Sometimes, all it takes to transform the way we think is a simple change in perspective. For one man, that change came when he was forced to trade his position behind the administrator’s desk for one in a hospital bed. While on recovering in his own nursing home, he saw the facility from a different perspective. He wasn’t an admin anymore; he was a resident. That was when he began to advocate for patient-centered care — not only in his own nursing home, but in communities around the country. This is his unbelievable story.
In April 2007, Philip DuBois’s life changed forever. While on a trip to introduce his newly adopted son to his extended family, the van carrying DuBois and his family was struck head-on by another car. The crash tragically claimed the lives of his wife, his uncle, and his cousin. DuBois, two of his aunts, and his adopted son were left severely injured.
After two weeks in a North Carolina hospital, the hospital staff asked DuBois to choose where he wanted to transfer for rehabilitation. He chose Market Square Health Care Center — the facility in South Paris, Maine where he served as administrator. Over his two-and-a-half-month road to recovery, he had a number of realizations about the care his nursing home had been providing. One particular night, he endured hours of excruciating pain just to keep from engaging with an unpleasant charge nurse. How often had other residents in the facility endured the same experience, he wondered. The charge nurse in question was highly skilled at her position, but her attitude made her unapproachable.
“That showed me how much having the right attitude really matters — even more than having the right skills,” said DuBois during a speaking engagement in Chattanooga, TN. “I can take attitude and teach skill; I can’t take skill and teach attitude.”
Another instance left him feeling dehumanized when a staff member openly talked about him like a task that needed to be completed rather than a flesh-and-blood person who needed to be cared for.
The Patient-Centered Care Realization
After his experience, Philip DuBois was forced to rethink the care his facility was providing. No longer an administrator, DuBois now teaches classes in nursing home administration. He also shares his story in speaking engagements across the country, advocating for patient-centered care.
Just as it did for Philip DuBois, the road to recovery for for both acute and post-acute settings begins with a change in perspective. To offer the level of care that patients deserve, caregivers need to put themselves in the position of their patients. They need to understand that the occupants of those beds are people, not simply tasks to be checked off a list. Patient-centered care is the future of health care, and the future is now.
“In a nursing home,” DuBois states, “quality of care and quality of life are equal.” If we really want to improve the quality of care and quality of life in our health care facilities, we have to embrace the idea that it’s not enough to simply care for patients; an effective caregiver must also care about them.