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Reflecting Back on The Patient Experience

Posted By Hannah Doty, Tuesday, November 18, 2014
Updated: Monday, November 17, 2014

People often talk about being deeply affected in their adult lives by experiences in their childhood—For example, if you had a bad experience with a dog, you may be afraid of dogs. Or if you had an amazing teacher in third grade, you’ll always remember her and the book she read to you. This same sort of lasting impression is made on kids who are hospitalized for long periods of time. In this respect, the pediatric-patient experience is extremely important since it can affect not only the healing process, but how a person views encounters with health professionals for the rest of his/her adult life.

The hospital is a microcosm—often the only world a child knows if they aren’t able to go home or attend school for long periods of time. A child who is hospitalized will not refer to that time in their life as their "Hospital Experience,” but rather their LIFE experience.

As a childhood cancer survivor, I now find myself reflecting on that time in my life to determine how it has impacted me and shaped me as an adult.

Overall, I believe my experience as a patient was more positive because my parents were actively involved in making sure I could continue to be "me” while in the hospital. I never felt like my identity was "Cancer Patient.”

Part of "me” was drawing and doing art projects. I often shared my artwork with doctors and nurses and involved them in my projects when I could; I asked the nurses and doctors to sign my scrapbooks, take pictures with me, and look at my drawings. I was able to create personal moments with medical staff through my own initiative and these moments helped me to cope much better.

Looking back, I think there were also missed opportunities. If all encounters with medical personnel could have started with a real interest and curiosity about me – Hannah – and not my disease, I wonder how much more positive those daily interactions would have been for all involved. I think I would have been more cooperative in some trying times rather than thinking, "I don’t like this person.” Or even worse: "I’m not going to tell them what hurts.” For children less expressive and/or outgoing than I was, the need for doctors and others to actively pursue genuine non-medical interest seems even more crucial for the best patient experience and outcomes.

Medical professionals who interact with children in the hospital are in many ways substitutes for the other people who are normally in a child’s daily life: teachers, classmates, friends, coaches, etc. As an important person in a child’s life, a doctor/nurse affects how a child views himself. This role is probably not one that a medical professional thinks about – their main job of course is to help a child get well. But when a health professional takes the time to initiate and share a personal moment with a child (discovering a common interest, sharing a joke, drawing together, etc.) there is a tremendous impact not only upon the child’s current health and experience, but upon his/her sense of self and long-term attitudes toward the medical profession.

Because these moments meant so much to me, I strongly encourage medical professionals to consciously create "me moments” with children in the hospital. I believe in doing so, everyone’s experience will be greatly improved and the positive impact will last a lifetime.

Hannah Doty is the founder of V.I.P. Hospital Productions—an organization with a non-profit branch that creates customized entertainment to enhance the experiences of hospitalized kids and promote positive interactions with their medical team.

Tags:  children's medical experience  improving patient experience  patient  patient experience  pediatric  perspective  physician communication 

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The Patient Perspective

Posted By Randi Redmond Oster, Thursday, May 1, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, April 30, 2014

One thing I know is the hospital. Not because I’ve worked there or I’ve studied anything to do with clinical settings but because my son has Crohn's disease, my husband has a pre-existing condition and my 85 year old mother has lived with my family for 17 years.Between the three of them, I’ve been to the hospital over a dozen times, maybe close to 20. I’ve learned while the patient may have different symptoms, clinicians seem to share the same approach when dealing with a healthcare crisis. They focus on their job, just as they should. They are specialized experts. While the condition or symptom or pain may be new to us, they have been trained to find a solution.Facts prevail. Data is gathered. Recommendations made.

Each time as I sit and wait for the doctor to tell me what is wrong, my hands sweat. I feel lost, confused and scared. Deep down, I wish I was someplace else. But the doctor focuses with laser sharp precision on the medical issues.My heart just races as we are many times forced to choose a course of action. I may not make my best decisions when my heart is breaking for my loved one. One time, my son was hospitalized when our doctor was out of town. I had never met the doctor recommending surgery and wasn’t even sure she knew my name.Yet, I was supposed to trust her unconditionally. She focused on his diseased intestines, the surgeon on the operation, the anesthetist on keeping the patient asleep.

But who was looking at Gary’s emotional health? Who was helping Gary learn to cope with a chronic life long disease beyond recommending medications that could possible cause cancer down the road? I truly believe they care about their patients. However, the system does not give them the time to spend with us. In the hospital, we never knew when the doctor would arrive. We’d just wait and wait.When they did arrive they often seemed rushed. When Gary had to choose between three different medications, some with harsh side effects, the doctor visited the hospital room for 15 minutes. As he raced through the benefits and risks of each choice, did he know our point of view? Did he ask? I made sure to tell him.

After Gary’s operation, as he rested comfortably the next day, I went to the cafeteria to get some lunch. I saw some of the residents who kept poking Gary awake each day. I was thrilled that the operation was a success and wanted to thank them for their efforts. As I passed one of them on line, he stared down at his tray. I guess I was hoping this refrain didn’t apply as it did in my years as a corporate executive: "It’s business, it’s not personal.”

So from my corporate days, creating high performing teams, I’ll share the secret to my success. LISTEN to the customer and your business, just like your patients, will thrive.

Randi Redmond Oster is an award winning author of newly released Questioning Protocol. She worked in the corporate world as an electrical engineer and a process expert for almost 20 years. Her life – and her work – took a sudden turn when she had to care for her aging parents plus spend a month advocating for her chronically ill son in the hospital. Her Six Sigma skill set, engineering degree and compassion as a mom makes for compelling, engaging and valued sessions.


Tags:  experience  listen  patient  perspective 

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