On being a Hospitalist:
“It’s not that we have a specific amount of time only to spend with patients, but we have a certain number of patients that we need to see in the course of the day. And you may have two or three patients who are really not doing well at the same time. So you’re running from room to room trying to manage those things. I think what we forget though in that process is that sometimes you can accomplish more. We can get more information by just listening.”
We are excited to kick off this series with Dr. Heather Sung, a palliative care physician who was a hospitalist in Connecticut for 14 years.
Going to the hospital is a drag… it can also be enormously stressful and emotional. When our mom went into the ER after having a stroke, we had to fill out paperwork, figure out her insurance, her meds – we had to provide all her medical information of which we knew nothing! We just assumed that as a healthy, active 65 year old she would never get sick. She never got colds so how could something really bad ever happen (does this denial sound familiar??). Well, I am here to tell you that bad things happen to good, healthy people all the time. And if you are not prepared, it could mean that your loved one doesn’t get the right or proper care simply because you didn’t have the information. So, I wanted to talk with Dr. Heather Sung about hospitals and how we can be better prepared when sh*t hits the fan.
In our chat, we talk about the role of a hospitalist and how she must balance and manage the care of her patients in the hectic atmosphere of a hospital setting. We break down how we as caregivers and patients can make the best of a hospital stay or make it easier. Something as simple as a list of medications is essential so make sure you have this list so that you are not writing it down last minute when crisis strikes. Having advance directives is one of the crucial elements to ensuring that our loved one gets the proper care which includes a living will, healthcare proxy, DNR, etc.
“Hopefully that person that you designate as your health care power of attorney will have a really good understanding of who you are as a person. What’s important to you. If I have this event and my outlook looks like this, would I want to live that life…”
We also touched upon all the players that are involved with our care – doctors, specialists, residents, nurses, social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists – while in the hospital. When our dad was in the hospital, talking to all the different staff, we found it really challenging to figure out who had ALL the information. Dr. Sung lays it all out for us so that we can all do a better job at communicating and asking the right questions. She recommends writing our questions down beforehand so that you can make the most of your time when the doctor makes his/her rounds.
As we develop this series, we want to hear from you. What is important to you? What issues would like to see addressed? This series is for all of us and we want to make sure that the information is valuable and useful. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know!!
If you would like the read the transcription from today’s interview, you can get it here.
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ABOUT OUR GUEST
Dr. Heather Sung has been in medical practice for twenty years. She received her medical degree at the University of Connecticut and completed her residency in Internal Medicine at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in 1998. She attributes much of her knowledge on doctoring to her early career as a community physician in Boston with Massachusetts General Hospital. There, she was inspired by the devotion and compassion of her colleagues and the richness and diversity of her patients.
She moved back to Connecticut to begin a family and worked as a Hospitalist at Danbury Hospital from 2002-2016. With a great interest in the humanism of medicine, Dr. Sung became board certified in Hospice and Palliative Medicine in 2012. In 2016, she transitioned fully into the practice of this specialty and became the Clinical Leader of Palliative Care at Norwalk Hospital. Recognizing the growing complexity of disease and the increasing needs of our aging population, as well as the shortage in meeting these needs in the outpatient setting, Dr. Sung has now embarked on establishing a community-based Palliative Medicine practice.
In addition to her clinical work, Dr. Sung strongly believes that experience and knowledge should be shared. As such she has been very active in education. During her time in Boston, Dr. Sung was an Instructor in Medicine for Harvard Medical School and was part of the Clinical Faculty of the Massachusetts General Hospital Internal Medicine Residency. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the Robert Larner College of Medicine, University of Vermont, and she has done the Palliative Medicine lecture series for the Norwalk Hospital Internal Medicine Residency. Additionally, Dr. Sung has taught the Palliative Medicine lecture series for Sacred Heart University’s Physician Assistant School.
Dr. Sung believes that being entrusted by her patients is a true gift. In her free time, Dr. Sung enjoys being active outside with nature with her husband and two teenage boys.