What is it?
The medical Pause is a practice implemented after the death of a patient. This practice offers closure to both the medical team and the patient. It is a means of transitioning and demarcating the brevity and importance of this moment. Through silence this shared event is able to be honored and marked by a multicultural medical staff. Silence allows individuals to personalize their practice while not imposing onto others. This act is a means of honoring a persons last rite of passage. To bring an element of the sacred back into a profane world of medicine.
Who can ask for a Pause?
Any member of the team can request a Pause.
When do I perform this Pause?
In an attempted resuscitation situation, it is preferable to perform immediately after death is called. This allows for all involved in the care to be present and share in the practice before leaving room and becoming dispersed.
After an expected death it is also preferable to be done soon after patient’s death has been identified.
If circumstances do not allow for an immediate Pause, this can be done at a later time. (Preferable to include all team members involved in care).
If family is present, by all means allow or invite them to be present during the practice. This increases the shared experience and is a way to acknowledge their own loss.
A Pause can be performed for a Donor prior to harvesting organs.
A Pause can be performed for a recipient prior to and/or after an organ transplant.
How is The Pause executed?
Anyone can ask to do this following a code/death. At first it may feel awkward because we are standing in a vulnerable place and asking for a moment of respect. After it is done, it becomes easier to repeat because everyone involved understands how important it is.
“Could we take a moment just to Pause and honor this person in the bed. This was someone who was alive and now has passed away. They were someone who loved and was loved. They were someone’s friend and family member. In our own way and in silence let us stand and take a moment to honor both this person in the bed and all the valiant efforts that were made on their behalf.”
45 seconds to a minute of silence.
“Thank you everyone.”
Things to avoid:
- The Pause is not a venue in which to proselytize. It is an attempt to allow a group of people with diverse practices and beliefs to share an experience of honoring both the life lost and the care teams efforts. The language chosen is meant to universalize this experience.
- Allow staff who are not comfortable with this practice to opt out of the actual Pause. (This is a silent moment of respect and if a team member has difficulty with this, further exploration may be warranted in order to facilitate support of that person either through employee assistance or peer counsel).
- I would recommend avoiding making this a policy/procedure; allow it to become naturally integrated into how things are done in your place of work. Once staff is empowered, the practice will grow organically.