Our doctors and nurses are so dedicated to taking care of patients that I sometimes have to remind them to spend time with their own families, ironically, particularly during times of medical crisis. Recently, a relative of one of our medical staff was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and the staff member was torn between a desire to be with the relative and a sense of obligation to patients at BIDMC. I advised this person that colleagues at the hospital would cover and that s/he should spend every available moment with the family member. I recently received the following bittersweet note just after the family member died. (I have removed details which might identify the people involved.) It has lessons for us all.
I want to thank you for your words of encouragement and admonition to forget about work for a while. My [relative] died on Thursday afternoon, only a month after s/he was diagnosed. I spent most of the month here with a couple of quick trips back to Boston and I have no regrets. My [relative] was the best friend I could ever have asked for. We had a lot of quality time together during the past month. S/he saw all the grandkids, brothers and sisters, close friends, and had time to get all affairs in order to his/her satisfaction. We got some video telling some of his/her best stories and many pictures with family and friends that will be special memories forever. We had a lot of time to talk about the past and future, joke and laugh about any number of fun experiences too. We were truly blessed by the local hospice; their service and compassion was nothing short of incredible. My [relative] died a peaceful death with dignity and with my sister and me at the bedside holding hands and telling him/her how much we loved him/her. S/he was comfortable and ready. I must also say that I am truly blessed to have friends and colleagues that I can depend on to carry on at work without me having to worry, check in, solve problems, etc. Everyone at BIDMC has been supportive, and they have made this time one in which I could really focus on what was important.