The life of Laurie Schwartz Naparstek, chronicled in the Boston Globe this week, reminds us that compassionate healthcare is a two-way street.
|Laurie Schwartz Naparstek and Ken Schwartz|
Laurie, who was Ken Schwartz’s sister, a founder of the Schwartz Center, and a longtime board member, died in early December at Massachusetts General Hospital after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was only 52.
Despite her devastating diagnosis, she was able to do something that helps promote compassionate care. She understood that her caregivers at Mass General were suffering too, and so she cared for them right back.
According to her husband, Jay, the nurses told him and other family members that Laurie “gives more to us than we could ever give to her.” The nurses would argue over who got to care for her because she had a way of making them feel so good.
“They would come in and ask how she was doing, and she would turn it around and ask how they were doing or how their kids were,” Jay told the Globe.
Imagine how it must feel to be a nurse caring for a dying patient, particularly a patient who was as young and vital as Laurie was. And then imagine how it feels to have that patient show equal concern for you.
Caregivers today are under extraordinary pressure. The world of healthcare is changing dramatically, with increased demands being placed on many caregivers. In an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association last year, for example, it was estimated that 30-40% of physicians are experiencing burnout. The reasons? Excessive workloads, difficulty balancing their personal and professional lives, and a general deterioration in working conditions.
While not every patient is capable of the kind of extraordinary compassion that Laurie showed, those who can make it more possible for caregivers to move on to the next patient refreshed and renewed and able to provide care compassionately.