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.

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