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The Beryl Institute invites members to submit posts on patient experience related topics. For guidelines and information on submitting a post for consideration, please contact us at info@theberylinstitute.org.

 

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Top tags: patient experience  healthcare  communication  culture  patient  HCAHPS  Leadership  patient engagement  empathy  physician  survey  compassion  perception  physicians  technology  caregiver  community  data  employee engagement  family engagement  healing  Hospital  improving patient experience  collaboration  Consumerism  Expectations  interactions  patient and family engagement  pediatric  person-centered care 

Rounds for Change

Posted By Irene Brennick, Monday, April 25, 2016

As a volunteer director, I often make patient rounds with my CNO. At my hospital, staff and volunteers alike make patient satisfaction a top priority. We frequently round on patients, not only to assess their needs, but to also find out what didn’t go right so we can learn from it, correct it and make things better for everyone. During one particular interaction, I discovered how easy it can be to change a patient’s perception of the hospital from negative to positive.

My CNO and I walked into a room and encountered a female patient and her husband. We inquired about their experience, and their response revealed an opportunity for improvement. The woman said she was admitted through the emergency room, sent to another unit and finally arrived at the room she was currently in.

The patient told us how sick and scared she was. Her experience in the ER was somewhat of a blur, but she remembered very clearly an abrupt nurse in one of the units. She said the nurse didn’t listen to her, and her husband echoed the lack of attentiveness on behalf of the nurse. Once she was brought to her private room, however, she said she had received nothing but the best treatment.

After she recounted her story, my CNO told the patient "I am very sorry to hear that, because what I hear is that the care is very good. I will investigate the situation, and again, I am sorry.” I too have always heard about the exceptional treatment people receive in our facility, and was quite surprised to hear anything negative at all regarding the care. This patient and her husband started to protest a bit stronger. They repeated their story about how the nurse treated them in the unit.

I thought to myself, remember it is the patient’s perception of care and sometimes we have to do our best to make the patient experience better. When this patient goes to fill out a patient satisfaction survey we want to have eliminated or decreased the negative impression of our hospital. Before we left the room, I looked closely into the woman’s eyes and simply said, "I’m sorry you believe you didn’t receive the treatment you deserved. It’s not ok, and we need to do better.”

I wanted to let the woman know that I too heard her. If I were a patient and felt I was not treated compassionately, I would be upset as well. What happened next was pretty amazing. As we started to get up and walk out, the woman said, "Well, people are only human and everyone has a bad day. I don’t want to get anyone in trouble and really my care was very good.” At that moment I knew, just by being heard and acknowledged, the woman went from being upset, to all smiles, as she chatted about how she was feeling much better and hoped to be discharged soon.

I learned that day that making rounds is very important and we must really listen to what our patients are telling us. If a patient claims to have had a bad experience, they had a bad experience. It is our job as hospital staff to make the situation better, rather than be defensive. It is much better to just listen to our patients. Their information is a gift, and we should acknowledge their concerns. We should apologize, investigate and correct. Only then, will our patients begin to forgive any imperfections that occurred during their stay, and they could even become our greatest advocates. We want our patients to have the best experience when in our facility.

Since 2003, Irene Brennick has managed over 700 volunteers at Los Robles Hospital in Thousand Oaks, California and puts on health and education events as their Director of Community Services. She has a total of 24 years of experience developing and implementing dynamic volunteer programs. She has also addressed tens of thousands of people and her story has been featured in the L.A. Times, Daily News, and on television and radio. Ms. Brennick also speaks on topics that include, finding one’s purpose in life, the importance of giving back through volunteerism, and how anyone can be an inspirational public speaker.

Tags:  compassion  leadership  listen  patient advocate  perception  rounding  volunteer 

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A Caregiver's Guilt

Posted By Sara Shearkhani, Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Updated: Monday, June 23, 2014

Have you ever felt that breathing is hard and painful? Have you ever felt that you need to run away and leave everything behind? Have you ever, ever, lost your dreams? Well, cancer makes you feel all the above.

Do not get me wrong; I am not the cancer patient. I am the caregiver. I am the one who everybody asks, with a sad voice: How is your husband, the cancer patient, doing? And they never ask, how I'm doing. And that's why I had so much trouble writing this piece. It seems nobody believes that it's my story too; even me! The feeling of guilt is unbearable. Is this my story to write? Do I have any right to write about my husband's story? Do I, as a caregiver, have any story to tell? If I do, why do I feel so guilty writing about myself, my pain, my story? Why do I feel guilty?

When he was diagnosed with cancer, we were told that it was his story; it made sense to me – for a while. But, eventually, I realized something was wrong with this picture. And with that realization came solitary, lonely, and crushing guilt. You continually question your actions and attitudes: Am I being selfish? Am I a bad wife and an awful caregiver? Am I betraying him by being selfish? Does it mean I will leave him?

In any case, the problem became clear when I had to deal with his seizures. The doctors, pretending I wasn't there, asked my husband what his seizures usually look like! Okay! I stared at the doctors, so they would feel uncomfortable and notice me. How on earth would he know what his seizures look like? I am the one who gets to watch him during the seizures. Yet, I did not dare speak. After all, it was his story!

Or, probably, the feeling of guilt came when I was administering all aspects of my husband's care since he was in denial and shock and wouldn't do anything at all. It was a great deal of responsibility; you have to be really careful about the decisions you make for the patient: They might be wrong; you will be blamed for it. At best, you need to explain yourself all the time. Like the one time that I took my husband to ER for a seizure that according to his oncologist was a focal – or limited – seizure; the doctor wrote to us that such behavior – taking my husband to ER – only served to intensify our anxiety; we needed, he said, to "move on!”. Let me explain something for you; we were on a trip and during the seizure my husband bit his tongue and blood was all over the place. I did it again; I'm having to explain myself, again!

I felt guilty when I experienced all the side effects of the chemo on his first day of chemo! The poor thing ended up taking care of me. Ah, such an awful caregiver I am! I also felt guilty when I made good friends through support groups and I got to transform my life with their help. After all, it's his....story…

I guess the point I'm trying to make is I, as a caregiver, have had a tough time dealing with the situation. My fight started the very moment his fight began. And everybody, from myself, to you, dear reader, needs to understand that it is OUR story. So, next time you talk to a caregiver, do me a favor, and ask her or him: "How are you doing?”

Sara was a Ph.D student in economics but had to take a break to help her husband with his treatment for brain cancer. She is now a patient and caregiver advocate and has changed her field of study to health policy.

Tags:  caregiver  family  guilt  patient advocate  patient experience 

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