Friday, April 26, 2013

Family Medicine Activist: "Doctor, You Have a Call from Hospice"

#HAWMC Day 25

Once or twice weekly, one of our office staff knocks on the exam room door where I'm engaged with a patient and softly says when I stick my head out, "Doctor, Hospice is on line 2 for you."

I excuse myself from the patient and interact with the hospice nurse about one of my patients whom we're caring for.  We talk many times before finally, every two or three months, one of these nurses is informing me of a patient death.  At these times, I reflect on the patient and their life as I knew it, along with their family as I know them.  I may make a note to remind me to continue my grief and mourning my loss of this relationship.  Thoughts about the deceased covering years and years sometimes flood my brain and I have to separate from the sense of loss to see the next patient.

The note, that I'll re-read later, will remind me to continue to grieve after I'm finished with afternoon patients and to reflect on the life of the deceased.  This process helps me to avoid "stuckness" because of unreconciled grief.

The duration of my relationship with those involved seems to determine the intensity of my sense of loss.  Reflecting on the meaning of their lives and getting to continue interacting with family members gives me a sense of continuity and humanity.  Families are amazing, too.

Hospice is a special friend of all, waiting to knock on our door.  We don't have to ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for us all. 

"Doctor, Hospice is calling."

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