THE BLOG

The Patient Experience: The Importance of Care, Communication, and Compassion in the Hospital Room

04/01/2015 07:28 am ET | Updated May 31, 2015

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"The patient engagement is key to better patient outcomes, lower costs of care, and more joyful clinicians. Health care needs people like Brian Boyle to keep us focused on the goal, to have an impact."--Dr. Peter Pronovost, Johns Hopkins Medicine

The world is full of unknowns. We were a normal family living a happy life, and then one day, a near fatal car accident changed everything.

My dreams were shattered like the bones in my body. I lost 60% of my blood, heart was ripped across my chest, lungs collapsed, major organs were damaged, pelvis and ribs were pulverized, and I was resuscitated eight times. While in a two-month long medically-induced coma, I was unable to move or talk to anyone around me, yet I was able to hear, see, and feel pain for a majority of my time in the Intensive Care Unit.

As a family, we never thought that we would face such a traumatic situation, or rather, such a horrific nightmare. We were thrown into a place consisting of surgeries, machines, tubes, blood, and medical terms that caused utter confusion. We were in the hands of my medical team, and a few of them even said I was "in God's hands." For the next few months, we were constantly faced with unfathomable uncertainty and total despair.

Life seems to go on standby when you enter this unfamiliar realm. You frequently come face to face with the strength of the human spirit and the perseverance of the mind and the body. Throughout this entire ordeal, my parents and I experienced how unforgiving life can be and how it can drastically change in the blink of an eye.

Due to a concussion, I woke up not knowing how I arrived at the hospital, or why I was paralyzed, or why my parents were hysterically crying every time they came in my room. I had so many questions and needed so many answers. My parents had many questions also - about my prognosis, what the future would hold, and if life would ever return to normal. But again, there were no answers. There was no guidebook or support group to prepare us for what we were in for as a family.

What I learned throughout my time in the hospital is that while I may have been the patient lying in the hospital bed, I was not the only one in that room who was suffering. The observations that I made truly inspired me and helped me understand how important the role of communication is among the patient, family, and health care provider. When I was able to learn how to talk again, I soon discovered that the power of the voice is amplified when the message is of gratitude, that a simple smile cannot be underestimated, and that body language and tone of voice are critical components within the hospital room.

Every patient in the hospital has a story, and along with their loved ones, they all share an experience. After all my parents and I have been through, we made the decision to put our thoughts and experiences together to share our sincere gratitude and insight with the medical community from a patient and family perspective. We also hope that our experiences can offer hope and guidance for families facing the heartbreaking sadness when an unexpected, life-altering medical situation occurs.

Throughout this book, The Patient Experience: The Importance of Care, Communication, and Compassion in the Hospital Room, my parents and I discuss what worked for us during our time in the hospital, along with some things that could have been done a little bit differently to improve the situation. In no way are we trying to declare that this is the only way to treat the patient because that is not our intention or place to say such things. I believe in healthcare and the amazing people that have chosen to pursue this field in life. Our goal is to offer suggestions that we hope will improve the overall experience for both the caregiver, the patient, and their family.

This is a short video where I talk about some of my experiences in the hospital.

My recovery began the moment I was airlifted from the accident scene to Shock Trauma. For the next three years, I was transported throughout the many departments of the healthcare system, which is why I strongly believe that the information we cover in this book can also be very effective in any area of the entire health care system because the end goal is taking care of people. In order for us to provide better care for these individuals, we must understand the experiences they go through within the health care system. We must observe what they think and feel as they go through their journey. Our story is only one journey and it is intended as a means to express our appreciation to health care providers and also initiate the much-needed conversation of how we can take a step further to improve the experience for the patient and their family.

By the conclusion of this book, readers will be able to:

  • Recognize the variety of feelings and emotions of the patient
  • Identify simple methods and interventions to provide emotional support to relax the patient
  • Determine the importance of particular amenities to a patient who may be unable to communicate
  • Evaluate patient life-history to determine appropriate intervention techniques
  • Understand the motivational role that communication has between the healthcare provider and the patient and his or her family

With my background, it is so meaningful to have the opportunity to share my story and appreciation with caregivers throughout the world. I also know that the healthcare setting can affect the provider over time because they experience so much with their patients. Compassion fatigue is very real, and it is always my goal to reignite that motivational flame that inspired them to pursue healthcare in the first place. It is my hope that when a healthcare provider picks up this book to read, whether they have been in the healthcare field for 5 days or 5 decades, they will feel motivated, recharged, and reflect back on what inspired them to want to go in the field in the first place. This book is not only meant for front line staff, but also anyone in the health care system who wants to understand what the patient and family are going through in the hospital setting.

Ever since I left the hospital, I have been on a personal mission to make a positive impact in healthcare. This book offers a rare and unique glimpse of what the patient and family are going through, and it covers the information that my parents and I wish we had during our time in the hospital.