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Is Your Patient Experience More Like an Inmate’s?

Posted by Kristin Baird on October 2nd, 2013 • 1 Comment »

Every day is filled with choices. We choose what to wear, what to eat, when to get up and who we will talk with. We relish the independence. When an individual becomes a patient, however, much of his independence including many of these decisions are ripped out of his control.

In healthcare, we pay lip service to patient-focused care, but to tell the truth, the patient’s day is more similar to a boot camp than it is to a 5-star resort.  The following is a more realistic view of the patient experience:

  • Here’s your gown which was designed for our convenience not your comfort or modesty.
  • Here’s the menu and you’ll eat when the food is delivered regardless of your appetite. Oh, and by the way, if you choose something that is not approved for you, we’ll change it at our discretion not yours.
  • You sleep only as long as we will let you regardless of how you feel. Not only will you be awakened for the essential things like vital signs and medications, but we’re so focused on our own work that we might forget about you when we make overhead pages, slam carts and chat outside your door.
  • We will repeatedly ask you the same questions which may be for your safety but will irritate you and make you wonder whether or not anyone has listened to you or if they are sharing information.
  • We will let you know when it’s time to go home. You are ours until we get the final word from the doctor which may take hours from the time we announce your discharge. Be sure to have someone on standby to drive you home and make sure they reserve a full day for this because we just can’t predict the moment of the final order.
  •  And please take time to read the discharge instructions along with the colorful brochure. One will give you instructions of how to care for yourself, while the brochure will inform you that we are patient-centered in everything we do.

As you read through the patient’s day described above, you may find that it sounds a bit like that of a prison inmate with lots of rules and little choice.  Of course, as a nurse, I know that patient safety is non-negotiable. There certainly are things we must do, but it’s important to remember there are also things we can do in every encounter that will give the patient choices and help him or her feel in control. Give choices whenever possible. This helps the patient feel more in control. Ask permission, say please, and strive to make every encounter all about. If every employee strives to live up to the promise of patient-centered care, you’ll create raving fans.

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Baird Consulting

One Response to “Is Your Patient Experience More Like an Inmate’s?”

  1. Patient #24589 says:

    During my most recent gyn surgery I had 3 requests.. To not be a teaching case (I was), to not have pictures taken (they were) and to not be sedated (I was so that being a teaching case wouldn’t upset me) – when I woke no one from the surgery team ever came to tell me what had happened or why

    I quickly developed PTSD (up to 30% of gyn surgical patients do apparently). and got help on my own – the counselor encouraged me to ask what had happened and why but when I asked to simply talk to the surgeon I was instead dropped by my gyn as a patient from the practice as she said “none of her other patients had ever developed PTSD and since I was one patient and she had to work with the surgeon all the time she was sorry but it was “business” not personal and wished me luck with my “mental health issues” ).

    Sadly the surgery also failed and even though I haven’t lost my trust in the healthcare system I did learn to always have an advocate with you when you are vulnerable because you are essentially powerless.


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