Thursday, October 20, 2011

Fauquier Hospital, from a Distance

I learned a lot about social media at the third annual Healthcare Social Media Summit at the Mayo Clinic (pictured here). And, far from home, once again I learned how very special Fauquier Hospital is.

On the second morning of the conference I got a call from my ex-husband. He had had some sort of episode and was dizzy and confused. He had managed to get our daughter off to school, but obviously was not well. I got him to call 911 and alerted a friend that he’d be heading to Fauquier Hospital by ambulance. He was seen quickly in the ED, and given the necessary tests.

I received by-the-minute text updates from my friend on site, as I tried to focus on the seminars I attended hundreds of miles away. I was glad to read that our ED nurses were so thoughtful and professional, and that the hospital’s endlessly empathetic concierge stopped by to generally spread sunshine and concern. When the patient was admitted for observation, another friend drove my daughter to the hospital for a reassuring visit. My girl has been a volunteer at the hospital, so she felt right at home.

I mostly repressed my need to control everything long distance, but did call the charge nurse on duty at Fauquier Hospital. She was patient and reassuring, and for the hundredth time that day, I thanked my lucky stars that my kids’ dad was in the care of kind, smart clinicians who would do their best for him.

Knowing that everything was more or less OK at home, I turned my mind to focus on the conference.

The Mayo Clinic has a worldwide reputation for medical excellence. It is also a truly beautiful hospital -- as big as a small city and designed with elegant lines and designs taken from nature. When Fauquier Hospital was renovated in 2001, guided by patient-centered Planetree principles, the aim was the same -- to create a comforting, calming, welcoming environment. Both institutions seem to have achieved the same feeling -- on very different scales.

The Kahler Grand Hotel, where the conference is being held, is located directly across from the Mayo Clinic. It was built in the 1930s and has maintained the feel of a grand old hotel. Its customers, I think, may include patients at the Mayo Clinic and their families. The rooms are designed for the comfort of folks who may be staying a few days or a few weeks. Each room has a microwave and a small fridge, an iron and ironing board.

There isn’t much hustle and bustle in the hallways at the Kahler. The staff speaks gently to guests, always ready to hold the elevator for someone in a wheelchair or for a dad cradling a fussy baby. There is a touching effort here to foster an unhurried dignity for guests. I wonder if the staff at the Kahler have gone through Planetree training. They treat their guests with respect and kindness, just like the staff at Fauquier Hospital.

Funny how my thoughts keep going back to Fauquier Hospital and one particular patient. As an advocate for a health system, I often write about patients in general and healthcare in terms of specialties and services, but I know that our patients and their families are only concerned with one patient at a time. I’m glad the patient I care about right now is at Fauquier Hospital, where they, too, care about one patient at a time.

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