"Why are you here? Why would you choose to practice in a nursing home?” I often think back to these questions. Posed by the daughter of a frail older woman who I had been caring for through the ravages of advancing dementia, the questions were heavy with the notion that long-term care couldn't possibly be the practice destination of choice for a smart and capable physician.
There are so many answers to her question.
I practice in post-acute and long-term care because I am a granddaughter. Three of my grandparents lived part of their lives in the nursing facility. Each with their own challenges, the nursing home staff worked for and with my loved ones in an effort to help them to achieve their individual goals. For one, they worked to gain enough mobility to return to his home of fifty years after a debilitating stroke. For another, they sought out treatment for depression following a fall and hip fracture and found it in the simple, familiar daily routine of a Manhattan during happy hour. For the last, relief of pain and anxiety at the end of her life. My practice in post-acute and long-term care affords me the privilege of using all my knowledge, skills, creativity, and common sense to help others’ grandparents realize their goals. I don't know that any other practice that demands as much of the provider or rewards her with such elegant beauty.
Hippocrates said, “Wherever the art of Medicine is loved, there is also a love of Humanity.” I think he might have been talking about post-acute and long-term care. Post-acute and long-term care is filled with individuals, each with individual goals. Informed by life experiences. Optimal medical care demands ready knowledge of the strength and often limited of the foundation of scientific evidence married with practicality and common sense. I practice in post-acute and long-term care because through caring about the quality of care and quality of life of my patients, I grow in my love of humanity.
Suzanne Gillespie, MD, RD, CMD, FACP