I just saw my last patient.

I can't tell you much about her, but here's what I can say.

I can tell you that before I made my visit, I checked her chart. I learned to do that early in the summer when, due to a miscommunication, I accidentally told the daughter of a patient, "I'm so sorry for your loss," before noticing that the patient was not yet dead. Fortunately, the daughter did not speak English very well and I was able to recover the conversation. But I learned to always check the chart right before a visit.

I can tell you that I signed one of our Spiritual Care cards, which includes information about spiritual care services and (on some) a religion-specific prayer, with a message, "Dear ___, I hope this card brings you comfort. Please know we are here for you. Sincerely, Jeremy (Chaplain)." 

I can tell you that a person's spiritual care needs often are independent of their stated religion. I remember vividly when a patient of no religion told me that he is unsure whether there is a God, but saw divinity in the creation of Barbara Streisand. Knowing this patient's religious preference actually told me very little about her desire for spiritual care. Sometimes a Catholic would welcome me and say, "Hey, I'll take whatever help I can get!" And another patient would specifically want a priest. And another patient wrote down that he is Jewish just so he could get the Kosher meals because, "the food here is terrible, but the Kosher option is a little better." I learned that my job is to provide the spiritual care that the patient needs.

I can tell you that this patient's family was present. I learned that family members are often in just as much need for spiritual care as the patient. I also learned that family members who have not shown up until the end are the ones who often advocate for more aggressive treatment.

I can tell you this patient had an advanced directive. Make sure you and your family members have one. I learned about the confusion and additional anxiety that is brought on just by not having one conversation.

I can tell you this patient declined a spiritual care visit. That's not uncommon. But I have learned this summer not to take it personally. Indeed, I have found that 99% of what a patient/family member says to me has nothing to do with me.

I can tell you that this patient was cared for by an exceptional team. I was so lucky to have been a part of my team's unit. From the doctors to the nurses to the clinical partners, everyone showed me how much better a patient experience can be when you work as a healthy team. The unit even has their own mission statement: "Create a family-like environment that promotes a stress-less workflow, and allows us to provide high quality, safe, patient-centered care based on evidence-based practices, education, and collaboration." I learned how amazing it is when a team lives out its mission statement. 

I can tell you that I ended the conversation by saying, "Be well." I learned in one of my first patient visits that it's not always appropriate to say, "have a great day."

I can tell you that she was my last patient. But I will be a better rabbi because of meeting people like her this summer.