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. 
 


Comments

Jan ne Heimann
08/20/2015 2:00pm

Terrific now to shul

Reply
03/20/2017 8:49am

There are times that we truly meet people because they have something for us. It's not always as adept as we wish, but instead it is the other way around. Our surroundings has really something for us whether we wish it or not. They are destined to tell us their floor and teach us lessons we don't expect that could possibly happen. I like meeting people but I hate getting attached to them because I know for myself they have something for me, a lesson that I don't expect and wanted to. Thank you for sharing your experience with your last patient.

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08/25/2015 8:31am

It's natural yet we feel different if in our lives, there is a stanger that would actually bring so much question in the way we live and how we think. You've written this article in a ver informative yet touching way. We can sense that your last patient cause too much impact on you, thus this deserves to be written not just to be read, but also, to inspire.

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