Last week, my sister Elizabeth was taken to a local hospital (Fort Healthcare) close to her subacute facility to be stabilized for transport back to Mayo Clinic. You might recall from previous blogs that she had been hospitalized for 60 days and discharged to subacute care for the past three weeks. She was weak, in pain and understandably frightened and discouraged. The nurses caring for her were attentive, kind and compassionate. They did several things to help her feel comfortable during the nine hour stay prior to transport including getting her a regular hospital bed rather than the standard ER gurney.
It was evident from the moment we arrived that she was in good hands, both clinically and emotionally. What I observed was how they truly embraced a culture of caring in each encounter with her. This is not always easy especially in a busy ER and since she is such a complex patient. In addition to her care, they always made me feel welcome and a part of the care team.
After a four hour medical transport, we were both exhausted and eager to see her settled in her new room. I was so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open. I just wanted her settled and safely in the hands of competent caregivers. When the transporter brought us up to the unit, we were met by a nurse who gave us the “poster-child-of-great-nursing” welcome. Before we even hit the door of the room, he stopped at the bed and said, “Welcome Elizabeth. We’ve been expecting you and are glad you’re here with us. My name is Chris. You’re going to notice something very special about this unit. We have the best nursing care here and are fully committed to helping you.”
Wow. Nothing, and I mean nothing, could have been a more welcoming statement at that moment for both Elizabeth and me. To her, his words said, “Welcome. We’ve got this. You’re right where you need to be and we’re going to figure out what’s wrong.” To me, his words said, “You can relax now. We’ll take it from here.” I cannot express to you the relief I felt in hearing his words. Especially since the entire time she was in the subacute facility I felt I had to remain vigilant 24/7. There, the nurses were mechanical, only moderately engaged and lacked critical thinking. Hearing Chris’ words, I all but collapsed in the recliner with relief.
For both patients and family members, compassionate, competent and caring nurses are the back bone of a positive experience. It all starts with a culture that fosters engagement. When nurses are engaged and leadership values the patient experience, the HCAHPS scores take care of themselves.
Having this experience was validating for me on so many levels. It exemplified much of the best practices that are frequently cited in the literature. At the same time it verified that the curriculum I developed for nurses, Nurse/Patient Partnership© is spot-on in helping to engage nurses’ hearts so that they deliver care with empathy, compassion, and focus.