There is a room inside the hospital many do not know about. A room that anyone involved in patient care dreads to frequent, and work their hardest to never visit. A room that has seen more heartache and despair, more shock and awe, more confusion and rage than perhaps any other room within the hospital walls.
It’s a room where families have come together, and been torn apart. Where relationships have been strengthened, and tragically ended. Where simple words have been spoken that have changed the dynamic of another person’s life forever.
Its where husbands have lost their wives, where mothers have lost their sons, and where children have lost their parents.
It’s a room where all the chaos and confusion that just occurred is attempted to be made sense of in complicated medical terminology to those who just want to hear, “they are going to be ok”. But life isn’t always so fair.
Upon first glance, the room is nothing special, in fact hundreds walk past it every day unaware of its existence. A generic plate to the right of the door defines the room, admittedly not encapsulating its full use. Blinds cover the window, misshapen from a mother’s grasp as she tried to break her grief-stricken fall. A cold stiff couch faces its twin, their blue fabric faded from the thousands of tears they have absorbed. The walls, covered in dozens of coats of white and teal paint, have been patched time and time again from a fist thrown in blind anger. And overlooking it all, a Baroque painting, aptly named Madonna in Sorrow depicts the virgin Mary, grief stricken over the loss of her son.
We in healthcare treat the patients who are having the worst days of their lives, and yet here is a room dedicated for one purpose. For those with no injuries or illnesses, who are also having the worst day of THEIR lives... and many may not even know it yet.
This room is more important than we know. It is an integral part of the care we provide and yet so often overlooked. We take care of people, and as we see more loss, more tragedy and more of the unexplained it is easy to forget that the care extends not only to our patients, but to the family as well.
Trust me, I have my days where the last thing I want is to have family at the bedside. To explain every procedure, to be looked at with suspicion in everything I do, to defend the care I am giving, but I understand it. To me, this person I am treating is a patient, to the family, they are their world.
It may not get easier to tell a family their loved one has died, watching the expression on their face turn slowly from that last sliver of hope to total grief, but we move on. The faces tend to start to run together. The emotions, expected. The responses the same. But to them it is brand new. Your face, your voice, your words…they will remember for the rest of their lives. And as such it is so damn important to ensure that the care you extend is real and meaningful.