Hospitals braced for a new reality when the world shut down in March 2020. In many circumstances, visitors were no longer permitted to visit sick loved ones and hospital staff had to take more precautions than before. Now that the world is opening back up and hospitals are getting back to a new version of normal, we sat down with Germaine McAuley, patient experience director at Providence Queen of the Valley Medical Center, to discuss the importance of patient care and what the Queen of the Valley is doing to make sure that patients have the best experience possible during their hospital stay.
When chatting with Germaine, it is easy to understand why she enjoys her role as patient experience director. The daughter of two health care professionals, Germaine always knew she wanted to work in health care. She joined the army for the chance to train and go overseas. During that time, she always seemed to volunteer to work on different community relations projects with groups
such as the United Way and American Heart Association, which led her to find her passion and purpose working on patient experience. At the time, not many hospitals around the country were engaging in this work and Germaine found herself at the forefront of a new movement to increase the importance of improving patients experience.
“A long time ago, before accountable care, the medical community looked at patients who were being readmitted to hospitals and what was causing that. We found that patients did not understand what to do when they left the acute-care setting or did not understand what to do when they left the doctor’s office.” This was resulting in a lot of unwanted and otherwise avoidable repeat care and causing a lot of money to be spent on repeat patients. This knowledge led to the creation of the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) Survey, which started to measure patient experience and use it as a tool to ensure that people were receiving the best care possible and understanding how to best care for themselves after they went home. “Doing this work is really rewarding because I know we are making our community healthier.”
One of the most significant challenges facing health care is the patient’s perception of the care they are getting. “Everything is even more transparent now. You can go online and compare hospitals by different metrics. It is extra incentive for us to be always improving, which is great.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, everyone in health care went into survival mode. “Things that were normal for patient care and used to impact and educate a patient were no longer allowed. Important tenets of the Queen of the Valley’s patient experience, such as communicating with family at the bedside were impossible with new restrictions. Thank goodness we are coming out of that!”
Some of the practices being put back in place include increased rounding on patients, which are proven to reduce safety issues like falls, and having the care team report updates to the patient’s condition to both the patients and the next shift of nurses and providers.
When a patient is at the Queen of the Valley, they are a part of their care team. “We take the time to get to know each patient as an individual and learn what is most important to them for their care.” When nurses and doctors actively engage with a patient to create a care plan, that patient is more likely to stick with it after leaving the hospital.
A few other recently reinstated things include offering patients’ private rooms whenever possible and adopting a shared governance structure within the hospital. A private room really allows for more healing time and a better overall experience at the hospital. A shared governance approach enables caregivers to work on projects and drive change. It also allows for a holistic approach to patient care.
“The most exciting thing is that we can welcome families back into the hospital!” Providence Queen of the Valley recognizes the importance of having family members with a patient while they are receiving care and their visitor policy is is reviewed frequently to ensure it is consistent with updated epidemiologic data and is keeping patients, caregivers and visitors safe. Some of these requirements include being vaccinated or having a negative COVID-19 test and only allowing a limited number of visitors at a time. “Visitors are so important to patient care, and we are so happy to have them back in the hospital.”
To finish our interview, I asked Germaine my favorite question: What is your favorite part of your job? “Truthfully, it is hearing stories from patients. The other day a patient’s daughter stopped me to talk about how the nursing staff took the time to connect with her mom and how impressed she was by the experience. You know you are making a difference when you hear stories like that.”