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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 18, 2020
In her residency at the Foothills Hospital, Dr. Kimberley Nix has seen how face-to-face interactions with patients and their families can be beneficial to their overall health.
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the visitor limitations that have followed the global health crisis, Nix has also come to understand the importance of face-to-face communication between doctors and their patient’s families.
That inspired Nix, part of the internal medicine resident charity committee, along with Dr. Alexander Frolkis and other emergency physicians and resident doctors, to raise funds to purchase tablet computers and iPads for the in-patient units at the hospital.
Their group is aiming to raise $4,000 to purchase the critical communication tools by selling $2 tickets through Eventbrite , with the funds being processed through the Calgary Health Trust. The draw is May 31 at Foothills Hospital, with a pair of $500 cash prizes up for grabs.
Restrictions on hospital access in Alberta put in place because of COVID-19 limited visits at first and then reduced them to zero — with the exception of palliative cases — making face-to-face communication with patients and their loved ones possible only through technology.
“We’ve had to make difficult decisions,” Nix said. “For example, which of two siblings and a wife or a husband of a loved one get to be with them when they pass. Difficult decisions like who gets to be with them in the ICU.
“At one point, no one was even allowed to be in the ICU with them, patients that are critically ill.”
Nix said patient care is improved for a number of reasons when family and loved ones are present.
“It’s not just the spiritual component, the emotional component, the loneliness component — all of which are rampant right now here in the hospital — but also patient care when it comes to medical knowledge.”
She said families and loved ones can provide valuable insights to doctors about patients that go beyond their charting information, regarding medication history and a general baseline of their loved one’s health.
“It’s been a huge loss not to have these family members and their friends and their colleagues and close loved ones here in the hospital for us,” Nix said.
While a video chat isn’t a perfect solution for doctor-family interactions, she said, it allows for questions to be asked, communication surrounding medication, instructions for care upon returning home and, simply, a look at their loved one who is in the hospital.
She said it was made policy on the medical teaching unit to connect with families through a video chat before patients were discharged.
“It’s proven to be a more effective strategy than not having families present,” Nix said. “That’s where this fundraiser comes from.”
Calgary hospitals already have some tablets, but there is a limited quantity and Nix said they have been experiencing problems with theft during the COVID-19 outbreak. Money raised will also go toward installing a security system on the new tablets and iPads.
Any leftover funds will be directed to Alberta Health Services’ Calgary Trust Fund, COVID-19 Improving Patient Care and the Clean Hands Helping Hearts initiative.
She hopes to extend the fundraiser beyond May 31 to continue to raise money.
“Nurses, doctors and all health-care providers will be able to use them to interact with patients and families, and to have patients interact directly with family while they’re here as an in-patient,” Nix said. “It’s for all patients here because everybody is affected by the new policies.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020