For those of us who have spent significant time in and around hospitals, they can become somewhat routine places to us. They are to be, in their essence, places of healing, compassion and expert care for those who are often dealing with serious illnesses. While delivering the best, most patient-centric care is a constant battle, we in healthcare need to remember to always “fight the good fight” for the kind of patient care we would want if we were the patient.
As someone who worked as a senior leader in hospitals for over two decades, it was always enlightening to me to do patient exit interviews. One very insightful lady who I interviewed had a very bad experience in my hospital. She said something to me I never forgot. She said, “How would you want to be cared for if you were a patient in this hospital?” I responded, “with the utmost care and expertise possible.” Her answer to that was, “Yes, and it’s your job to see to it that your patients consistently receive that very thing during their stay here!” And she was right. While most hospitals strive to provide the highest quality and best level of overall patient care possible to each and everyone of their patients,the data reveals many do not. A wide variety of market forces can and do have very serious negative effects on the very mission of hospitals and health services organizations.
In an era of cost containment, increasing nursing/patient ratios, utilization review and patient treatment authorizations, patient care can often be anything but “caring”. Recently a close, former colleague of mine, who is a cardiovascular service line administrator, was hospitalized to undergo a surgical procedure. She shared with me that from her pre-op testing in the ED to being admitted, receiving a bed, meeting her nursing “team” and getting prepped for surgery, the whole experience was very un-patient-centered. She felt like she was just another number. No one really looked her in the eye or seemed interested in making her feel comfortable. To top it off, the bedside nursing team failed to follow the surgeon’s pain management orders as prescribed after surgery and she suffered with excessive pain until she screamed at her nurse to check and see if the pain management orders were being followed correctly. They were not.
So what can be done to change this all too common patient experience? Here’s a few simple recommendations:
- If you or someone you know is being admitted as an elective patient to a hospital, ensure they or a family member is provided pre-admit education either in the doctor’s office and/or upon admission. This education should cover what they should be receiving and experiencing during their stay.
- Ask a lot of questions about what to expect. Frequently, the standard level of nursing care in most hospitals is to provide daily care explanations and post, on a whiteboard or computer screen, patient care orders or visual aids for patients to see their daily care plan and ask questions if need be.
- Don’t feel like you need to be a ”people pleaser.” If something is not feeling right during your stay say something.
Finally, ask your caregiver the “golden rule” of patient care. If they were the patient, how would they want to be cared for? That will clearly set the table for you to see if they are going to treat you with care and compassion.