‘They also have a heart and a mind and a spirit’

15 February 2019

Appears in: Archdiocesan News

Five rooms at the Misericordia Community Hospital in Edmonton have been renovated to enhance compassionate care for patients and their families, at time when they are particularly vulnerable.

“‘Compassion Rooms’ allow us to ensure that our patients can be with their loved ones during difficult times,” said Janet Schimpf, the hospital’s senior operating officer. “These are dedicated spaces for patients who need their family or loved ones with them at all times, whether to ease anxiety or help navigate their care.”

Five rooms — four on each of the medical wards at the Misericordia Hospital and one on the surgical ward — were renovated into private, 24-hour facilities for families and patients who are dying, who have lost a child, need extra care (such as delirium after treatment), or don’t speak English.

The Compassion Rooms provide extra amenities for families who want to be with their loved ones.

The rooms include a couch that opens into a double bed, a refrigerator, coffee maker, and storage space so families can stay for extended periods. There’s also Covenant Cuisine so they can order from a menu.

“Caring for our patients includes supporting their families and loved ones,” Schimpf said. “Helping them stay together is one way we can partner with them to give them the best experience possible.”

Janet Schimpf

The Associates of Caritas, which operates businesses in Covenant Health sites in Edmonton and donates profits back to the hospitals to enhance patient care, provided $160,000 to fund the Compassion Rooms which were officially opened on Feb. 14.

The idea of the Compassion Rooms supports Covenant Health’s commitment to “honouring the whole person” in philosophy of care, said Deb Kirkpatrick, a chaplain at Misericordia Hospital.

“They’re not just a physical being who is struggling with an illness. They also have a heart and a mind and a spirit. What does loving kindness look like in practice? This is one way to embody it.”

Kirkpatrick said the rooms allow patients and their families to focus on each other. It’s less awkward for other patients who may be in the room, and it helps the nursing staff and other health care professionals.

“It’s wonderful,” Kirkpatrick said. “I know how difficult it is when their loved ones needs to share a room with other patients. Family members sometimes don’t feel free to express what they need to express with the intensity they need to express it, if they’re worried about interfering with the other patients who are there. They hold back or feel shy, or can’t always say and do what they want, so it interferes with the process that they need to go through.”

Kirkpatrick said the rooms give patients and families their privacy and space for religious practice.

The idea of the Compassion Rooms came from health care staff, patients and families at the Misericordia Hospital, said Dr. Owen Heisler, chief medical officer for Covenant Health.

“It was us just listening to people and identifying the need.”

Heisler noted that even with the renovation, the Misericordia still has the identical number of beds.

Schimpf said the Misericordia Hospital also observes the white rose practice, in which a picture of a white rose is hung on the door of a patient who is dying, so that staff and patients are alerted.

-With files from Lincoln Ho, Grandin Media