Code Lavender


This just in: doctors are human beings.  At the Cleveland Clinic, they are support this new found discovery by having a Code Lavender program, which “aims to support nurses and physicians during emotionally troubling or exhausting times, often after experiencing the death of one or several patients.”  Here are some other highlights from the Huffington Post piece:

  • Within 30 minutes of a call, the Clinic’s team of holistic nurses arrives at the unit in need to provide Reiki and massage, healthy snacks and water, and lavender arm bands to remind the nurse or physician to take it easy for the rest of the day.
  • It is helpful because it’s nice to get your stress out. It’s also good to know that our workplace feels our pain and is willing to be there for us.

I think this is great.  In fact, the whole medical professional needs a Code Lavender program.  Sure, the outpatient doctors don’t see the acute and devastating emergencies which emotionally break them down like the hospital folk, but instead they slowly burn and become crispy like melba toast.   I am all for the mindfulness programs that are springing up to help these professionals but unfortunately, nothing will fix their burnout until they gain back some control of the system they are working in.

Douglas Farrago MD

Douglas Farrago MD is a full-time practicing family doc in Forest, Va. He started Forest Direct Primary Care where he takes no insurance and bills patients a monthly fee. He is board certified in the specialty of Family Practice. He is the inventor of a product called the Knee Saver which is currently in the Baseball Hall of Fame. The Knee Saver and its knock-offs are worn by many major league baseball catchers. He is also the inventor of the CryoHelmet used by athletes for head injuries as well as migraine sufferers. Dr. Farrago is the author of four books, two of which are the top two most popular DPC books. From 2001 – 2011, Dr. Farrago was the editor and creator of the Placebo Journal which ran for 10 full years. Described as the Mad Magazine for doctors, he and the Placebo Journal were featured in the Washington Post, US News and World Report, the AP, and the NY Times. Dr. Farrago is also the editor of the blog Authentic Medicine which was born out of concern about where the direction of healthcare is heading and the belief that the wrong people are in charge. This blog has been going daily for more than 15 years Article about Dr. Farrago in Doximity Email Dr. Farrago – [email protected] 

  11 comments for “Code Lavender

  1. Bridget Reidy
    December 16, 2013 at 3:55 am

    Doug is right stress is reduced by being in control of your circumstances. This is the same Cleveland Clinic that has a committee of women physicians to promote retention of women physicians, whose functions I attended, and they never called to find out why I was gone in four months.

  2. Marlene Sell
    December 12, 2013 at 1:18 pm

    As the wife and mother of critically ill patients I can’t keep quiet. I’ve seen the best of medicine and I’ve seen the worst. From the time I walked in the door at the Cleveland Clinic it was apparent that few people working there had a clue as to what they were doing. After my husband died and they found his body 13 days later and pronounced him dead they finally returned him to the family, I almost went insane. Six months later, the day after my brother was buried, my son was in a horrible car accident and wasn’t expected to live. Thank God he was taken to UPMC trauma hospital in Pittsburgh, PA. It took almost a year for his recovery and his doctors were the absolute best in the world. When I become dictator, Cleveland Clinic will be done away with.

    • Sir Lance-a-lot
      December 12, 2013 at 1:36 pm

      Are you saying that your husband’s body was “lost” inside the hospital for 13 days while he was believed to be a live patient?

      If so, then please accept my condolences, and my absolute lack of surprise.

      I’m so sorry for your losses.

  3. Pat
    December 12, 2013 at 1:07 pm

    Desensitization and compartmentalization. They begin Day #1 of gross anatomy, and they’re valuable skills.

  4. Madelyn Sieraski
    December 12, 2013 at 8:45 am

    I was usually trying to get back to the office or to sleep or trying to deal with a delivery. I would have to think about it later, sometimes many days later. In the best world we would be able to take time to take care of us. For those that are hospitalistist I am sure they have something calling for them too. How do we get patients to be happy waiting while I get my lavender? What about firefighters and police officers?

  5. mamadoc
    December 11, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    Hmph. In my hospital within 30 minutes of the call the “risk management coordinator” would arrive with to write you up for being disruptive, kick your butt out of the hospital and likely be sure to blackball you so you’d never work again.

  6. Stella Fitzgibbons MD
    December 11, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    It’s hard to beat the RN who came along one day when the hospital’s computer was really getting on my nerves and said, “Doctor…you need DECAF!!”
    Seriously…when I have 20 patients to round on and one of them crashes just as I’d decided this was my favorite…I need a fast transfer to ICU more than I need a whiff of lavender. Let’s keep the reiki in the doctors’ lounge next to the bottle of Southern Comfort.

  7. Sir Lance-a-Lot
    December 9, 2013 at 9:58 am

    “Within 30 minutes of a call, the Clinic’s team of holistic nurses arrives at the unit in need to provide Reiki and massage, healthy snacks and water, and lavender arm bands to remind the nurse or physician to take it easy for the rest of the day.
    It is helpful because it’s nice to get your stress out. It’s also good to know that our workplace feels our pain and is willing to be there for us.”

    I’m sorry. Maybe I’m jaded, or just burnt out, but I literally (not figuratively) laughed out loud when I read this.

    Come on. Seriously?

    Newsflash: Patients die. I’ve seen ’em do it, and probably killed a few.
    It sucks for them (well, sometimes it’s good for them), but if it’s not my relative, it doesn’t affect me. I pause for a moment to respect their lives, and then move on.

    If you need a massage and nice treatment because someone died on your watch, this is the wrong business for you to be in.

    • Pat
      December 9, 2013 at 11:40 am


    • Ken
      December 9, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      Agree to some extant. An unexpected death in a younger patient can be stressful, though not enough to warrant counseling. However l don’t think the “can’t stand the heat get out the kichen” approach is all that helpful. Physicians have many stresses and have the highest suicide rate in the country, as well as higher divorce and alcoholism rates. I appreciate those who try to our lives less stressful, even those acts like Reiki which I think unlikely to do much.

      • Sir Lance-a-Lot
        December 9, 2013 at 5:08 pm

        Sorry, if I wasn’t clear, Ken. I’m not suggesting that people “get out of the kitchen.” I’m just saying that being sensitive to bad things happening to other people should be a hint to trainees that they need to orient themselves to something else, before they get into the kitchen in the first place. I think that this is what usually happens in medical school – those who have trouble with these things self-select into specialties like research, Radiology, Pathology, and Dermatology, and away from things like pediatric trauma surgery (which would totally mess me up).

        Yes, it is always upsetting when kids die, and I see that as more or less an exceptional situation (which, statistically, it is), but, in general, when patients kick off, it should not be an occasion for severe stress and sadness on the part of their physicians.

        As for the exceptional situations, such as I have experienced in the past in EMS and ER circumstances, the traditional therapy was always for the whole crew to go out and get blasted after the shift, which I found to be very effective.
        Having seen the derision that has met “Critical Incident Stress Debriefers” that were sent after these events, I have a hard time imagining that approach actually working.

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