In the Pain Management Center at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital, staff ask each and every patient a series of standard questions at the start of their appointment. One of those questions is “Do you feel safe at home?” Clinical Leader Kathy Armando, BSN, RN, says, “We just assume people have a home. But recently, over the course of a week and half, we found out that four of our patients are in fact homeless.” Together with Dr. Mohammed Issa, Laurie Flahive, RN, and Amie Kandalaft, RN, Armando decided to take action and help the Pain Management Center’s homeless patients by offering them a “Helping Hands” bag.
“One of our patients is a veteran and has been homeless for 12 years. Another patient was a nurse at one time and developed mental illness and through a turn of events, eventually became homeless. Another patient is transgender and recently lost his job and is now living in his car. Our fourth patient has a son who lives with his mother while he lives in a shelter,” says Flahive. “And these are just the few that we are aware of.”
When the staff became aware of each of these patients’ stories, they ordered a box lunch for them. But they wanted to do more and on an ongoing basis. “That weekend while thinking about these patients we asked one another, ‘What more we can do?’” says Armando. “By Monday morning, we decided to start Helping Hands and collected five tote bags filled with toiletries, socks, a water bottle and healthy snacks. We gave our first Helping Hands tote to our patient who was previously a nurse when she came in next to see Dr. Issa.”
Also included in the tote bags is a meal ticket courtesy of the Volunteer Office. “This is just a small way of showing that we care,” says Kandalaft. “We know we can’t provide a Helping Hands bag each time they come in, but we hope we can do it two to three times a year.”
Kandalaft credits the staff who have come together to make a difference for these patients. “We have amazing, generous staff—including physicians, nurses and support staff—that are willing to donate to support Helping Hands.”
The group also recognized that homeless patients are not unique to the Pain Management Center. Armando and the team are interested in learning how the other units at Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital provide support to this unique patient population in the hopes of doing more. If you have ideas, or want to get involved, contact Kathy Armando.
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