Saturday, February 22, 2020

Keepers of the House

Environmental & Science Education
Edward Hessler

Neil Prose and Ray Barfield are pediatric doctors who work in a large medical center. In a chance observation and conversation they learned that there is more to hospital care than physicians. There is a invisible team who are participants in patient care that had long escaped their notice.

They write, "After finishing our respective rounds one afternoon, we noticed that Malcolm was deep in conversation with the parents of one of our very sick patients. We met him later in the hall, and the three of us began to talk. After Malcolm told us a bit about the concerns of our patient's family, he mentioned the ways he often supports and cares for the children being treated on our ward."

Malcolm went on to say that he didn't think of himself as a housekeeper, instead, he remarked, "I am the keeper of the house." 
Malcolm (and other housekeepers) had been largely unnoticed--Prose and Barfield described this as "our blindness"-- led them to form "a focus group to learn more about (what housekeepers do, in additon to cleaning 36 rooms a day). From that grew a film project that documented ways hospital housekeepers participate in patient care. Throughout this process, we quickly realized that they often interact with patients more than physicians do, and they do so with great compassion."  (material added)

"No matter where you work," the authors write, "you are a member of one or more teams that are larger than you imagine. Doctors like us--and our health care institutions--need to give keepers of the house, along with food service workers, patient transporters, and outer 'invisible' workers the respect they have long deserved."

The essay by Prose and Barfield adds muscle and bone to this brief introduction, includes a link to the film (14 m 32 s) and also reports the results of interviews with keepers of the house.

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