I am the patient experience

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Michael Stern is a fighter. For two years he had been fighting prostate cancer until he underwent a radical prostatectomy – a surgery to remove the prostate gland – in August at The Scarborough Hospital (TSH).

But during his recovery, Michael could simply surrender, relax and focus on getting well. The exceptional care he received created an experience between him – the patient – and his health care team that was built on trust, communication and collaboration to achieve optimal results.

“Uziel (Hernandez, RN) was the first person to take care of me when I was in recovery,” says Michael. “She was kind, personable and talkative. Her sunny personality made me feel a lot better and I truly believe it helped speed up my recovery. She went above and beyond what was needed and provided exceptional care.”

Michael adds that he asked for her name because he figured she would be the exception, but admits he was wrong. “It turns out that every nurse, doctor and staff member who attended to me during my time in the hospital went well beyond what was needed,” says Michael. “One nurse went as far as getting me earplugs because I was having difficulty sleeping.”

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Michael’s positive experience throughout the entire care process is becoming more common at TSH as the hospital has launched a grassroots effort to provide a patient-focused approach to care.

‘“I Am the Patient Experience” is more than a tagline at TSH, but the beginning of an entire culture shift that recognizes the inherent value of working with our patients and their families,” says Rhonda Seidman-Carlson, Vice-President, Interprofessional Practice and Chief Nursing Executive. “We ARE the patient experience, and when we provide care from that aspect of connection, we create a positive and meaningful experience for everyone.”

But what does patient-focused really mean, and how do we truly know we are providing our patients and their families with a positive and meaningful experience?

Several staff members who have become passionate champions for the effort have begun looking for ways to find out – and what better place to start than with the patients and families themselves.

“I Am the Patient Experience” champions recognize the inherent value that patients and family members bring to the health care team, and are proactively inviting them to visit the units on which they received care to share their stories in person. Staff will be able to learn directly from their patients what was meaningful and where there were opportunities for improvement and conversely, patients have the opportunity to participate and collaborate in their care.

“It may make us all a little uncomfortable at first,” says Rhonda. “But opening our ears, our minds and our hearts to really understand our patients’ feedback is a huge step in providing true patient-focused care. Only they can define their experience, and it’s our job to learn, grow and make it happen.”

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TSH is also planning to introduce shared care plans on many of its units and is actively recruiting for Patient and Family Advisors to further advance its commitment to patient-focused care. The Patient and Family Advisors will partner with health care providers and administrators to enhance programs, participate in corporate and department-level improvement initiatives and provide fresh eyes for identifying efficiencies in many areas including: service delivery, policies and procedures, interprofessional care planning, patient education, hospital navigation and the general environment, and follow-up processes.

“By working together and learning from each other, we can ensure better outcomes for our patients and their families,” says Rhonda. “And at the end of the day, that’s why we are all here.”

Within three days of his surgery and recovery, Michael was well enough to get up and walk around. He left the hospital that same day, and insists his speedy recovery was a result of the excellent care he received during and after his surgery and his participation in his care.

“I can’t stress how much of a difference a pleasant personality makes in helping the recovery process. I can’t imagine any other hospital providing a better experience,” says Michael.