Humanizing intensive care

Dr. Gabriel Heras La Calle, ICU Torrejón (Madrid)
Dr. Gabriel Heras La Calle, ICU Torrejón (Madrid)

It has been a long time at this blog we wanted to talk to Dr. Gabriel Heras La Calle. Or better, to bring to paper (in fact, bring to screen) the conversations we had and still continue on patient centred care, initiatives to improve patient experience, ways to involve physicians, nurses, managers, pharmacists and families both in the healing process and in innovation. 

So, we thought that nobody better than Dr. Heras himself to describe his vision of humanization of medicine in intensive care. Gabrie Heras is currently physician at the intensive care unit (ICU) of the Torrejón Hospital in in Madrid. He is well known, besides of his professional career, because of his project “Humanizing Intensive Care”   . The project was awarded last November with thee prize “Best Healthcare Idea 2014” in Spain in the category “Legal, Ethics and Deontology” by the Spanish Medical Journal Diario Médico.

The project’s voice channel is its already well known blog, which in only 9 months has registered over 100.000 visits and has become a reference for the patient engagement movement. The project and the blog have the scientific support of the Spanish Society for Intensive Medicine, and the Spanish Society for Intensive Care Nursing 

Humanizing intensive Care

Dr. Gabriel Heras  La Calle, ICU Hospital Torrejón de Ardoz

Waiting at the ICU
Waiting at the ICU

During the past 20 years, the development of intensive care medicine in Spain has been huge and we have reduced mortality to really impressive figures. But maybe we have displaced people out of the system’s centre and we want to regain this status again for the patient. This is why in February 2014 we started the HU-CI project in the intensive care unit of the Torrejón University Hospital. It is born out of the need to improve and change. We realized that patient care has to be reviewed and rethought, as well as attention to families and healthcare professional’s needs

Humanizing medizine is rising awareness
When we say “humanize intensive care”, does this mean current care is inhuman? By no means. Survival rates in intensive care units is of 85% in Spain and this figure might increase, as this article shows.  In fact, we earned some criticism for employee the term “humanization”, probably because in many times it is not very clear what we mean by it.

UCIHumanizing means to us to become aware of oneself in a complex and multidimensional process that goes from politics and policies to culture, the healthcare organization, the training of healthcare professionals, the development of care plans, etc. In the healthcare world, humanizing means to put the human being in the centre of every effort done to promote and protect health, cure diseases and provide an environment that ensures a healthy and harmonic life on all levels: physical, mental and spiritual. Also in the process of death, as a part of life. Using the word “humanization” we take sick people out of their passive status and encourage healthcare professionals to do an excellent job for patients.

In Spain one of the best examples is the Humanization Commission of the San Juan Hospital in Alicante. They have been working in the field for over 20 years.

Patient co-creation
At intensive care are we are working to set up and develop HU-CI, a research project supported by the Spanish Society for Intensive Medicine and the Spanish Society of Intensive Care Nursing. Currently we are identifying needs: from patients, families and professionals as well as analysing their satisfaction in order to improve communication, make visit times more flexible or fight burn out. UCI 2

One of the project’s main pillars are patients: they work actively with their points of view and opinions. José Luís Díaz, for instance, a regular contributor to the blog, suffered a stroke one year ago and was 30 minutes under heart arrest. His message about communication is crude brutal and can be read in the blog (Report of a heart attack). Another patient is Ali Matz, who suffered kidney and pancreas transplant and has written also some posts. All together we are co-creating a new paradigm; a difficult task that needs consensus and a space for very actor.

We live between life and death and this is not easy. We, the ICU professionals, haven’t done the “emotional coming out” yet. Crisis are motors of change and opportunities for transformation. This change has to happen in each one of us. A personal revolution that changes our everyday small realities…this is how we believe the big global change will happen.




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