Our Call to Compassion

I read with interest and distress the personal essay in the last issue of Proto (“Please, Keep Your Prayers,” Winter 2016). The writer recounts her mother’s health care experience with a chaplain, who offers a well-meaning prayer, despite the patient being an atheist.

Please know that any competent, well-trained, board-certified, professional chaplain would never impose a prayer upon a patient who doesn’t request it, especially one who declines such an offer. A competent and compassionate chaplain would, in fact, accompany a patient through her journey alongside her just as she is. Successful chaplaincy aims to honor and rely upon a patient’s values and beliefs (not the chaplain’s belief system) with skill and compassion, by getting to know the individual and finding meaningful ways to meet his or her needs.

I hope that author Sarah Stankorb and her mother are doing well, and don’t find themselves in need of further hospital care anytime soon. But as a leader of a large and diverse team of chaplains at Massachusetts General Hospital (including a Humanist from Ethical Culture), I hope that, if they do, they might encounter chaplains like those I lead here at MGH, who will honor and respect the wishes of every patient and make a real and positive contribution to their care.

Rev. John W. Polk, DMin, BCC  // Director of Chaplaincy, Massachusetts General Hospital  

Nurses, Not Robots

The winter issue of Proto includes an interview about the use of robots in health care. While the topic, overall, was interesting and tied in with the theme of the expanding role of technology in hospitals, the title, “Calling Nurse Robot,” was problematic. The interview discussed the work of robots, including managing garbage and delivering meds from the pharmacy—all perfectly fine work for robots—but the title helped ascribe these activities to nurses. Additionally, the photo that accompanied the article included a robot with painted lipstick. While no doubt unintentional, the implications were demeaning.

Nurses are intelligent, well-educated, caring men and women who are called upon every day to apply science, knowledge, judgment, compassion and advocacy. Skilled nurses save lives and improve patient outcomes. We must do what we can to prevent the proliferation of inaccurate and inappropriate stereotypes.

Karen Zoeller // Intensive care nurse, Massachusetts General Hospital

A Human Touch

Right now on the front lines of health care, millions of nurses are leading, caring and providing world-class care to patients around the globe.  Yet in the most recent issue of Proto, nurses were depicted in a devalued manner.

The headline “Calling Nurse Robot” instantly diminished the role of nurse to a place of mechanical behavior, task orientation and non-caring machines. To add insult to injury, the robot was painted with bright red lipstick, an inaccurate depiction of professional nurses. First, the nursing profession is not all women. Nurses value the diversity that exists within our profession. We value the human touch with patients and are proud of the contributions we make to patient outcomes.

I believe that when there is a life in illness or the opportunity to care for the most vulnerable, you want a nurse who is savvy and has the ability to integrate technology into practice.  Never do you want to be cared for by a robot that replaces a nurse. And never do you want to believe that a nurse is throwing out garbage or delivering medications to patient care units. Nurses are smart, compassionate and integral to the care and well-being of patients. Every day, nurses bring to their practice and to their patients the very human qualities of good judgment, critical thinking and compassion.

As a nurse leader at a world-class institution, I encourage Proto to publish articles that define the unique contributions nurses bring to the health care delivery system.

Jeanette Ives Erickson // Senior Vice President for Patient Care and Chief Nurse, Massachusetts General Hospital

The Primary Paramedic

Thank you so much for the opportunity to comment on this outstanding piece concerning Mobile Integrated Healthcare and Community Paramedicine.  Modern Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the United States were established in the 1970s, primary as a response to serious automobile crashes on the developing interstate highway system.  Since that time, EMS has evolved from simply a treatment and transport resource for trauma victims to a fully integrated component of the care continuum for patients with a host of acute emergencies, including heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrest, and severe infections.  The evidence-based EMS interventions have saved many lives in communities throughout the United States.

It is right and proper, then, to consider utilizing this excellent group of healthcare providers as part of an interprofessional team to care not only for medical emergencies but also to prevent them from occurring.  The same ability to implement evidence-based treatment modalities for victims of trauma and stroke may readily be utilized for prevention and health maintenance activities.  Just as a paramedic provides life-sustaining intravenous medications for victims of a heart attack and then transfers the patient to the technicians, nurses, and physicians in the hospital so may they assure maintenance medications are being utilized and communicate accurate patient assessments with the entire healthcare team for patients with chronic conditions. The Mobile Integrated Health/Community Paramedics are an essential component of an interprofessional healthcare team.

Brent Myers // Chief Medical Officer Evolution Health, Associate Chief Medial Officer American Medical Response, and President-Elect, National Association of EMS Physicians.