Monday, November 26, 2012


Putting your faith in someone else's hands

We recently returned home from visiting our son who lives and works in Moab, Utah. 

He earns his living as a mountain guide, leading people on extreme mountain-climbing adventures. My idea of an exciting outdoor adventure is trying a new food to grill on the backyard barbecue. 

Our son had a different idea for adventure. He brought us “canyoneering” near Arches National Park and belayed us from the top while we rappelled down a 100-foot cliff into a canyon. 

It was the most terrifying and exhilarating experience we ever had. I was sure we were going to die, but halfway down that cliff a feeling of calm came over me. If this was where my life would end, it was a pretty beautiful place after all.

Standing on that cliff edge and propelling oneself off backwards and downwards is not a natural instinct. Our son assured us that the belaying rope and harness would keep us safe.

Once I reached the bottom I unharnessed myself and knelt to kiss the ground. Then it occurred to me just how much trust I had placed in my 28- year-old son, some ropes, carabiners, a harness and a helmet. We didn’t really know what we were getting into. In this case our lack of knowledge didn’t negatively affect our experience.

I thought about all of the times we need to have faith in someone — literally putting our fate in someone else's hands. We depend on the protection of a police officer, the competency of an airline pilot, the sobriety of other drivers on the highway, the wisdom of an attorney.

Patients who are hospitalized must place enormous trust in all of the healthcare providers. While we can reassure our patients that the treatment the physician is prescribing is indeed safe and appropriate, and that the medication the nurse is administering is the correct one, perhaps more inside information would instill confidence. 

There are numerous mechanisms in place to insure the safety of hospitalized patients.

Scanning devices match the correct patient's wristband with the correct medication. Oncology and Tumor Boards review each case so that multiple minds reach a consensus of the correct diagnosis and treatment plan. Hardly any decision is made without multiple professionals checking and reviewing for accuracy. There is a safety committee that reviews policies and procedures, and seeks to remediate and rectify any problems that arise. All of these mechanisms are in place to make sure that our patients are safe and receive the best possible care.

These safety measures are the carabiners and ropes of the health care system.  Placing trust in health care providers is important, but becoming knowledgeable and actively involved in the health care treatment plan enhances the recovery process and increases the chances of a more positive outcome.

Alice Facente is a community education nurse for the Backus Health System. To comment on this column or others, visit the Healthy Living blog at or e-mail Ms. Facente or any of the Healthy Living columnists at   

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