The Patient Experience: The Importance of Care, Communication, and Compassion in the Hospital Room

Book cover of "The Patient Experience"

Book cover of “The Patient Experience”

I believe in healthcare because I owe my life to modern medicine.

As a Hopkins M.A. in Communication student, healthcare advocate, and former ICU patient, I have focused my efforts on improving the level of communication in the hospital between the patient, their family, and the care providers that are taking care of them.

I frequently speak about the patient experience throughout the year, and I have collaborated with several health care institutions on communication projects related to patient and family engagement in the hospital setting. One project in particular that I really enjoyed working on last year was ‘Project Emerge’ with Dr. Peter Pronovost and the Armstrong Institute for Patient Safety and Quality at Johns Hopkins. This project consisted of a technologically innovative electronic tablet that improves communication in the hospital setting. Later this summer I will be working with the Armstrong Institute again on a national project regarding mechanically ventilated patients.

My path to the health communication field began one month after I graduated high school in 2004. I was coming home from swim practice and was involved in a near fatal car accident with a speeding dump truck. My dreams were shattered like the bones in my body. I lost 60% of my blood, heart was ripped across my chest, lungs collapsed, major organs were damaged, pelvis and ribs were pulverized, and I was resuscitated eight times. While in a two-month long medically-induced coma, I was unable to move or talk to anyone around me, yet I was able to hear, see, and feel pain for a majority of my time in the Intensive Care Unit.

As a family, my parents and I never thought that we would face such a traumatic situation, or rather, such a horrific nightmare. We were thrown into a place consisting of surgeries, machines, tubes, blood, and medical terms that caused utter confusion.

Due to a concussion, I woke up not knowing how I arrived at the hospital, or why I was paralyzed, or why my parents were hysterically crying every time they came in my room. I had so many questions and needed so many answers. My parents had many questions also – about my prognosis, what the future would hold, and if life would ever return to normal. But again, there were no answers. There was no guidebook or support group to prepare us for what we were in for as a family.

What I learned throughout my time in the hospital is that while I may have been the patient lying in the hospital bed, I was not the only one in that room who was suffering. The observations that I made truly inspired me and helped me understand how important the role of communication is among the patient, family, and health care provider. When I was able to learn how to talk again, I soon discovered that the power of the voice is amplified when the message is of gratitude, that a simple smile cannot be underestimated, and that body language and tone of voice are critical components within the hospital room.

Speaking at the 2012 Johns Hopkins Patient Safety Summit

Speaking at the 2012 Johns Hopkins Patient Safety Summit

This background that I have as a patient, and now healthcare advocate, is what inspired me to want to pursue my M.A. in Communication at Hopkins. I have the background of being a patient, but now I’m gaining the knowledge and resources in my classes to be able to influence the level of care and communication in the healthcare realm. Last semester in my Independent Study course, Professor Susan Allen gave me guidance and support as I wrote my second book called, The Patient Experience: The Importance of Care, Communication, and Compassion in the Hospital Room. In this book, my parents and I share our sincere gratitude and insight with the medical community from a patient and family perspective. We also hope that our experiences can offer hope and guidance for families facing the heartbreaking sadness when an unexpected, life-altering medical situation occurs.

Our goal is to offer suggestions that we hope will improve the overall experience for both the caregiver, the patient, and their family. In order for us to provide better care for these individuals, we must understand the experiences they go through within the health care system. We must observe what they think and feel as they go through their journey. Our story is only one journey and it is intended as a means to express our appreciation to health care providers and also initiate the much-needed conversation of how we can take a step further to improve the experience for the patient and their family.

This book offers a rare and unique glimpse of what the patient and family are going through, and it covers the information that my parents and I wish we had during our time in the hospital.

brianboyle_biophotoBrian Boyle has been on a mission to make an impact in healthcare education since he left the hospital in 2004. He has been recognized for his contributions with several national awards, including the American Red Cross Presidential Award for Excellence, the Daily Points of Light Award, the Johns Hopkins Martin Luther King Jr. Community Service award, and the Champion of Change award from President Obama. Brian has appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, NBC’s Today Show, ESPN, CNN, and several other programs throughout the country. He is the National Volunteer Spokesman of the American Red Cross, a columnist with The Huffington Post, a blogger for The British Medical Journal, a patient advocate for The Armstrong Institute, and is currently in grad school at Johns Hopkins University earning his M.A. in Communication and an MBA with a concentration in Healthcare Management. He resides in Southern Maryland. More information on Brian’s story can be seen on his website, Twitter, and LinkedIn account. 


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