Friday, May 9, 2008

Earning kudos, a patient at a time


Fauquier Hospital has gained a reputation for taking good care of its patients. The results of a recent Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) patient survey shows the 86-bed community hospital rates above state and national averages and meets patients' expectations better than any other hospital in the area. The ten-question survey was developed jointly by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ).

Questionnaires were given to patients after they were discharged and included queries about how well doctors and nurses communicated with patients; how quickly hospital staff responded to patient needs; how well was pain managed, and would they recommend the hospital to others.

Complete results can be seen at http://www.hospitalcompare.hhs.gov/, where you can pick three hospitals at a time and compare them according to the HCAHPS criteria.

It is gratifying to the administration and staff at Fauquier Hospital to have scored higher numbers than surrounding hospitals, but not astonishing. They know they have a talented staff, dedicated to providing the best possible environment for healing.

This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Mrs. Lillian Carrico, 84, one of Fauquier Hospital's most enthusiastic customers.
Gerry, as Mrs. Carrico likes to be called (her middle name is Geraldine), and her friend Sharon Spates couldn't say enough about the excellent care Gerry received when she was brought in as an emergency department patient April 18.

“Did you have to wait long in the emergency department?” I asked.

They both laughed and shook their heads vigorously. “The attention she received was immediate and constant,” said Sharon. “She never had to lay and wait. Someone was always monitoring her, always checking on her.”

Gerry got to laughing again when she remembered the man who wheeled her from the ED to her room. “He made a train sound as he pushed me along, 'toot-toot!' I ordinarily would have been tense, being admitted to the hospital and all, but he had me laughing. He was a real sweetheart. He put me at ease on the way up. He gave me a good ride.”

Sharon added, “I watched him with some other patients and he adjusted to their needs. If someone was upset or in pain, he didn't laugh or tell jokes. He adapted to each individual. He could see that Gerry was ready to laugh.”

“How about the nurses?” I wondered.

Sharon piped up, “They have been very attentive. They are monitoring her constantly, so they know what Gerry needs before she does. They have been giving her blood tests, checking her medication.

Whenever she calls, they come right away. They even come when she accidentally rolls over on her button,” Sharon joked.

Sharon in particular appreciated what she called the welcoming feeling on the ICU floor. “I can come and go the hours I please. One night I had to go home, so I left a note with the night nurse to call me if Gerry needed me. There's a lounge with a refrigerator; I can bring my lunch and I don't have to leave Gerry.

“The staff never makes you feel like you are in the way, or that you're not welcome. Gerry asked me if I could give her a bath one day. I didn't mind at all, so I did. The staff actually thanked me!”

Gerry added, “Sharon likes her coffee. I like that she can get her coffee if she wants some. And I like that the nurses wear easy-to-read badges that say RN. In some hospitals, you never know who you are dealing with, whether it's a nurse or an aide. If you want to ask a question, it's nice to be able to tell who is a nurse and qualified to answer.”

What about the medical care?

Gerry is being looked after by Dr. Yemisrach Mulugeta, a hospitalist. Hospitalists are doctors who work only in the hospital, treating patients on a daily basis so that patients' attending physicians can be at their practices. They know their hospitalized patients are being cared for round the clock.

When Gerry leaves the hospital, she'll have to have shots, which Sharon will administer. Sharon said, “A nurse came in. His name was Jerry. He explained everything in layman's terms, so we could understand. He was very thorough. When he gave Gerry a shot, he explained everything step by step, so I really understood what to do. We asked questions and he gave us straightforward answers. He was wonderful.”

In the middle of my interview with Gerry and Sharon, Sheryl Vollrath, the Pet Therapy Program coordinator, stopped by with Samantha, a gorgeous white Samoyed who is a certified pet therapy dog. After being invited to do so, she put her paws daintily on the edge of Gerry's bed while the patient petted and cooed over her. Gerry's face lit up while she fussed over Sam. Five minutes with a sweet dog made a big difference in Gerry's day. Sharon said it was the third visit from a pet therapy dog since Gerry's admission.

Sharon said, “I live in West Virginia, but if I ever need to go into a hospital, I'm leaving orders to bring me here.”

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