Amid the flurry of emails, meetings, checking residents’ notes, calling patients, and refilling prescriptions, I received a cryptic message in my Epic in-basket “Patient status change.” I clicked on it, and my heart sank. “patient status change: deceased.” I looked twice and then called in our RN. She had not received any notification. I chart checked realized there were no new notes. I finally decided to dial her cellphone, and then that status was confirmed. Her family confirmed she had indeed died at another hospital.
I cried. We violated “social distancing” because it hit us all. My patient was gone. In the past, I would have received a call from the emergency room, but now, they can see my notes because of the electronic health record. They did not have to notify me because they can do it in their chart, and I get the notice.
This process does assume I don’t have a close relationship and would not have an emotional response by the sudden death of a young African American woman who was a beautiful wife, daughter, and especially a mother. I enjoyed seeing her in the office. We had some open discussions about her health and the tragedy that occurred in her life. I loved her relationship with her daughter and enjoyed having them come in together. I will miss those visits.
I have lost many patients over the years. There are so many that have etched their names in my heart. Amid this pandemic, I just realized that I do have to deal with the day-to-day patient care and the unexpected tragedies that will happen. I have been training to perform telehealth visits, and now, I must fast track. We are shifting gears and speeding ahead. As we switch to these virtual visits and limited in-person contact, I realize my status has changed.
“Remember that people are only guests in your story – the same way you are only a guest in theirs – so make the chapters worth reading.” ― Lauren Klarfeld