The “Who Am I?” project recently launched in Rambam’s COVID-19 departments seeks to bring people closer together.
The COVID-19 departments at Rambam Health Care Campus present a complex reality. Patients suffer not only from a serious and still relatively unfamiliar illness, but also from an acute sense of separation and loneliness due to their confinement in an isolation ward. Patients are separated from family and friends, and they cannot even see their doctors and medical teams without their eerily threatening protective gear. The “Who Am I?” project seeks to bring people closer together, adding a more personal level of connection in a place where isolation is a matter of life and death.
The project has been in operation for the past two years in Rambam’s Departments of Internal Medicine for patients in their “Golden Years”. Nursing students conduct patient interviews based on a series of questions designed to promote free conversation. The students try to become better acquainted with the patient, learning important details about the patient’s life, hopes, and dreams. The information is then summarized and included in a colorful, well-designed information card, which is presented to the patient. The patient can display the card, or simply keep it as a memento. Through this approach, patients receive the special attention they deserve, and students learn to see not just the patient who is lying in the hospital bed, but the unique humanity of each individual.
Recently, this project was implemented in Rambam’s COVID-19 departments, where it has assumed a special and poignant significance. Because of the severe restrictions, patients there have a different dynamic, both with their medical teams and with the outside world.
“For the older patient who needs that human touch—the smile, the warmth of a staff member, and so on, the situation can be very challenging,” explains Professor Tzvi Dwolatzky, Director of Geriatrics and the Center for Healthy Aging at Rambam, who is responsible for directing the program throughout the hospital. “We decided to advance the project because of our understanding that, with a slightly different approach, we can provide a more effective response to our patients’ medical and emotional needs. We have seen the excitement not only in our elderly patients, but also in our students, who recognize they are part of something meaningful. This is an amazing outcome and a truly uplifting inter-generational experience!”
According to Galit Geller Bigelman, the nurse coordinator for Geriatrics who is also supervising the students, this is a small step that makes a big difference. “A personal conversation is very different from a medical consultation or examination of the patient. The opportunity to get to know the person, not just the patient, allows for the development of trust and a heart-to-heart connection. The conversation instills hope and the prospect of healing for the patient. For the students, there is greater awareness of the patient’s perspective and a better educational experience.”