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Patient Experience Case Study - Northern Westchester Hospital
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Creating a Caregivers Support Program to Improve the Patient and Family Experience
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Front room of the Caregivers Center

What was the challenge, opportunity or issue faced?

The family caregiver is an individual who plays a critical role in affecting patient outcomes. With even shorter hospital stays today, they are taking on greater care responsibilities adding to the challenges of coping with acute or chronic illness. They are often not prepared for this role; they did not sign up for it nor are they paid to do it. It comes on top of other responsibilities they have. It is a very stressful role that can have a dramatic impact on their own health and well-being. There are 65 million people out there in this role at any time.

What did you do to address it?

The Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center is the brainchild of Marian Hamilton who was a caregiver to her husband dealing with a rare, fatal form of cancer for two years. At that time, she was also actively raising two teenage daughters. She saw the need for a caregiver support program that would help caregivers in their role by offering non-judgmental emotional support, help navigating a hospital system and referrals to community resources.

After positive reception to the concept from administrators at Northern Westchester Hospital, focus groups were done to assess the critical components of a support program and the desirable attributes of a physical space in the hospital. The center was designed to create an oasis for rest and respite staffed by a team of extensively trained volunteer caregiver coaches. A full time social worker oversees the day to day operations of the center, provides training and support for the coaches and participates in various hospital committees including palliative care and ethics. Coaches make rounds on the hospital floors and forge connections with family caregivers; they offer a compassionate ear and help address the myriad of issues that may emerge.

The scope and breadth of our involvement includes: plan of care meetings, end of life discussions, discharge planning, advance directives, caregiver support groups, resource referrals and much, much more. The program has also expanded to provide support to community members and professional caregivers in the hospital who are in the role of family caregivers in their personal lives.

The Ken Hamilton Caregivers Center

What were the outcomes?

From the inception of the program in 2006, the number of caregiver interactions has grown from 500 to a projection of over 8.400 in 2014. The hospital saw a rise in HCAHPs and Press Ganey scores in the area of patient and family satisfaction at the inception of the program. These scores have been maintained though we recognize that there are many contributing factors.

Because our time is focused on families, we often handle issues proactively thereby freeing up the medical staff to spend more time on clinical issues. In addition, we have grown from 3 caregiver coaches in 2005 to 30 in 2014. Many of our coaches have been family caregivers who were the recipients of our services, which is a strong endorsement. We receive many letters of appreciation and are the recipients of memorial donations as well as grateful caregiver donations.

Given the success of our program, in 2008 we began working with other hospitals to help them replicate our center. As of 2014, we have 10 replicated sites, which include: quarternary care facilities, cancer centers, regional and community hospitals. The replicated centers form a Caregivers Center Consortium with a closed online community to share resources and initiatives and semi annual symposiums.

About Northern Westchester Hospital

Northern Westchester Hospital is an acute care, community hospital located 40 miles outside of New York City. Northern Westchester Hospital is a designated Planetree affiliate with distinction. The hospital features:

  • 233 beds, 700 Medical Staff and 1000 employees
  • Acute Care Nursing (Medical, Oncology and Surgical Care, Intensive Care, Pediatrics, Obstetrics/Gynecology)
  • Level 111 NICU and Inpatient Psychiatry
  • Surgery Program – Bariatric, Neurosurgery and Robotic Surgery
  • Comprehensive Cancer Treatment and Wellness Center
  • Sleep Medicine Center
  • Family Caregivers Center
  • Integrative Medicine Program
  • Clinical Nutrition and Rehabilitation Services
To learn more about Northern Winchester Hospital, visit

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