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From caregiver to patient: Mary Free Bed physician assistant says experience provided new perspective

Guest blog: Doris Jacobs is a physician assistant at Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital. When Doris needed rehabilitation following back-to-back emergency surgeries, the caregiver became the patient. She says that experience gave her a deeper understanding of her own patients’ needs.

When I became a physician assistant in 2005, I was fortunate enough to work for a very wise and caring physician who taught me that everyone in the health care system is equally important, like spokes on a wheel with the patient at the center.

Everyone plays a vital role in creating a healing environment for the patient, and he stressed the importance of showing respect and appreciation. At the time I was surprised, assuming the physician would be the most valuable and important person on the team. Through time and experience, my perspective changed, and I’ve come to appreciate this lesson.

I moved from my home on the east side of Michigan in 2016 to work at Mary Free Bed and immediately discovered something special about our hospital and the people who work here. There’s good energy, lots of smiles, support and an authentic desire to care for our patients. Patients continue to express their satisfaction with the exceptional care they receive. There’s magic here.

There’s nothing like first-hand experience to drive a lesson home. It had been a very long time since my last overnight stay in a hospital, and I had forgotten what if feels like to be dependent on caregivers.

An Unexpected Turn of Events

I had just moved into a new home in the Heritage Hill area, when I became ill and was admitted to a local hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Two weeks later, I experienced complications and needed a second emergency surgery. I needed rehabilitation to regain strength and balance, as well as additional wound care. I also developed a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in the lung. I was fortunate to come to Mary Free Bed as an inpatient and experience rehabilitation from a new perspective.

Even while awaiting discharge from the acute care hospital, the Mary Free Bed team worked to make the transition a positive one. When I arrived, I saw our hospital with new eyes. I appreciated how the bright and clean physical environment supports health and healing.

It’s humbling to have to stay in bed and use the call button to ask for help, some water or to use the bathroom. It’s difficult to need assistance showering. My hat goes off to the nurse techs – they really go above and beyond at all hours of the day and night. They’re healing warriors. I never truly appreciated everything they do until I was cared for by them.

I’m so thankful for the outstanding care provided by our physicians, nurses, care managers, food service, housekeeping and spiritual care. Our amazing therapists truly do work magic. Everyone played a role in my journey. I left feeling confident with my balance and strength, and my ability to manage laundry and other daily living skills.

Finding a Silver Lining

I consider this a huge silver lining that came from an unfortunate event. I enjoyed getting to know my co-workers on a more personal level, sharing our stories and connecting through caring. I have a new appreciation for the support of family and friends who stay with or visit our patients, the activities we provide and visits by therapy dogs. Smiles, hugs, love and laughter are medicine. So is crying, sharing a memory and feeling safe enough to admit being scared.

This experience has made me even more compassionate and provided me with a deeper understanding of my patient’s needs and the needs and questions of their families. I’m fortunate that my recovery was quick and my rehabilitation need limited, and I’m grateful I can use my experience to help improve the experience of my patients and their families.

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