How Do We Improve the Patient Experience in a Time of Uncertainty?
November 18, 2016
While we have all heard that change is inevitable, it is also our natural instinct to seek and find anchors of stability. This is especially true when it comes to the patient experience.
Patients may bond with their first nurse only to find that within hours, another nurse shows up. They are used to their own doctor, but a hospitalist who they have never seen before appears, and then a different doctor pays them a visit the next morning.
For staff, these days and nights are routine, so being aware of the added stress on patients is not easy. What is “usual and customary” for them is hardly the same to patients and families.
Laced throughout a patient’s hospitalization is an uneasiness due to strange people, strange surroundings, and lack of predictability. On top of this is their diagnosis and treatment, which is also characterized by apprehension.
Creating an environment that offers safety and comfort, and is responsive moment to moment to patients’ needs helps ease their anxiety. Any degree of predictability reduces the anxiety of no predictability.
Florence Nightingale said that any sound (or anything else!) that creates expectation, apprehension, waiting, fear of surprise should be avoided — that it is a risk for patients.
Putting the Focus on Healing
How do we offer staff and patients, and families and visitors respite from the chaos of external change? Change that, in today’s healthcare industry, might not be all that helpful in focusing their energy and efforts on healing?
I have often written about the benefits of using nature and music for mindful caring at the bedside. However, my writing about does not transfer automatically to what is happening right now, in today’s hospitals, at the bedside.
Human caring becomes real only in real time with real people in real situations. It happens one patient at a time, one day at a time, and sometimes one hour at a time.
And the more engagement and information, the better. For patients and family members who are waiting for a test result, a dose of pain medication, or a doctor to visit, it can be as simple as stopping in and letting them know that things are in process.
Empathy & Compassion More Important Than Ever
Now more than ever, healthcare workers need to replace random acts of kindness with intentional acts of empathy and compassion. And be purposeful and open about their caring for each other.
Caring is an environment. Love is an environment. Together, music and nature, are loving and caring in soothing the fears and anxieties of patients and families.
If any single word can describe what being a hospitalized patient looks like, the word is “uncertainty.” Caregivers can bring relief, can be comforting, but the uncertainty continues because it is the nature of being ill. And, it is the nature of the world we now live in.
Being cared about and cared for happens in the now, not in the tomorrow. It eases the kind of fear that lives alone inside each patient. Do it now. For someone.
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