An Exceptional Patient Experience Lasts Forever

As we recognize Patient Experience week, it serves as a reminder that although the work medical professionals do every day may at times seem routine to them, they often are helping our patients through some of the most challenging times in their lives. As they help patients navigate these situations, the compassion and understanding they demonstrate are often remembered for years to come.

Coping with a Chronic Illness

Nine years ago, Caitlin Botelho’s mother passed away from cardiac arrest. Six years before, she had been diagnosed with kidney failure. She spent many months in and out of Charlton Memorial due to complications from this chronic illness.

Sadly, Caitlin’s mother went into cardiac arrest at home and was rushed to the hospital on May 7, 2012. Upon arriving in the Emergency Department, she was unresponsive and in critical condition, she was then placed on life support for 10 days.

“The last time she was there, I just knew it wasn’t going to end well,” Caitlin says. “It was really traumatic for my family and me. I was 20, and my sister was 17.”

The Positive Effect of Empathy

Spending Mother’s Day in the hospital that year, Caitlin also visited her mother alone every day on her lunch break. “The way I am, naturally my heart and everything was in it, but I just needed to know if she was going to make it. Living in the unknown that week had been horrendous.”

One day, while she was there alone, a nurse came in and sat at the foot of the bed with Caitlin as she was crying.

“He was so empathetic and real. He sat with me and asked what I needed,” Caitlin says.

She knew that they needed to decide on her mother’s care, even though no one wanted to do it. As her mom was sick for years, she had communicated her wishes to the family, but Caitlin needed reassurance to know that she was making the right decision.

Delivering Exceptional Patient Experience Fosters Trust

Working with her, the nurse was able to show Caitlin how her mother was unresponsive, tickling the bottoms of her feet and showing her the lack of motor skills her mother displayed. Through demonstrating how she was unresponsive rather than explaining it, he helped Caitlin process the extent of her mother’s condition.

He never said anything about the decision that needed to be made, but instead did enough to give Caitlin the information she needed, allowing her time to decide and process the emotional situation.

“That moment with him gave me a weird, strange, bittersweet sense of relief, as I knew what would happen, ” she says. “He handled the situation in a perfect way where he was both comforting but not sugar-coating the situation; it was exactly what I needed.”

Although the encounter with that nurse was long ago, it is a moment that Caitlin still remembers like yesterday. Ten days after her mother was admitted, Caitlin and her family had to make the heartbreaking decision to say goodbye.

An Exceptional Patient Experience Lasts Forever

Today, Caitlin works as a Patient Service and Experience Specialist at Southcoast Health. Caitlin empathizes with the patients who call looking for assistance. She understands the many emotions that medical trauma can bring and is sure to always be an active listener to those who just need a friendly face to talk to.

In her role, she brings the compassion and understanding that the nurse showed her family to each situation that she assists patients with.

Losing her mom was devastating, but she will never forget the kind words and support the nurse shared with her. The positive effect her mother’s nurse left during such a challenging time in her – and her family’s – life summarizes the meaning of delivering an exceptional patient experience.