by Gabi Heras, MD
I have worked as a Spanish physician in Intensive Care for as long as I can remember, but it was outside my country where I found my true calling. In 2000, I had the opportunity to practice medicine in Bolivia, when I spent three months volunteering in several hospitals.
When I came back to Spain, I realized how fortunate we were, in that we had everything we needed to provide excellent healthcare (especially compared with countries like Bolivia). Yet as I began my intensive care residency in Madrid, I was struck by the amount of time doctors spent complaining about the system without searching for solutions to the problems they saw.
I needed to do something, so I organized the Conference on Humanitarian Aid, Health and Immigration in Hospital Severo Ochoa in Madrid to help young doctors who wanted to spend time working in underdeveloped countries. But after four years, when I left the hospital, the project did not continue.
Years later, I still had the feeling that now is the time for doctors to start thinking about what we are doing and why we are doing it. Why do we choose medicine? Is it what we dreamed it would be? Why just complain and do nothing to change things? In 2014 I started the IC-HU Project is based on a simple idea: It is time to return the human being to the center of healthcare. Simply put, the goals of the project are to humanize Intensive Care Medicine, to serve as a forum and meeting point between patients, families and professionals, and to spread new ways of thinking about Intensive Care and bring those ideas closer to the general population. The blog www.humanizingintensivecare.com is an international place to listen and share stories in service of these goals. Given the large number of people who interact with the ICU at one point or another- patients, families and providers- we must listen to one another in order to make the change possible.
The IC-HU project’s first step was a survey for patients and families, run by a team of ICU workers at Hospital Universitario de Torrejon, to assess the level of patient and family satisfaction and identify areas for improvement. Our next step is a series of interviews with healthcare providers, assessing levels of stress, burn-out, and job security. Future plans include finding ways to help families collaborate in patient care, and rewriting the guidelines for ICU management with a greater awareness of patients as human beings. Despite the focus on technology in ICUs, the human being is at the heart of the ICU.
Over time, IC-HU has grown into a multidisciplinary, international research project. Recently, the IC-HU Project received the Scientific Endorsement of Spanish Society of Intensive Care and Coronary Units (SEMICYUC) and the Nursing Spanish Society of Intensive Care and Coronary Units (SEEIUC). In the months to come, we are organizing open conferences for patients, nurses, families and doctors, to bring different viewpoints together and to improve the quality of healthcare.
I invite you to visit our blog to help us share the message, and help restore the human being to the center of medical care.
Gabriel Heras La Calle, MD PhD (cand.) is an Spanish Intensive Care Physician. He started his blog www.humanizandoloscuidadosintensivos / www.humanizingintensivecare.com in February 2014 , and it currently has nearly 100,000 visits. You can follow the IC-HU Project on Twitter at @HUMANIZALAUCI or on Facebook (Gabi Heras).