As a patient who once relied on the expert care of his medical team to survive, Dr. Miguel Hernandez approaches the way he cares for patients with a unique perspective.

“Quality, compassionate care, excellent bedside manner and a positive patient experience mean everything to me,” Dr. Hernandez says.

At the beginning of each shift, he spends about 30 minutes checking in with the nursing staff. This meeting enables everyone to be on the same page and gives the team the opportunity to make sure that they prioritize more severe cases first while still maintaining a schedule to spend time with all patients.

“I ask about each patient, their status, what’s changed and who needs immediate care. I also take a pulse of the staff. I want to know how they’re doing and how I can support them. It’s so important that we operate as a team to provide the best possible patient care.”

At 21, the thought of becoming a physician never crossed Miguel’s mind. He was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico, preparing for the LSAT and planning to become a lawyer. In the summer of 1998, life threw him an unexpected curveball that would change his outlook on life and his career path.

Miguel Hernandez on Ventilation

While hanging out with his fraternity brothers one day, Miguel felt strong abdominal pain that spread to his back. His friends rushed him to the emergency department.

Thirty days later, Miguel woke up from a coma.

“Waking up after 30 days, I was scared, and the first thing I asked the nurse was, ‘Do I need surgery?’”

He learned that in addition to being hospitalized and on life support for the past month, he had undergone three surgeries to address his complicated necrotizing pancreatitis. In the process, he had his gallbladder, spleen and 70 percent of his pancreas removed.

He had been diagnosed with a severe case of necrotizing pancreatitis induced by gallstones and given a 10 percent chance of survival.

With the medical care he received and the support of his family, he pulled through. This did not come easy, and at times, he thought he didn’t have any fight left.

“I had been at death’s door,” he says. “I was exhausted, feeling hopeless and helpless and scared about the future.”

One day, the hospital’s chief interventional radiologist sat with Miguel and listened to his fears while comforting him and telling him he was doing everything he could to help his recovery.

“That time he took, his honesty and his perseverance meant more to me than he’ll ever know.”

After six months in hospitals in New Mexico and Texas and a grueling healing process, Miguel was nearly fully recovered. He also had a new perspective on life and a sense of purpose.

“The care team and my family never gave up on me, and I was determined to return that same kind of commitment and dedicated myself to healing others.”

Eventually, he attended medical school at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences. He spent four years of class work and rotations to become Miguel Hernandez, DO. In that time, he also met his wife, Dr. Kristina Hernandez. They completed internal medicine residencies together at Banner Good Samaritan in 2011, both staying on an additional year as Chief Medical Residents.

“Naturally, I chose hospital medicine. While it was a relatively new field, I knew I would be able to help patients throughout their care journeys, be their champion and consult with other specialists to ensure they received the most clinically appropriate care.”

Dr. Hernandez joined Envision’s Questcare division in 2014 and is currently a Medical Director. He cares for post-acute patients at nursing homes in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and works alongside Dr. Kristina Hernandez, who is also an Envision physician.

The patients he cares for are typically in their later stages of life and have more unique challenges than most. His care is focused on their quality of life. He says it’s important to understand their needs and ensure that they and their families are as engaged as possible in their care.

The patients also have storied pasts and varied perspectives on life. Part of caring for them means sitting by their beds and listening.  

“Sometimes, I learn the most about how to care for them when we’re talking about who they are and what they’ve experienced throughout their lifetime. It’s so rewarding to learn from each other and share lessons learned from our pasts.”

Dr. Hernandez says the key ingredient is compassion. However, his six-month hospitalization is what has taught him the value of empathy.

“Having been a patient, I know what a patient is enduring. I am fortunate to have learned lessons that were never taught in a book or classroom. If I can make each patient’s day a little less scary and painful and even inspire some joy, I know I’m making a difference. God and the medical team kept me alive so I can heal and comfort people in need.”