Thursday, July 15, 2010

More than Mom and Dad

My division started doing walking rounds about a week after I started working. Also known as family-centered rounds, goals include improving communication, allowing opportunities for education, involving family in decision-making, and improving satisfaction. Although some days take longer depending on who's the attending physician, I feel it's of great benefit to both staff and families. There are 3 of us social workers on the division and this increases our profile among the residents, fellow, and attending. It also helps us get involved with families more quickly, as well as easily check in with them once a relationship has been established. Some staff are still getting used to the process but everyone seems to be on board, which once again highlight's my organization's commitment to taking the best care of patients that we can.

One thing I've noticed during rounds is that patient's parents are often referred to by the residents as Mom, Dad, Grandma. Not by their name. Sometimes patients and parents don't participate in walking rounds, in which case, it doesn't seem like a big deal to identify people by their roles. But when we're in the room or the parent is in the hallway, it seems strange to say, "Mom, have you noticed any changes?" vs. "Mary, have you noticed any changes?" This is disconcerting to me.

Time on a children's cancer wing is not time that parents ever imagined spending. So much changes for them so quickly. Concerns about finances, work, other children must all be addressed. The cancer wing may become a temporary new home. To only identify someone by their role seems to strip them of their identity. Parents are still people. In spite of the serious nature that brings them into walking rounds, they deserve to be recognized as the whole of who they are. I don't expect everyone to get to know each other intimately. Our roles and disease process/treatment don't always allow that. But remembering a name seems doable. And I'm going to intentionally do so.

(I realize that parents themselves might not mind or even notice this distinction. I also remember reading a Dear Abby column in which someone complained that the doctor's office or school secretary referred to her only as Mom, instead of Mrs. X or Mary. She wanted to note she was more than a mom.)


Franklin P. Smearcase said...

I used to hear that in supervision at places I had kid clients. It kind of squicked me out, and this was just in third person, in the absence of the mother. Like, "what does Mom think about that?" It actually strikes me as a little bit problematic, setting up a weird dynamic between the social worker and the mother. I don't imagine it's reassuring to "Mom" to think of her social worker, however subtly, as her child...

karen gerstenberger said...

We were required to wear a badge (on a lanyard or a clip) at all times. It had the name of our child and our name, and the date she arrived at the hospital. I still have mine. I notice (when I visit to volunteer) that now the lanyards say "Parent-Caregiver" on them, and are different colors for different people (maybe the colors are to differentiate them from volunteers and staff). That kind of I.D. might help.