In the history of mankind, it is difficult to find a topic more ancient than death and dying. This dreaded topic has persistently occupied the thoughts of philosophers, theologians, scientists, and most certainly the average human being.
When Covid-19 cases surged across Latin America, a team of Colombian designers formulated an unorthodox idea of making cardboard hospital beds that double as coffins.
Though perceived by many as morbid, medical practitioners backed the macabre invention, as a grimly pragmatic solution for anticipated shortage of hospital beds and funerary caskets.
What pops up in your mind when you check in at a health facility and the first thing you bump into is a display of coffins and funeral vans?
Selling of coffins and provision of hearse services close to health facilities present a hostile environment to patients. Some may argue that death is inevitable, and it is counterproductive to deny it.
They believe it is more humane and therapeutic to prepare for it, but nobody comes to the hospital to die. Sick people check in at hospitals with a hope of getting better after receiving treatment.
Yes, death is inevitable. In its eventuality, the deceased’s family and friends will look for required funeral services no matter how far it is.
Trauma Informed Hospital Environment
A hospital environment should be trauma informed. A trauma-informed program, system, or person has a knowledge and understanding of trauma and its far-reaching effects.
Unaddressed trauma can significantly increase the risk of mental and substance use disorders, along with chronic physical diseases, but with proper support and intervention, people can overcome traumatic experiences, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)—the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with the mission to reduce the impact of mental illness and substance abuse.
Trauma-informed care shifts the focus from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” A trauma-informed approach to care acknowledges that health care organizations and care teams need to have a complete picture of a patient’s life situation — past and present — in order to provide effective health care services with a healing orientation.
Adopting trauma-informed practices can potentially improve patient engagement, treatment adherence, and health outcomes, as well as provider and staff wellness.
It can also help reduce avoidable care and excess costs for both the health care and social service sectors.
A comprehensive approach to trauma-informed care must be adopted at both the clinical and organizational levels. Too frequently, providers and health systems attempt to implement trauma-informed care at the clinical level without the proper support necessary for broad organizational culture change.
This can lead to uneven, and often unsustainable, shifts in day-to-day operations. This narrow clinical focus also fails to recognize how non-clinical staff, such as front desk workers and security personnel, often have significant interactions with patients and can be critical to ensuring that patients feel safe.
Death Denying & Defying
Death-denying and defying is also conspicuous in the practice of clinicians and other healthcare professionals involved in the treatment and observation of living patients – where sophisticated life-extending techniques abound in a seemingly vain attempt to prevent (or at least postpone) what is impossible.
Furthermore, this deeply entrenched culture of parading caskets at the entrance, in and around hospitals continues to subject clients to mental torture.
It has evoked unnecessary panic and strikes fear among patients and the public. Some could argue that it is a question of supply and demand; that coffin makers are bringing services closer to the people. But patients see it as an affront to their spirits.
Must we keep reminding the living of death? After all, don’t we all want to be healthy and live forever despite the realities of science?