About a year ago, I was escorted out of a local hospital by a hospital security guard.
I was helping a patient who was rushed to the emergency room with excruciating pain. COVID-19 was surging in New Jersey. Hospitals in Bergen and Essex counties were crowded. But this patient needed me at her bedside. I knew all of the details and intricacies of her care and medical history. I grabbed all of her medical records in a binder, grabbed a mask, and met her at the emergency room. She was in so much pain, she could not move or speak. Breathing hurt. She could not relay her medical history or answer any questions. She couldn’t open her eyes as she was in such excruciating pain. She spoke in a barely audible whisper while trying not to move.
I spent the day in the emergency room, staying at her bedside, trying to help make her comfortable, answering doctors’ and nurses’ questions, ensuring pain medications were administered when nurses didn’t come back, and tests that were ordered were done when doctors didn’t check-in. I hunted for extra blankets when the patient was shivering. I grabbed a pair of gloves and cleaned up the vomit when the patient got sick, and changed the bedding and hospital gown. No one was coming to check on the patient. The ER was packed with patients and clearly short-staffed. Ambulances were lined up outside the doors.
Eventually, it was determined the patient had numerous blood clots and surgical complications and was admitted. I searched for transport staff when a room was assigned. I relayed information to the family. I called the insurance company and primary care doctor to help coordinate care.
I silently walked behind the hospital transport staff as they wheeled the patient to their room.
The patient was still in significant pain. I checked the IV. It wasn’t working properly. I was able to find a nurse to come to check on the IV; it wasn’t inserted properly. She removed the IV and attempted two other times to get it inserted properly. While she worked, she apologized for this mishap with the IV, mentioning how short-staffed they were. She talked about how the hospital was caring for so many patients with COVID-19. How scared she was of getting sick because colleagues were getting sick, and she had small children at home.
A good flow was established and additional pain medication was administered. The expression of pain on the patient’s weary face softened and she fell asleep. I sat by the bedside, watching the TV headlines as Governor Murphy declared an executive order shutting down the State of NJ and life as we knew it.
I had been at the hospital for almost 18 hours when a security guard told me I had to leave. No visitors allowed. I said I wasn’t a visitor but the patient’s advocate and primary carepartner. I acknowledged the severity of COVID-19 but the hospital was short-staffed. I explained my line of work. I begged to stay to help the patient. I promised I wouldn’t leave the room. I promised to wear my mask and use proper hand hygiene. I was ordered to grab my belongings and the patient’s and walked to the hospital exit.
The patient was in the hospital for another week. There was minimal communication from the care team. The hospital was severely short-staffed. The patient and the family did not understand the plan of care or what to expect. No one was answering their questions.
Nearly a year later, many COVID-19 No Visitor Policies still stand, barring primary carepartners and advocates from attending appointments and being at the bedside of patient care.
We can’t continue to exclude primary carepartners from their loved one’s care due to blanket COVID-19 No Visitor Policies.
Many of us are fully vaccinated. Ironically, many healthcare workers who are not fully vaccinated are permitted in the buildings with our loved ones.
Allow us back in.
The disconnect in communication due to primary carepartners not being able to attend appointments or being at the point of care endangers patient safety, impairs coordination of care, & adds significant burden, stress, and trauma to what may be already medically complex care situations.
There is no standardized process in place for primary carepartners to submit proof of vaccination and a form of identification to request being granted permission to attend patients’ appointments in person. Patients with medically complex conditions, disabilities, life-limiting, life-altering diagnoses, and those impacted by social determinants of health should not be forced to be separated from their primary carepartners, especially if they have been vaccinated and will wear a mask. It’s time for hospitals and health care delivery organizations (HDOs) to revisit their COVID-19 No Visitor Policies and allow primary carepartners who have been fully vaccinated to be welcomed back into the point of care. Hospitals and HDO should prioritize implementation of digital requests to attend appointments and care by way of proof of vaccinations.
Reach out to Unblock Health today to learn more about how to prioritize and implement these digital requests.
Yours In Unblocking Health,