Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Family Presence in ER's

From the Union-Tribune (San Diego)

In the April 3 edition of The New Yorker, Dr. Jerome Groopman, the brilliant author of “The Measure of Our Days” and other books about illness and death, examines the evolution of family presence, the catchphrase for allowing family members into the emergency room.

The trend, Groopman reports, has been championed by hospital chaplains and nurses, often in opposition to physicians opposed to adding more stress to an already chaotic situation.

If there is a patron saint of family presence, it is the Rev. Hank Post, a chaplain who persuaded a Michigan hospital to allow families to observe resuscitations of loved ones. Post's 1985 survey of 70 families revealed that the vast majority believed the experience, though harrowing, helped them move through their grief.

Thirteen years ago, the national Emergency Nurses Association endorsed open access, concluding that family members benefit from the first-hand knowledge that everything that could be done was done. Accompanied by a staff member, family can become part of the rescue team. Family members can provide information, for example. They can help decide when it is time to stop.

Still, families should not expect an automatic pass into the emergency room. That's typically a judgment call by the emergency team, which can be divided.


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