Students support, comfort patients through new program

Medical school is a busy and often stressful time for students, but for Baylor College of Medicine medical students, it’s important to keep patients as the top priority, including those patients who are nearing the end of their lives.

Three BCM medical students have launched a program called No One Dies Alone at Ben Taub Hospital. It ensures that critically ill patients who have no family or friends with them will not be alone as they die.

Ben Strickland, Katherine Calaway, Neelam Mistry

Neelam Mistry had heard about the program, which was originally started by a nurse in Oregon. Mistry contacted her mentor, Dr. John Rogers, who connected her with Ben Strickland and Katherine Calaway. The three researched the program and felt that Ben Taub would be a good setting in which to implement it.

Working with volunteers

They have received invaluable assistance from the Spiritual Care Department at Ben Taub, led by Leslie Irwin, in launching the program. Irwin contacted volunteers and others at Ben Taub Hospital to enlist them for the program. All volunteers completed a training program provided by the No One Dies Alone organization.

Patients who are dying and do not have family or friends with them are identified for the program. An email or text message is sent out to program volunteers, who then sit with the dying patient in two-hour shifts.

The students have been amazed that the number of people who have signed up to volunteer for the program.

Connecting with others

“It just warms your heart that so many people have gotten involved,” Calaway said.

An important part of the program is a regular brown-bag lunch for volunteers. “This gives them the opportunity to talk about their experiences and to connect with one another after having gone through an intense situation,” Mistry said.

The program started in May and is currently in a six-month pilot phase. Only patients in select units at Ben Taub are currently being recommended for the program.

The students hope to see the program expand after its pilot phase, and their long-term goals are to implement it in BCM’s other affiliated hospitals. For now, they’re concentrating on making health care providers at Ben Taub aware of the program, so they can identify patients to enroll.

This post originally appeared on BCM Family.

-By Dana Benson

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