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Patient experience in the time of a pandemic

Health care has been hit by a tidal wave called COVID-19, and the world we live in today is vastly different than two months ago. Compassion and safety are important to patient experience, yet the safety practices we’ve had to…

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Health care has been hit by a tidal wave called COVID-19, and the world we live in today is vastly different than two months ago. Compassion and safety are important to patient experience, yet the safety practices we’ve had to establish sometimes appear to put these two values at odds. How can we show compassion when we must separate loved ones in their time of need? Or while hiding our faces and limiting human contact?

With grace and agility, our teams have shown compassion despite these challenges. The words we use and actions we take to relieve suffering show we can provide a high-quality experience even during a pandemic.

We have not yet seen the full impact COVID-19 will have on our patient experience data since we are still collecting surveys. However, we do see some trends. In March our system saw slight declines in scores for nursing communication, responsiveness, medications, overall rating and our composite. For April, however, we saw improvements in each of these areas and more. Some scores were as high as we’ve seen all year. This shows that our teams adapted quickly to ensure our patients felt as few negative effects from our new safety requirements as possible.

One of the biggest impacts on our patient experience has been visitor restrictions. When our patients need a support person the most, or when a family needs to say goodbye, safety requires they must be kept away from each other with few exceptions. This has been heartbreaking all around — for patients, their families and our care teams.

Still, the efforts our teams have taken to accommodate patients and families has been inspiring. A common theme in our surveys is that patients feel the care and compassion, and that teams are going above and beyond to meet their needs. One patient said, “All the nursing staff was superb. I spent my birthday in the hospital, they sang Happy Birthday to me. Very friendly and caring.”

We learned early on that we did not have a system in place to help our patients connect with their families via video. Some nurses were lending patients their own devices to call their loved ones. Then ITS provided mobile tablets for patients who need them so they can call and see their loved ones. It may not be the same as holding a hand, but it still makes a world of difference.

As with any major event, we’re learning a lot. When the dust settles, we’ll take a deeper look into how our policies can accommodate the needs of our patients to connect with their loved ones while keeping the community at large safe. In the meantime, thank you, caregivers, for helping our patients during this unprecedented time.

Photo of phone a friend message

How you can help your patients

  • LEARN if your patient has a way to connect with loved ones, which may include a partner, spouse, parent, child, neighbor, caregiver or friend, etc. If they don’t have a video-capable device, follow the process for getting the patient a mobile tablet.
  • BE MINDFUL of how you enter the patient’s space. Your calm demeanor can relieve stress and anxiety, and it takes no more time than rushed and frantic behaviors.
  • OUR PATIENTS are keenly aware of safety and hygiene. Wash your hands in front of them if possible and share that you washed your hands.
  • WEAR A MASK in front of patients. If masking policies change and you no longer need one, explain why and address any questions and concerns.
  • CHOOSE YOUR WORDS carefully using Words That Work and RELATE. This includes how you speak to each other, showing support and kindness.
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