From left: Maureen Fagan, Kristen Koch, Roya Ghazinouri and Arden O’Donnell

It was 5 a.m. on a weekday about a year ago when Roya Ghazinouri, PT, DPT, MS, entered BWH with her father, who was scheduled for a surgical procedure. Although Ghazinouri had walked into BWH’s main entrance countless times in the previous decade as an employee, this instance felt different to her because she was entering as the daughter of a patient.

“When it’s your own loved one who is sick or injured, navigating a health care system, even one you know well, can feel very daunting and unsettling,” said Ghazinouri, who is the strategic program manager for the new BWH Center for Healthcare Delivery Science. “Although we offer the same compassionate care to all patients who come through our doors, it can often feel different being involved in the care of our own loved ones.”

On Sept. 8, a panel of BWHers spoke about the experience of having their work family take care of their loved ones during Schwartz Rounds. The series, which focuses on a different topic each month, is a unique multidisciplinary forum focused on optimizing compassionate patient care through an exploration of human dimensions of health care.

Kristen Koch, administrator for the Center for Patients and Families, also shared her experience when her parents were patients at BWH. She said she was grateful that her parents’ care teams always took the time to listen to her and answer questions.

“It was a wonderful partnership,” she said. “Even though I am an employee at the Brigham, I was treated as a family member first.”

Maureen Fagan, DNP, WHNP-BC, FNP-BC, executive director of the BWH Center for Patients and Families and associate chief nurse for the Connor’s Center for Women and Newborns, moderated the discussion, and said the experience of having a loved one in the hospital can be staggering. She shared that a common thread in these and other stories she hears from patients and families is the power of “being known.”

“A simple ‘hello’ or head nod can go a long way,” she said. “We have the privilege of taking care of each other every day, and it’s so important to lead with kindness and compassion.”

Palliative care social worker Arden O’Donnell, MPH, LICSW, also part of the panel, emphasized the need to balance the respect for an employee’s dual role as a staff and family member.   

“We want to provide compassionate care for all our patients and families, but employees with loved ones here have unique role struggles,” said O’Donnell. “Our job is to ensure that they and their loved one feel seen, heard and respected. Sometimes the care team can do this through increased communication, direct questions and acknowledging their unique situation. It’s in these moments that healing begins.”

The next Schwartz Rounds, which will focus on compassionate care in the aftermath of community violence, will be held at noon on Oct. 13 in the Anesthesia Conference Room.