The Invisible Patients — Film Screening Tuesday, October 25
A nurse practitioner struggles to preserve the health and humanity of frail, homebound patients living on the outer edges of our healthcare system.
In her 20-year career in healthcare, Jessica Macleod has worked on the renal medicine and telemetry floor at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She’s cared for elderly dementia patients in a small English village and tended to students at a university health center. She earned her PhD and then spent the next ten years as a nurse practitioner in a family medicine practice in Evansville, Indiana.
In 2013, Jessica began working for MD2U, a Louisville-based in-home healthcare company of doctors and nurse practitioners who provide primary care services in the home. Jessica built a practice of over 100 patients who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to leave their homes to see a doctor. She calls them “invisible patients.” Caring for them is by far the most challenging job she’s ever had.
“Sometimes I feel like it’s third-world medicine, in a way,” says Jessica. “Going out into the field, you don’t have every single thing you need, and you do the best for that person that you possibly can. And I think that’s okay, because, frankly, if I wasn’t doing it, a lot of the people would end up in the E.R. a total mess.”
Researchers estimate that there are approximately five million adults in the US who are homebound or home-limited due to chronic illness or functional limitations. They are often elderly and frail. In many cases, they are underresourced, living in difficult circumstances at the outer edges of our health care system.
With her laptop satchel and stethoscope, Jessica makes old-fashioned house calls throughout her workday, typically seeing 8-10 patients, driving on average 60 miles throughout her territory in southwestern Indiana and northwestern Kentucky. Jessica’s work puts a laser focus on some of the most urgent healthcare issues facing our country, from the living conditions of the elderly poor and end of life care, to the soaring costs of hospitalization, complexity of insurance and over-prescription of opiates. Her patients’ stories reveal the emotional as well as financial burdens created by our current system, and cry out for solutions. Nurse practitioners like Jessica represent one answer. “When you go to someone’s house to see them, you’re telling them, ‘I value you enough as a person to come see you where you are.’ Nobody talks about it, but I think these people feel like ‘at least someone cares.’”
THE INVISIBLE PATIENTS pulls back the curtain on a hidden population, whose circumstances ask us to wrestle not just with healthcare policy, but as importantly, how to mend today’s fraying social fabric.