What does love have to do with healthcare?
My nurse was a mature woman, knowledgeable, skillful and empathetic. Her words were calm and reassuring. I remember her giving me a motherly pat on the wrist saying, “Just you relax. We’re going to take good care of you. Before you know it, you’ll be all done and in the recovery room.” It wasn’t that I didn’t know what to expect. I had a theoretical knowledge of the surgical procedure I would undergo. But when theory meets reality and you’re the patient, it can be a little un-nerving. Lying there in that pre-op room, hundreds of miles from home, alone and apprehensive, my nurse’s simple gesture meant more to me than I could have imagined.
Research had told me this was one of the best hospitals in the country for the procedure and my surgeon a pioneer in the field. What it could not convey was whether this institution had succeeded where others had not- in creating a space where patients felt valued and, dare I say, loved.
Can love really be an institutional policy? A few hospital systems think so and have taken empathy to the next level. At Adventist Health Systems Florida Hospital, patient experience is defined as “Treating the patient as you would the person whom you love the most.” Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, WI has instituted what it calls Love + Medicine. And evidence shows that patients notice. A recent article by CNN reveals that when institutions deliver quality care, patients feel more than empathy. They feel love.
Is this future medicine? Only time will tell. For now, a search on love and healthcare in PubMed seems too esoteric to yield any studies. But I am hopeful the idea will catch on if there are enough voices leading the charge. We will know we’ve hit the mark when patients feel loved. Because love is medicine.