A Patient's Story

 "If I have learned anything, it is that we never know when, how, or whom a serious illness will strike. If and when it does, each one of us wants not simply the best possible care for our body but for our whole being.’’  ~ Kenneth B. Schwartz

Seventeen years ago a seminal piece was published by the Boston Globe.  It was entitled: A Patient's Story, written by Boston healthcare attorney Ken Schwartz.  Ken had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and was now facing the end of his life in 1995.  Through his eloquent prose, Ken taught us all that often it is the compassion of the health care provider, the humanness of the experience, that is as important as the medication and high-tech treatments that we offer our patients. The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare was founded after Ken's death and has been doing wonderful work on ever since. Little did I know when I read A Patient's Story in 1995 that it would reflect and inform my own experiences as a mother of a terminally ill adolescent and ultimately would redirect my professional life as a passionate advocate of the integration of compassion and empathy into health care environments, for both the patient and the caregiver.

Today, the Boston Globe reflects on the past seventeen years since the publication of A Patient's Story, and of The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare's work on supporting and improving compassionate caregiving. Click here to read the article: Finding Healing for the Healers by Helen Shen.

I would love to hear your stories about compassionate caregiving or perhaps opportunities that were lost. How can we work together to ensure compassionate and empathic healthcare?  Please feel free to post your thoughts and comments on my blog.

It's All About Connection

Each year The Kenneth Schwartz Center selects a Compassionate Caregiver who embodies the qualities of empathy, compassion, caring and presence in their work and life. This year's winner is Dr. Amy Ship, a primary care physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. I was particularly moved by Dr. Ship's acceptance speech, where she explains that it is all about connection...connecting through presence, through compassion, through understanding as both the care-giver and care-receiver. “The longer I’ve practiced medicine, the more I’ve come to realize that we are all, as the years go on, ‘survivors,’” she said. “For some it is cancer, but for others it is diabetes, or seizures, or kidney failure, or all of the above. Others are survivors of loss – loss of a limb, loss of sight, loss of autonomy, loss of hope, loss of a loved one. And I have learned that many of us – like me – carry with us some secret sorrow – a loss or challenge that is not noticeable. Connecting with patients means looking for what is not immediately visible, listening for the hole in another’s heart.”

I encourage you to view Dr. Ship's speech by clicking here and see and hear what connection in healthcare is all about! Congratulations, Dr. Amy Ship, truly a compassionate caregiver.