Who Cares For the Doctor?
By Victor Montour
The hospice concept places the patient and family at the center of care, surrounded by the hospice team. This last month I was forced to look at this concept and found the referring doctor is a loose member of the hospice team we may forget about. The doctor who is involved in the care of their patient may not be involved in the hospice meetings but they are a part of the team. The potential problem with this model is that after taking care of a patient for a long time, the doctor is often close to the patient and more or less, emotionally attached. Referring a patient to hospice may result in a significant loss to the doctor. Who cares for the doctor now?
Most hospices usually do not maintain a close conversation or bond with the primary doctor. The hospice sends the required paperwork and calls with the occasional emergency, but often the next significant contact after the original referral, is to notify the physician of the patient’s death. For those doctors who are not comfortable with end-of-life care, this professional and functional distance may be acceptable. However, for many doctors who fight fatal diseases month after month or even year after year in each patient, the loss of connection is draining.
This last month Front Range Hospice again raised the bar on quality. We do and will say, “Hey doc, how are you doing? This must be hard on you.” The doctor’s loss and pain should be acknowledged. Generally, that is OK. It is not the job of the health care system to heal a physicians wound, but the right thing to do is to reach out to that doctor, offer a caring gesture of concern and willingness to support them during a time of loss. I can’t help but wonder if one of the causes of the late hospice referral is the abrupt severing of invested patient-physician relationships. Front Range Hospice cannot and will not ignore the pain which comes from loosing patient after patient and having no one say, “Are you alright?” This is just another way Front Range Hospice stands out from its competitors.
Front Range Hospice is committed to supporting all care providers closely involved in the care of our patients. After all the doctor explains hospice to the patient and family, they make a point of saying that they will still take care of them, that they would be closely involved and that the hospice is not “taking over.”
We as hospice providers must remember that doctors are human and, not rarely, they fall in love with the patients and families held gently in their hands. Perhaps, sometimes, it might help if someone would hold the doctor as gently and say, hey doc, we care about you.
If you would like more information about Front Range Hospice and how we support and care for all of our healthcare providers and partners please call 303-957-3101 or 970-776-8080 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org