To have the SARS-COV2 disease is a difficult experience which becomes distressing with hospitalization. As if the physical impairment, the insecurity and the fears were not enough, the disease determines the separation of the patient and their family and loved ones. From the beginning of the pandemic, the hospitals suspended the visits to the patients as a protection measure. Even if they could use their phones to contact family, for many elderly patients or those in a fragile situation and unable to use the equipment, the hospital stays brought solitude and a sentiment of helplessness. The families, on their turn, even receiving daily medical bulletins, resented the fact they couldn’t visit the committed.

Preoccupied with these aspects of humanized care, the Humanization Center and the Palliative Care Canter of the Hospital das Clínicas of the Medical School of the Universidade de São Paulo (HCFMUSP) developed a project of virtual visits which bring the patients closer to their families by a distanced meeting. The idea, relatively simple, demanded, however, a detailed and careful logistic operation. The virtual visits follow a strict protocol of security measures and infection control, such as communication protocols created specifically for the interaction among patients and their families mediated by hospital staff. Since the health teams of the hospital have found themselves overloaded with their present tasks, to form the virtual visits team, the Humanization Center invited students and former students of the Medical School of USP to work as volunteers in the project.

“The first meeting with the volunteer staff was surprising. It was a joy to meet again with former students of mine, now doctors. Even better was to hear them express their excitement when they heard the proposal of volunteer work was for a humanization project, since they work in clinical fields in other hospitals and were missing precisely this humanized approach to care”, states Prof. Izabel Cristina Rios, of the Legal Medicine, Medical Ethics, Social and Occupational Medicine Department and Coordinator of the HCFMUSP Humanization Center.

A team of 28 FMUSP students and former students was formed and received training to act in a hospital environment that treats people with Covid-19, and to intermediate the contact between patients and family, allowing for a good communication between them. Today, the visits occur in the afternoons, in nine wards and in the Emergency Unit at the Central Institute of HCFMUSP, an institute adapted to receive only Covid-19 cases. The work of the volunteer team starts at the humanization room, with the Humanization Center staff that locally coordinates the project and gives support to the volunteers every day. In a month of work, 234 virtual visits were carried out.

In these visits, patients and family have talked about the preoccupations and have expressed warm feelings. “Several volunteers have witnessed emotional, fun, unusual and even sad encounters. Human encounters, simply human, and that is why they are full of meaning”, says Prof. Izabel Rios. The virtual visits are a humanization action which is being very appreciated by the patients and their families, besides the team and staff of volunteers. “who concern satisfaction with the work they carry out. Perhaps because the nature of a work such as this is, by itself, gratifying, but maybe because we are talking about truly generous people, who have demonstrated courage and altruism, essential qualities who are or want to become real doctors”, sates Prof. Izabel Rios.