How Do You Treat VIP Patients?

Robert M. Centor, MD; Nicholas Genes MD, PhD; Theresa Polick, RN; Graham A. Walker

Disclosures

July 17, 2007

In This Article

Graham Walker: All Patients Have Very Important Person Traits

To be honest, I don't think I've taken care of any VIP patients yet. But how might I react if there was one on my service? I would surely treat him or her with the same high-quality care that I deliver to all my patients! (Of course, I find it hard to believe that the hospital team wouldn't act any differently with a real VIP. Come on. Even doctors and nurses get star struck.)

Is this VIP standard fair? No. Is it a bad thing? Maybe not. In fact, it's possible that having a VIP in the hospital might actually raise the level of care for all patients on the service. (If a resident realizes he's being extra nice to Ms. Diaz, he might also realize that he should show the same level of empathy and compassion to all of his patients.) The rising tide lifts all boats, so to speak.

But what does 'VIP' mean, anyway? It's a term we reserve for people who are important to society or to a certain group of people because of their accomplishments, fame, skills, or good looks. I imagine most people might not know or care who Norman Shumway was, for example, but I bet everyone caring for him at the hospital felt he was deserving of the VIP title. Or take Stan Lee, the famous comic book creator. Most of the world probably has no idea who he is, but I know a surgery resident who would be ecstatic if given the opportunity to care for him. So, VIP status is relative.

As cliché as it sounds, I think the key is to look for VIP characteristics in every patient. They have them, we just need to start looking: The World War II veteran, the accountant for a brothel in Nevada, the tow truck driver with funny stories about sobriety check points, and the joking patient with twin babies. I find that if I know something interesting or unique about a patient, he or she seems much more human. When you find out what makes them special, share it with everyone and the whole team will grant them VIP status. You'll remember them better, find it easier to recall their hospital course, and be more easily reminded that they've lived a life and aren't simply made up of the events that led to them to the hospital in the first place.

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