In addition to her private clinical practice, she works with patients in the neonatal intensive care unit and the pediatric intensive care unit at Long Island's North Shore University Hospital.

Adelphi University Adjunct Professor Gail Grace, L.C.S.W.-R., has long been at the forefront of the juncture of medicine and psychology. In addition to her private clinical practice, Ms. Grace holds a position with the Maternal and Child Health Department at Long Island’s North Shore University Hospital, working with patients in the neonatal intensive care unit and the pediatric intensive care unit. In these often stressful settings, Ms. Grace has seen the impact that therapy can have on a patient’s experience with a doctor, and vice versa.

The anguish that parents suffer when their baby arrives prematurely or ill often inhibits their ability to absorb the barrage of medical information that is directed their way. Ms. Grace is there to help the newborn’s family cope with their heartbreak, using various analytical tools to truly connect to a patient. “I listen for relationships in the patient’s life, regression, resistance, themes, patterns and the choice of words they use to describe their situation,” she said. “Just as medical needs are essential for infant care, so too are the psychological needs of the individuals and families who are desperately trying to cope.”

Ms. Grace also considers it vital for doctors and nurses to understand how best to communicate crucial medical information. Timing and tone can impact how well parents absorb pertinent material and even instructions. “If administrative and clinical needs are in conflict, nothing will be overcome,” Ms. Grace said. “There must be open dialogue among all fields.”

Ms. Grace believes that caring for patients’ emotional and psychological needs is integral to counteracting the stress and pain prevalent in most hospital settings. She is particularly inspired by the story of Kenneth B. Schwartz, a victim of lung cancer and the founder of The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare. Throughout his battle with lung cancer, Mr. Schwartz found that he improved most as a result of the compassion of his caregivers. Mr. Schwartz noted that even small and seemingly insignificant “acts of kindness” make “the unbearable bearable,” a statement that motivates Ms. Grace to provide individual and attentive care to every patient.

As an adjunct in the Derner Institute’s postdoctoral program, Ms. Grace imbues her students with a full understanding of psychotherapy tools and how to best apply them. “[The analytical tools] are a way of thinking,” she said. “Not just in clinical settings, but also in the outside world, taking the time to really listen can help in every relationship.”

This piece appeared in the Derner eNews Fall 2012 edition.

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