable to be physically present in the hospital, one project created by Palliative Care doctors and first-year medical students, called “Get to Know Me,” has helped loved ones stay connected to patients and their caregivers during their hospital stay. Medical students interview family members by phone and make a small poster with photos and important facts about the patient as a person, aside from their illness, such as their pet’s name and their favorite television show. The poster is then hung outside the patient’s room for their care team to view and learn from.
Example “Get to Know Me” poster. Note: This poster and information is not of a real patient.
In addition to the creation of these posters, several projects have been put in place so that patients can have “virtual” family and spiritual care visits while they are in the hospital. Through two different virtual family visit programs, patients in the Intensive Care Unit, with the assistance of their nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants or doctors, are able to have virtual visits via phone or video chart with their families or, if patients do not have their own devices, the hospital has created a program that provides patients with loaners so that they can easily stay connected with their loved ones throughout their hospital stay. These loaners are available from 7:00am-11:00pm daily.
To-date, over 600 virtual family visits have been facilitated by both virtual visit programs.
In addition to ensuring patients can stay connect with their family and loved ones, Spiritual Care Services, a Brigham service that aims to assess and serve the emotional and spiritual needs of patients and their families in moments of crisis and uncertainty, has created a program that allows patients to have spiritual care visits done entirely virtually. It is our belief that these programs contribute to the patient’s overall well-being, and that human and spiritual connection can positively affect a patient’s healing.
Our hope is that as the need for distancing continues, we will continue to expand these programs, as well as create others that address the constantly changing and unique needs of patients.