Last week I took vacation and headed down to Florida. What I didn’t realize is that Hurricane Matthew was on its way to help me celebrate my birthday.
This was my first hurricane experience.
Waking up and listening to the news every day to try and figure out if the hurricane was going to impact my vacation. It started to become a little bit stressful.
On a daily basis I would get rings from family asking me if I was okay. If I was being evacuated. I would get dings on my phone from weather.com giving me updates on the progress of the hurricane and its anticipated weather pattern. I would get pings from friends and colleagues making sure I was okay, or telling me not to worry, or some telling me to get out while I can.
I wasn’t quite sure of the impact a hurricane could have on me but had a lot of questions: Is the hotel strong enough? Do they have back up power? Do they have enough food and water? How do I flush the toilet if we are without water/sewer? Is there an evacuation plan, and if so how will I be informed? Where will I go? do I have time to pack my belongings? If I leave now how far do I need to travel in order to be safe and find a place to stay? Do I have enough time? What about the rest of the money for my hotel, my flights, my tickets to Disney and other expeditions?
So I did what most of us do, I went to Google and asked several questions. I reached out to talk to my friends who live in Florida and have been through this before.
I went to Walgreen’s to stock up on essentials. Water, diet coke (because that is my version of water), bread, peanut butter and jelly, lighter, first aid kit, flash light (which there were none), LED candles, wax candles, can opener and a bunch of canned items.
I also made sure I had cash.
I went back to my hotel and got ready. I woke up early the next morning and turned on the weather report. The report was updated and said that Orlando was going to be in the direct path of Hurricane Matthew. The governor was evacuating people from the coast. He was shutting down the highways at 6pm. The mayor of Orlando was talking about shutting down the city beginning at 6pm.
I took that information and decided to leave. It took me 1.5 hours to travel 6 miles, but about 10 hours later I ended up in Mobile, AL. That was the closest place I could travel in order to find a room.
The healthcare takeaway……
As I look back on my adventure it makes me think of what it must be like to be a patient.
How difficult it is to go from living life in our community with other people and then waking up one morning, getting new information, and being thrown into this chaotic world of healthcare.
A world in which words like diagnosis, prognosis, radiology, cardiology, PET Scan, echo cardiogram, biopsy, nodule, needles, anesthesiology, and many other foreign words are being thrown at us. Many times all at once without anyone to explain, to define, or to understand the multitude of questions running in our minds.
A world that sends us home with a small little card with a name, a time, and a next appointment. Often we are not sure what that next appoint is for, what it does, or how it will lead to us feeling better. A world in which we have to try and return to our normal daily tasks yet have this looming “next step” or waiting for “what is wrong with me and what can we do about it” types of updates.
We can go to Google, we can call our friends, but unless they happen to be trained in medicine, many times what we get are mere opinions versus information that is truly helpful to us.
It reminds me of why it is so important for those of us that work in healthcare to take the time to listen, to understand, and to explain and reexplain information, to share resources, and to ensure that we make the effort to manage the transitions for “people as patients.”
We need to remember that our words build worlds.
Often the world we build for our patients in healthcare is one that is much like a hurricane. It is big, scary, and powerful. It creates a flood of anxiety and negative energy, often times unintentional. It creates a swirl that can impact people emotionally, psychologically, and physically. It can even rip apart their homes and families.
The world I prefer to build in healthcare is one that is open, honest, understanding, and empathetic. A world that allows patients to know that they have our attention and time, and that we earn the patients trust.
A world in which healthcare happens at the N of 1.
As always you can feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter @cancergeek