Editor-in-Chief; Senior Vice President and Chief Nurse Officer, Meridian Health System, Neptune, N.J.
It's a lot different being on this side of the hospital bed,” is a frequent comment made by healthcare professionals who become patients. At some point in our lives, each of us will need to access and utilize the healthcare delivery system. Although we believe that we're familiar with the complexity of the system, when receiving rather than delivering care, we quickly realize that understanding and navigating the system is a formidable task.
When patients first enter the healthcare system, one of their first perceptions is the new and unfamiliar language. Words, phrases, and especially abbreviations common to healthcare practitioners are foreign to the lay public. Not only is the language foreign, but the mere physical and architectural structures of hospitals and other healthcare settings can be daunting as well. The development of long corridors and steep ramps due to hospitals adding needed facilities over time results in the difficult task of just finding one's way around the facility.
After patients reach their destination, they're often greeted by a healthcare professional, who may be gracious and courteous, but this person whom the patient just met promptly asks him or her to disrobe and put on a patient gown. Although this process is very familiar and common to healthcare practitioners, we need to take the time to pause and reflect on how these simple process steps are affecting the care we deliver to our patients.
The perceptions of the care we deliver are now closely monitored and evaluated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Based on patients' perceptions of the care they receive, hospitals could lose a significant amount of Medicare funding if patient satisfaction scores are low. This has caused a fury of activity among healthcare leaders who've placed a significant focus on the service component of care delivery. Nurse leaders are challenged with the responsibility of ensuring that the clinical quality of care is exceeding national standards, while simultaneously equally meeting the service component of care.
As we continue to strive to exceed expectations, we must focus on implementing and evaluating our structures and processes to ensure we're developing them through the eyes of the patient. Implementing strategies that preserve the dignity and respect of patients, encouraging their active participation in the care they receive, communicating important information, and showing compassion and understanding will become increasingly more important as we move forward.
Simple strategies proven to increase patient satisfaction, although sometimes formidable to implement and sustain, should be nonnegotiable, and both leaders and staff must be held accountable. Bedside change-of-shift report, actively engaging family and friends in the care process, educating patients about their medications and adverse reactions, and discussing the care plan must become part of the ongoing responsibility of all caregivers without exception.
At some point in our lives, each one of us will need a nurse. Would you be comfortable with the care your staff members provide? Would it meet or exceed your expectations? If the answer is yes, move forward. If not, then quickly develop a plan to improve. It might be you who needs a nurse tomorrow.