Sunday, August 1, 2010

Improving Mind, Body and Spirit: My 'In your Shoes' Experience

So I had a chance to work with the wonderful team on 4West, our critical care step down unit. I did have a badge made up which included my name and the unit name only. Sometimes, I find that people are 'title' watchers and may change the way they act based on your title and role in the organization.

Everyone on the unit was very welcoming to me. The moment I arrived, Lauren (the Charge nurse - and my boss for the shift) called me into an isolation room with a patient. We had to put on a plastic gown and gloves. Within about 2 minutes, I was overheating and probably looked like I was in a sauna. As a runner, I must tell you, we have to find a more 'breathable' gown (hey, maybe DryFit) that is staff friendly, compliant with our regulations and cost effective.

I had a chance to see the compassionate one on one care our patients need and deserve. It was suggested that we should try to get even more volunteers to help sit and talk with the patients. It could certainly feel pretty lonely hanging in a hospital 24/7 for 3-4+ days.

I was shown our incident report so I could better understand the complexities to filling it out. As an organization, we want to increase the number filled out so we could continue to learn and improve how we provide the safest care to our patients. I had a few minutes of downtime and headed to the Emergency Department to see how things were going and if they needed any assistance. I was asked to take a patient from the Emergency Department over to Radiology. A funny thing happened on the way...I sometimes forget how challenging it could be to move the beds through the hospital. Though I did not hit any walls, I better understand how it could happen. Those beds have a mind of their own. Along the way, I realized that I usually go a different direction to get to Radiology and was almost lost in my own hospital...I'll work on the signage! After dropping off the patient, I let the Emergency Department know the hand-off was complete and headed back to 4West. It was dinner time and I had the opportunity to feed a patient. What a rewarding experience this was for me. It allowed me to better know one of our patients and the experience she was having in our hospital. Of course, when one of the nurses came in I accidentally dropped a strawberry on the patient's lap. I apologized to the patient and and let the nurse nurse know that food was not dropping on the patient's lap through the entire feeding. As I went to leave for the evening I grabbed my drink from what I thought was a 'compliant' location. Well, the team busted me and coached me to put in the staff lounge next time.

Overall, it was a very humbling and rewarding experience. I can't thank the team enough for sharing their time with me.

The care we provide to our patients, truly starts with the care with provide to each other. Our mission focuses includes the following statement:

Our commitment to human dignity compels us to provide compassionate, quality health care for body, mind and spirit, with a special concern for the poor.
What does body, mind and spirit mean? A basic definition is viewing the totality of your mental, physical and spiritual states to arrive at a point of balance between them. It's the essence of the word "holistic" which means to take into consideration all aspects of a person's being rather than just the physical. (Source:

This has always been important to me and sometimes you need to 'walk in other's shoes' to get additional perspective. We will continue to focus on the mind, body and spirit of our associates volunteers and physicians so they could provide the same for our patients and their families and friends.

Thank you again Lauren and the 4West Team.

I look forward to understanding how you and/or your organization address mind, body and spirit and how you measure the improvement.


  1. Mr. Kashman,
    I always enjoy reading your blog, and this is no exception. It pleases me very much to see that you are willing to walk in others' shoes for a day and appreciate how all in the hospital are working together to care for the patients.
    This brings me to another area I have been curious about: would you be comfortable posting your thoughts, or the direction your health system is taking, regarding the directive from the Vatican to hospitals not to remove feeding tubes from patients, even when an Adavanced Directive is in place?
    Thank you for your consideration.

  2. Thank you for your question. The resources available to our hospital community allow us to operate in ways that are consistent with Church teaching, as well as balance the individual and personal needs of each patient entrusted to us for care. Developments in medical technology and science, as well as in Church teaching and application on medical issues, consistently call us as medical professionals in the Catholic healthcare ministry to be both pastoral in our approach to individual and faithful with regard to Church teachings. Resources that serve our hospital community in this response include, but are not limited to, qualified and compassionate medical professionals, departments of Mission Integration and Spiritual Care, and the Ethics and Human Values Committee. These examples serve as the vehicles through which we can address and respond to individuals and teachings that guide and direct our health ministry. I appreciate the question.