We all have something in common when it comes to healthcare. We’ve been patients, had a family or friend in the hospital or even worked in the hospital for many years. It’s often easy to point out things that can go wrong in care delivery.
But let me give you a few examples of what’s right:
I had a family member in the hospital for several weeks. From the start, things didn’t go well. Treatments delayed, inaccurate vital signs, medication errors, orders not followed – you name it. I hesitated to complain. But when it involves the care of someone you love, you have to step in. And after a few days, step in I did. I talked with the attending physician about my concerns, transferred nursing units, shared feedback with administration and so on (you know the drill).
So what went right?
After discharge, I found out that the care issues we experienced prompted a root cause analysis and quality review of the case. A quality improvement initiative was championed by a resident and processes were put into place so the same issues wouldn’t happen.
Was I satisfied with that? You bet.
I couldn’t go back and undo what had been done (or omitted). But I felt that someone heard me. They took my feedback seriously.
I’m a cancer survivor. And believe me, when you’re undergoing diagnosis and treatment for cancer it can sometimes be hard to see the positive.
But I can share something with you that went right.
When I was undergoing “boost” radiation therapy (the big gun zapping procedure), my radiation oncologist came to see me near the end of my treatment series. He told me that he’d been reading a journal article about a cancer like mine over the weekend and the pros and cons of continued boost treatments. He said when he read the article “he couldn’t help but think about me” and how it applied to my case. And right there on the radiation table we made the decision that further treatment stood the chance of doing more harm than good. I felt like someone cared about me, and included me in decisions about my care.
Another example: When my family (including my parents) was on vacation at the beach one afternoon, my dad fell face-first in his Raisin Bran at the lunch table. Not wanting to cause alarm, I could hear my husband gently asking him “Are you OK?”
But as I looked at my dad’s gray face and slack jaw, it was a picture I’ve seen too many times in my career as a CCU nurse. I immediately sprang into action: called 911, started smacking dad in the face, screaming for him to wake up (is that protocol?), began to open his airway and started the ABCs of emergency care. Our vacation ended with an ambulance ride to the hospital, transfer to another facility and pacemaker insertion.
So what went right?
Throughout the entire experience, the medics and nurses patiently answered all of our questions. My dad’s doctor came in the room, sat on the bed and acted like my dad was his only patient as he explained the procedure.
When my dad was discharged, the case managers worked diligently to get his follow-up care arranged with a cardiologist in his hometown in rural West Virginia and arrange for pacer checks after discharge.
They all listened. They cared.
I could go on and on. And I am sure you have a story or two of your own to share. See the theme here? Clinicians have unlimited ability to make a difference in the lives of the patients we care for. Listen, take interest, care and listen again. That’s what is right about healthcare.