View For Print

Acadia Book Fair

DSC_0010.JPGThe basketballs were tucked away and book-filled tables lined the floor at the gymnasium inside Northern Light Acadia Hospital. Pediatric patients filed in one by one, sifting through assorted books on the tables at the hospital’s book fair on September 3. From Roald Dahl classics and the Junie B. Jones series, to Guardians of the Galaxy and Pete The Cat, there was a book for every child who wanted one—free of charge.

“I went to book fairs when I was growing up, and I loved them. School has already started. I wanted to give them a chance to have a book fair here. A lot of kids don’t have personal books of their own, and this encourages reading,” explained Liz Guimond, psychiatric technician at Acadia. 

Liz organized the book fair, knowing that the pediatric inpatients might miss out on these events at the start of the school year. She was able to purchase books thanks to a generous donation from Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. In addition, Literacy Volunteers of Bangor donated books to the cause.   

In all, Liz and her fellow volunteers were able to provide 136 books to 41 pediatric patients during the day-long book fair.  When asked to share in writing why they enjoy reading, some of the children shared:

“Fun and calming”
“It’s a coping skill”
“It takes me away”
“I don’t like to read, but I like to be read to”
Liz says the extra books will be stored and used for holiday gift giving. 

View For Print

Narrative Medicine

GettyImages-814596226.jpgRecovery from opioid use disorder rarely takes a straight path. Most patients have lapses as they deal with severe withdrawal symptoms and the strained relationships with family and friends that often result from opioid use.

The stop-start nature of recovery makes it more difficult for providers to connect with opioid use disorder patients. A physician at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center is using a medical approach that uses a patient’s life story to support healing holistically: narrative medicine.

Lewis Mehl-Madrona MD, PhD, who practices both family medicine and psychiatry, is a nationally-recognized expert on narrative medicine. He’s been leading an initiative with Northern Light Family Medicine and Residency to incorporate patients’ life stories in care, especially for patients with opioid use disorder.

“Physicians and other clinicians become more empathetic when they know a patient’s story,” Dr. Mehl-Madrona says. “This is particularly important with opioid use disorder (patients) because many of them have difficult life stories and a lot of trauma from childhood. Knowing what a patient has been through helps us have more compassion.”

That compassion helps overcome one of the medication-assisted barriers to treatment: stigmatization.

“Often, if a patient feels like they’re going to be judged, they won’t seek treatment, especially for medication-assisted treatment (MAT),” Dr. Mehl-Madrona says.

The patient participates in a two-hour life story interview with a medical resident who maps important milestones and adverse events throughout the patient’s lifespan. This life story is then uploaded to the patient’s electronic medical record, where it’s shared with their care team.

While it helps identify potential triggers for opioid use, the real value is in strengthening the patient-physician relationship and building trust.

“My goal is to know every patient’s life story,” Dr. Mehl-Madrona says. “Once upon a time, the town doctor did know everyone’s life story because he knew all of his patients well. A side effect of modernity is we don’t know these stories, and we need to do something to recreate the connectedness people had with their doctors.”

Narrative medicine has improved outcomes for patients within the practice. Dr. Mehl-Madrona’s team conducted a study that followed patients who had their life stories collected and completed. Over time, patients reported their levels of perceived pain had decreased, and the ratings for patient satisfaction and physician empathy increased. 

The inclusion of narrative medicine has also shaped the culture of the residency clinic.

“Often, residents, when they come out of medical school, are thinking about procedures, but now they’re thinking more holistically and saying things like, ‘This patient needs a life story interview. We need to know more about them,’” Dr. Mehl-Madrona says. “Sometimes, their health makes sense in the context of their life story, and we can be more helpful to them in treating and preventing disease.”

Ultimately, narrative medicine is about using the power of stories to heal.

“As a physician, even our presence can be healing,” he went on to say. “We need to embrace that and think about the stories we’re telling our patients all day long. But it’s meaningful when two people sit down to explore a person’s life. It’s positive.”

View For Print

The McAuley model coming to Bangor

McAuley-Bangor-Thumbnail.jpgSubstance use disorder has touched every Maine community. Now, the Bangor area will have a resource for women, and women with children, modeled after Northern Light Mercy Hospital's McAuley Residence in Portland.

"Everything within the McAuley program is evidence-based and roughly 75% of women who enter our program remain in recovery,” according to Melissa Skahan, Mercy Hospital vice president of Mission Integration. “We make sure women re-engage in all positive aspects of their lives. We have remarkable outcomes with many moving on to fulfilling careers and higher education while caring for their children."

Mercy Hospital is currently working on a contract to start a similar home in Bangor with the Maine Department of Health and Human Services, which plans to contribute about $500,000 in funding toward the new location. A specific site has not been identified yet; however, the Bangor home would allow women to receive medication-assisted treatment in addition to several other services through collaborative relationships with area treatment providers. 
McAuley Residence is a comprehensive, two-generational program for families with housing who are seeking recovery from substance use disorder. It uses a holistic approach which ensures access to quality treatment, spirituality, parenting education, physical and emotional wellness, career and education support, financial responsibility, and recreation. This is done through McAuley’s professional staff providing individual coaching, psycho-educational and community groups, and collaborating with an external treatment team and community partners.
“We have seen the difference McAuley Residence has made in our community,” Melissa adds. “We’re excited to expand our model to reach more women in Maine who could use the support and resources we know can lead to successful and fulfilling lives.”