Why Do We Keep Doing
What We Do?
By Mark Lerner
My mother passed away over the holidays
and spent her final days in hospice care.
I recognize that losing a parent is not
unique and I’m sure what I went through
was similar in sadness to what others in
my generation are now experiencing.
This was my first exposure to a hospice,
though, and I have to say it was amazing.
If you have never been introduced to the
care that is provided in such a facility,
let me just say that it is about as opposite
to the manner in which people are taken
care of in hospitals as you can get. Everything is done with one consideration in
mind, which is to make the patient as
comfortable as possible. At the facility
my mom was at they did not administer oxygen or provide other mediations
in hopes of prolonging life. At one point,
my sister asked for her blood pressure to
be taken. The nurse replied that she was
sorry but she could not perform that task.
The staff member kindly explained that
in a hospice the blood pressure is taken
once a shift so as not to bother the patient.
Spending hours in her room meant
I had ample opportunity to think. As I
observed the doctors, nurses, aids, and
volunteers I was amazed at their profes-
sionalism and compassion with indi-
viduals who are at the ends of their lives.
It really made me proud to be associated
with the healthcare profession. Although,
I really don’t know how they do their
jobs without becoming emotionally dis-
traught. I was employed in a children’s
hospital for ten years and it was not
unusual for people to come up to me and
ask in astonishment how I could work
around sick kids. They often repeated the
phrase, “I could never do that.”
Since I’m a philosophical person
I started to wonder how those of us
employed in medicine consistently care
for those who are ill while providing high
levels of customer service in an empa-
thetic manner. How is it that we return
to our jobs day in and day out and deal
with individuals who are going through
health situations that are unpleasant and
in many instances depressing?
Mark Lerner is the director of diagnostic imaging at
the George Washington University Hospital. He can
be reached at Mark. Lerner@gwu-hospital.com.