When faced with the difficult reality of end-of-life care, families often seek the best possible care, quality and comfort for their loved ones. In the realm of hospice care, the commitment and expertise of physicians play a vital role in ensuring a peaceful transition for patients and their families. In a recent episode of the McBee podcast, Vice President Maria Warren had a conversation with Dr. Kaishauna Guidry, the CEO of Mourning Dove Medical. Dr. Guidry, who goes by “Dr. G,” talked about the importance of physician education and its profound impact on patients and their loved ones during this delicate phase of life.
Dr. G is a remarkable example of a physician who goes above and beyond, extending her expertise beyond the confines of a 9-to-5 job with VITAS Healthcare in California. In addition, she runs her mobile physician practice, providing invaluable medical support to patients in need.
She was a non-traditional medical student. She went to medical school when her three kids were in middle school. By that time she was heavily involved in community service at their schools and through her church. To her, community service has always been a part of her life including through her education and into her new profession.
“I believe working as a physician is service,” Dr. G said. “It’s not glamourous, it’s service to humanity. I just happen to do it at the end of life.”
She also recently published a book that serves as a comprehensive resource on hospice physician documentation requirements. “Dr. G’s H.O.S.P.I.C.E. Pocket Guide: 7 Things Hospice Physicians Need to Know to be Ready for Work” is designed to equip hospice physicians with a workflow framework that ensures they are well-prepared to meet the unique challenges of their work. She said doctors like mnemonics, so she came up with one for hospice:
- Home Visits
- Sign Stuff
Dr. G said she wanted to standardize the information for Hospice and Palliative Medicine (HPM) Fellows because there was nothing available.
“There’s a lot of gaps in care, a lot of things we can do to improve end-of-life care for our seniors,” she said. “I realized it just needed a little bit more information.”
One of the key aspects highlighted by Dr. G is the importance of effective communication amongst physicians.
“When I get a hospice patient, I don’t necessarily receive them from their primary care doctor with their advanced directive,” she said. “They’re coming from a series of hospitalizations before they get to me. There are some improvements we can do there. I think we need to invest more in palliative care.”
Physicians are not only responsible for providing medical treatments and managing symptoms but also for fostering understanding and compassion with the patient and the patient’s support system. Dr. G said there are a lot of common diagnoses in hospice, but people don’t seem prepared for that and have not had the conversation until they get into hospice.
“At diagnosis, people should have an understanding of where it’s going and when is the best time to switch to comfort care,” she said. “Comfort care doesn’t mean that we just let you sit there, and we don’t address basic things like infections and wound care. Hospice care is intense care in the home, but people don’t know that. They think it’s for the last few days of life. People need to get on board with the care and enjoy the benefit that they could have.”
By engaging in open and honest conversations with patients and their families, physicians can alleviate fears, answer questions, and address concerns, thus creating a supportive environment during an emotionally challenging time.
Through her book and her work, Dr. G hopes to inspire other physicians to embrace their roles in end-of-life care, encouraging them to provide compassionate support, foster empathy, and advocate for the needs and wishes of their patients. By doing so, physicians can profoundly impact the experience of patients and their families, ensuring they receive the care, quality, and comfort they deserve.
As we continue to evolve in our understanding of end-of-life care, it is crucial to recognize the invaluable role physicians play. By supporting and empowering physicians, we can ensure that families receive the care and support they need during one of life’s most profound transitions. Dr. G’s passion and dedication serve as an inspiration for all healthcare professionals to continually strive for excellence in end-of-life care, ultimately enhancing the lives of patients and their loved ones.