REFLECT

Model stories written by young professionals/students.

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For Family or Funding

After a visit to a private nursing home with a religious mission, a student sees a contrast between the familial environment he observed and his previous shadowing experiences.

 

The current United States Healthcare system is changing rapidly. As “government medicine” grows, private health institutions are filling a unique and useful role in the health landscape. During observations at Heaven-sent Estate, I was able to explore the private healthcare system first hand. Heaven-sent Estate is a Catholic nursing home in the southern United States. It is staffed with nurses, nursing assistants, priests, nuns, and administrative staff. Heaven-sent specializes in providing personalized care for residents while also providing spiritual support. A major cornerstone of the institution is that it functions as the final home to many of its residents, so it seeks to provide exceptional care and support for residents and family. Throughout my experience, I noticed the impacts of the private system on patient care, family support, and healthcare personnel.

 During my observation experience, I observed a nurse (Angela). She has worked in both government-funded and private facilities. She informed me on many of the differences between them, and her feelings toward each. The first key difference between privately funded and governmentally funded medical institutions is that government institutions generally have more money to use for tools, tests, and other essentials needed to provide excellent care. Private institutions, like Heaven-sent Estate, do not have the same funding to have the nicest equipment and extra building décor. Heaven-sent is paid for directly by patients or family members; they do not accept any form of Medicare or Medicaid. According to Angela, it costs approximately $60,000 to stay their each year. Angela made sure to inform me that the funding might not reflect the quality of care. She boasted that many people are moved from governmentally funded homes to Heaven-sent Estate because the care they provide is so exceptional.

Another major difference that I discovered for private verses public healthcare facilities was that public facilities seem to be significantly more regulated than private facilities. For example, public facilities have very specific protocols for how and when to give medications, but nurses at Heaven-sent Estate use a more personalized and flexible protocol. Also, nurses in public facilities do not have enough time to care for all the patients because they spend so much time doing paperwork. Angela stated that the care given by the government is often very standardized, and private care allows the caregivers to spend more time treating patients and less time doing paperwork. Heaven-sent Estate desires to know the names, stories, and medical history of each resident. I witnessed Angela give a patient a slightly different dosage of insulin than the doctor recommended because she knows that particular resident has large blood glucose fluctuations at night, so she changed the dosage. Perhaps, because most residents are very elderly and have severe dementia, the staff may feel that they can take more liberty with care and treatment of patients. For example, they often allow small changes to diet in order to make resident happy in their final years of life.

Finally, Heaven-sent Estate allows for healthcare providers to become part of the residents’ family. Heaven-sent does not have visitation hours at all because family is allowed to come and go as often as they desire. Because the family is such an integral part of the care at Heaven-sent Estate, families often donate extra money and support Heaven-sent as much as possible. In fact, Heaven-sent recently broke ground on a new facility on the large, 52-acre plot. Angela stated that family relationships are not as strong in public, governmentally funded healthcare facilities. She stated that patients and personnel often felt like numbers in a pool of other numbers. Private facilities, like Heaven-sent Estate, provide excellent, personalized care for patients and families. The private system may be more successful at shrinking the doctor-patient, doctor-family gap than the public healthcare facilities.

After spending some time at Heaven-sent Estate, my perspective of private medicine has changed immensely. Before observing several times, I viewed the private healthcare system as greedy. However, I was amazed at the personalized care every patient was receiving. Many of the patients at Heaven-sent Estate have incredible stories and histories. Before they were severe Alzheimer’s, Dementia, and Parkinson’s patients, they were people with families, accomplishments, and fears. I believe that Heaven-sent Estate, and other private healthcare facilities, treat the human condition, rather than just physiological dysfunctions.  

-AE VonAxelson