Paying it forward after a kindness shown years ago
Marion Rouse of Harwich lives by the philosophy that empathy and caring are among the simple things she can provide to patients who come to Cape Cod Hospital’s Emergency Center. As a patient access representative, she is often among the first staff members to visit with patients before they are treated.
Rouse’s way of interacting with patients originated from her own experience with a woman who worked in admitting at Boston Children’s Hospital about 25 years ago. Rouse brought her 5-year-old daughter there after a difficult stay at another Boston hospital. Her daughter had a tumor and she needed surgery.
“I don’t remember the surgeon or staff,” said Rouse. “The only person I do remember is the woman who checked us in. She spoke directly to us and complimented my daughter on her bracelet. She took my daughter’s bracelet off and asked if she could keep it. She had my little girl giggling and laughing.”
When Rouse moved to Cape Cod nearly 30 years later, she wasn’t ready to retire.
“I applied for a position as a patient access representative so I could be like that woman years ago in Boston. I wanted to make a little girl smile on the worst day of her life and I wanted her mother to know we care. Caring is the absolute key to everything.”
Patient access representatives often have to gather information from patients, such as health insurance and photo identification, during the time patients are feeling most vulnerable and uncertain about what diagnostic tests they’ll need and what the treatment will be.
“My goal is to make the patients and their families comfortable and show them we care beyond the medical care they will receive,” said Rouse. “All I can do is come into the room with my empathy and understanding.”
Compassion and Animal Socks
She has found creative ways to take the intensity out of the moment of trauma and pain. One of her first patient encounters when she started seven years ago was with a bicyclist who had been hit by a car. He lived in Boston and she recognized his address as the title of a favorite children’s book. When she mentioned it to the patient, his face lit up.
“He said he knew the author’s family and it opened up a whole conversation,” said Rouse. “He had been writhing in pain, had not been treated yet, but was able to calm down while we talked. I did my part even if I helped him to relax for a minute.”
She often helps children deal with the unfamiliar hospital environment by playing with them using the contents of goody bags donated through the Cape Cod Healthcare Foundation.
“Play melts away the loud noises and scary bright lights,” said Rouse.
She helped a very frightened little boy who didn’t understand what was happening when he came in with injuries suffered during a boating accident. It looked like he would have to be taken to surgery and given anesthesia so they could treat his injuries, and he was nervous about it.
“I took puppets out of the goody bag and placed one on each of his hands,” said Rouse. “We started talking and turned it into a play session with the puppets. The ER physician was able to do what he needed without sending him to surgery. It was magical.”
Rouse has been known to wear animal print blouses with animal socks to match.
“I always get matching socks for those moments when a woman or a child may be lying on a stretcher in pain or feeling very ill. If they comment they like my sweater, I always lift my pant leg and ask what they think of my socks and it always makes them laugh.”
Rouse’s caring extends to the ER staff. Valerie Lutz RN, BSN, an ER staff nurse, echoed the comments from other ER staff and physicians.
“She is a very warm and calming presence for patients and she makes them feel comfortable,” said Lutz about Rouse. “And she extends that warmth and comfort to staff and physicians, as well.”