I’m writing this post from a hospital waiting room which is a great location for me to anchor myself in the realities of health care. Today I am the family member, nervous about my sister Gretchen who is having surgery complicated by a rare form of cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that places her at risk even during a routine procedure.
If you are reading this, you probably know that I am a passionate crusader for the patient (and family) experience. But this isn’t theory for me. It’s very real. As I wait for word from the surgeon, I find comfort in the actions of the staff and the environment. I realize that I am probably more astute an observer than the average consumer and bring that skill into my mystery shopping work. But when in the role of the family member, my emotions are probably no different than any other family member waiting for word. Everything that I encounter shapes my outlook about the experience. Everything and everyone contributes to that experience.
Raisa at the registration desk was warm, welcoming, friendly, informative and clear in her overview about what to expect for both the patient and me. She gave me a brief orientation about where I could wait, where I could find food, restrooms and wifi access while I waited. Her simple action reassured me that I too and being cared for today; That I too matter and have a place here. This little orientation speaks volumes about the culture. It tells me that they have considered my needs as well as Gretchen’s. It gives me the impression that we are in the hands of a caring organization. She let me know that if I decide to leave the area that I should let her know so that they know how to reach me quickly. This is the same type of orientation that I got while waiting for my sister at Mayo. The attention to these details is reassuring.
Vicki, the nursing assistant, was friendly, professional and efficient. She added a touch of humor when referring to the hospital gown as a "e;Victoria’s Secret number."e;
Jean, the RN was cheerful, friendly and efficient as she prepared Gretchen for surgery. Her bubbly personality and interactions made us barely notice the attention that she paid to the computer screen. She managed to gather all the necessary information in a conversational manner and never made the questions seem routine or perfunctory. This is the mark of a true pro.
When Terry started her IV, he was so caring yet lighthearted and conversational that it helped keep Gretchen calm and comfortable the entire time. (Easy for me to say, when I’m not the one under the needle!) He was skilled–which is what you really want from someone taking aim with an IV–but at the same time, it was a personal encounter with a friendly, caring person. He ended the encounter by turning to me and saying, "e;We’re going to take good care of her."e; And you know what? I believed him. Isn’t that what every family member needs to hear from caregivers? That they will take good care of their loved ones?
When the doctor arrived to give me the good news, he was compassionate, empathetic and an excellent communicator. Unlike some other surgeons, he didn’t cringe or look defensive when I started asking for details about how she tolerated the anesthesia, how stable her heart rate was during the surgery and what her oxygen levels were now during recovery. (I can’t help it. Once a nurse, always a nurse.)
Once we were situated in her room on the surgical floor, Tami the RN was remarkable. She took extra measures to make sure that Gretchen had everything that she needed and even made suggestions that would help her save money on her bill. She sat next to the bed at eye level as she spoke to Gretchen. She was comforting yet efficient. She took time to make sure that I understood what was going on and how I could help Gretchen. It’s always so evident when the nurses don’t want family around. On the flip side, Tami was welcoming but stayed very focused on what needed to be done.
As I made my way to the elevator I ran into the hospital CEO, who graciously balanced a brief conversation with me while taking notice of a visitor who appeared lost. He excused himself and escorted her to the appropriate location. This action speaks to value of leaders modeling desired behaviors. It demonstrates that the experience belongs to everyone whether in the hallway, operating room or patient room.
Each step along my experience pathway today reinforces my belief that every point along the pathway matters. Every person and every action makes a difference in the outcomes both clinical and emotional. Every individual must OWN the experience with patients, visitors and family members. When that happens, the entire organization will be raising the bar.