Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Easter at Warrenton Overlook

On Friday, I experienced my first “photo shoot” since starting as PR Specialist with Fauquier Health System.

I had received a note from Chris Kelleher of the Medical Imaging Department the week before, telling me that her department had purchased 115 Easter baskets. Employees from the Medical Imaging Department and other areas of the hospital were going to fill and distribute them to residents and patients at Warrenton Overlook Health and Rehabilitation Center. Each resident would receive a basket with items specifically chosen for him or her. No assembly line operation, here.

I sent a note (actually, in the PR biz, we call it a press release) to the Fauquier Times-Democrat and Bill Walsh, the executive editor, said they’d be able to send a photographer to take a picture or two of the big event.

I was glad that our local paper sees the value of these kinds of community efforts. And, of course, we had a big draw. The Easter Bunny him- (or is it her-) self was going to be distributing the baskets.

Drew Smith, Times-Democrat photographer, came by to catch Juanita Russell receiving her basket from T-E-B. Mrs. Russell’s basket was purple-heavy, since that is her favorite color.

Drew and Mrs. Russell chatted about her thimble collection and Drew caught some photos of volunteer bunnies helping to give out baskets. Patty Koval, activities assistant at WOHRC, and Melanie Utz, Social Services coordinator, were busy right up until 1 p.m., checking on the baskets and icing cupcakes for the Easter celebration. Serena Suflita, receptionist, and others helped to make sure all the baskets were distributed to the right folks.

Star of the day, of course, was Maegan Perry, CT tech aide, who donned big ears and fluffy tail for the event.
It was the first time I’d been to Overlook myself. I was impressed with the kindness I saw in the employees. During my brief visit, I saw residents addressed by their names and spoken to gently. No one seemed to be in a hurry to end a conversation. No rush. No hurry. Plenty of time for all to get the attention they needed.

I took some pictures myself to put in the bi-weekly employee newsletter I am responsible for creating. One of them is sitting atop this blog.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

LIFE Center make it as easy as falling off a treadmill

One of the perks of working for Fauquier Health System is a discounted membership to the newly opened LIFE Center.

The fitness center is located near Holiday Inn Express on Holiday Inn Court, off Walker Drive in Warrenton. It’s on the second floor of a professional building and offers a breath of fresh air to those who want to get in shape.

I’ve been to the center six times so far: Once for my health evaluation with Sara Freeman, once for a session with Alyson Lilley, a personal trainer, and four times to put their advice into practice.

The LIFE Center provides a soothing environment for working out. There are lots of machines – treadmills, elliptical trainers, several different kinds of stationary bicycles, free weights and circuit machines.

Personally, I like the newer treadmills. Each comes with its own personal TV screen. I live in the wilds of Goldvein and don’t have satellite, so my family and I are pretty much cut off from the world of television. (Thank heavens for DVDs.)

It’s a guilty pleasure to hop on the treadmill (or the recumbent bike) and walk (or pedal) my way through Seinfield reruns. Before I know it, a half hour has passed and I haven’t felt put upon because I’m “working out.” I like the Food Network too, but will sometimes put on CNN or the Discovery Channel, so any fellow athletes who might be looking will think I’m smart.

Every so often, a LIFE Center employee will stroll by to ask how I’m doing, or if I need anything. I haven’t proven to be too high-maintenance yet, I don’t think, except for the time I fell off the treadmill.

I didn’t fall too far; I just suddenly found myself standing on the floor instead of on the treadmill. I had, for some reason, closed my eyes for a moment while on the treadmill and lost my balance a little. I scared Ali, who was walking by.

Note to self: pay attention when you’re on the treadmill.

Health screenings are held periodically at the LIFE Center as well. On Tuesday, March 25, I stopped by for a free Diabetes screening. I filled out a form indicating risk factors, then had my blood sugar checked with a quick prick of my finger. (I’m fine, by the way. My blood sugar came in at 95, which folks at the LIFE Center assured me is in the “good” range.)

The LIFE Center also offers classes in yoga, pilates, and water workouts (held at the Warrenton Overlook Aquatic Center). There is also a class in Guided Imagery (a relaxing workout for the mind) and one in Tai Chi.
I haven’t had a chance yet to take any classes, but I have watched them briefly through the windows of the big, bright classrooms. The students look like they’re having fun.

I am looking forward to catching a glimpse of the Island Dance class (moving energetically to island music), but don’t know that I’ll be taking that one. I’ve heard some folks talking about them very enthusiastically, but I think my grass skirt is in the cleaners.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Getting Oriented at Fauquier Health System

I’ve been absorbing a lot in the last two weeks about my new place of employment.

Fauquier Health System includes
Fauquier Hospital; the Fauquier Health System Foundation; Warrenton Overlook Health and Rehabilitation Center; the Medical Office Building; the Cancer Center at Lake Manassas; Fauquier Home Health; Piedmont Home Care; The Sleep Center and the LIFE Center, a recently opened “spa-like” fitness center.

The Health System is a community in itself, but it’s a community where everyone has a single mission – “to restore, promote and maintain the health of our community.”

I’m sure that’s the aim of every hospital system, but from what I’ve seen so far, at Fauquier Health System the claim is backed up by every doctor, nurse, technician and volunteer. Even the folks who bake brick-oven pizza in the Bistro and those who tackle the maze of insurance concerns in the billing office – all are patient-centered and dedicated to doing the best job possible.

I’ve seen it first-hand over the last couple of years, whenever someone in my life had to go to the hospital – for tests, emergency room care or an operation. It’s not just words. Every employee lives and breathes “patient-centered care” every day.

I found out why during a recent orientation session for my new job. For two days, senior executive staff members of the Health System shared with us their expectations. Paraphrased, they were, “We want you to not only use all your medical skill to take the best care of our patients, we want you to make each patient and family member know that they are important to us. Treat everyone with dignity and patience, caring and kindness. That’s what we expect. And we’re going to give you the tools to do it.”

Frankly, I was impressed.

On day one of orientation, Rodger Baker, CEO of Fauquier Health System, stated the Health System’s vision clearly: “To be the preferred health system for our community and their physicians by delivering extraordinary patient care and service in an innovative, compassionate healing environment.”

He talked about the Planetree model that the Health System adopted in 1999. The CEO explained, “Patient-centered care is the right thing to do because it recognizes patients as essential partners in their own health care, empowers them with information, promotes patient and provider communication, and encourages the involvement of family and friends. Joining Planetree was an opportunity to formalize this commitment.”

I think the decision to join Planetree was a brave one; it required a new facility and a new mindset. Now, nine years and many millions of dollars later, Fauquier Health System is one of only five Planetree-designated hospitals in the country. In order to achieve that designation, Fauquier Hospital met 42 criteria covering both quality of care and the ways in which that care is delivered.

Among the programs instituted to meet Planetree goals:
-- A full-time patient advocate/concierge meets with every inpatient to ensure that their individual needs are met.

-- The development of a Patient Advisory Council where former patients offer feedback and suggestions.

-- Ongoing retreats and training for all staff.

-- Open access to medical charts for patients, with staff trained to help patients understand the information.

-- A Health Resource Center, open to patients, providing access to print publications and online sources.

-- Unrestricted visiting hours.

-- Beds in patients’ rooms, for family members who chose to stay overnight.

-- The Bistro on the Hill, offering exceptional food and room service.

-- Large, all-private rooms.

-- A soothing, open environment, with art on the walls and beautiful architectural elements.

-- A chapel to provide opportunities for reflection and prayer.

-- A variety of wellness programs offered in the hospital and in the community.

During the two days I spent in orientation, every speaker – Linda Sharkey, VP of Patient Care Services; Christy Connolly, VP of Strategic Services; Catherine Walsh, senior director of Quality and Risk Management; Leann McCusker, director of the Life Center; Kim Savage of the Human Resources Department; Dorothy Seibert head of Infection Control; Albert Campbell, chief of Security; and Ann Thornsbury, head of Staff Development – addressed one of two points: either “Here’s how we want you to care for our patients,” or “Here’s how we’re going to take care of you so that you can take care of our patients.”

We learned about infection control; HIPAA (Health Information Policy Administration Association) regulations; patients’ rights; how to use the computers; and our benefits packages.

There were some high points.

Amy Ashby of Human Resources asked us to fill out a card about ourselves. One of the lines was for our favorite treat. “A lot of people put their favorite candy on that line,” she said. “But if you really love pickles, you can put that down.”

When our group got back from lunch that day, our chosen treat was waiting for us. I didn’t see any pickles.

“This is my kind of orientation,” I thought, as I bit into my bar of dark chocolate.

Another highlight was a talk by Al Campbell, head of Security. A burly man with a gleaming bald head and a frank approach, he acknowledged that his job is to make sure that patients and employees are kept safe. He told us where to park and what to do if we got locked out of our cars. He showed us some handy self-defense moves and encouraged us to take some safety training offered by the Health System.

Then came a real treat, even better than chocolate. One of our class members said something that struck Al as funny. He threw back his head and laughed, high and loud, for a full minute. My classmates and I couldn’t help but join in.

Our head of security provided us with a lot of good information, but I would have been happy to just watch Al Campbell laugh.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The View from Hospital Hill

After 25 years in community journalism, I am embarking on a new adventure -- I am lucky enough to be the new Public Relations Specialist for Fauquier Health System in Warrenton.

It’s not such a leap, really. I’ll be doing a lot of writing, a little page design, and continue learning about people who are doing interesting, important things. And, I’ll still get to be nosy and ask impertinent questions about what I’m curious about, which has always been the best part of being a reporter.

A hot topic these days, health care is prominent in the speeches of every presidential candidate, and on the lips of every newscaster. But it is also intensely personal. It’s the cry of your newborn baby, or the wail of the ambulance siren as it takes your spouse to the emergency room. It doesn’t get more personal than that.

Through this blog I’ll share with the larger community some of the “inside scoop” about the people behind the scenes at Fauquier Health System.

Since I’m new here, you’ll learn along with me as I discover what’s down the next corridor past the Medical Imaging Department, or around the bend beyond the gift shop. Along the way, we might find out together about the next new miracle of modern medicine, or a new dish they’re serving at The Bistro on the Hill.

Whatever the discovery, it’ll be an adventure.