Paying Attention to Patients

By | 2022-02-03T17:39:33-05:00 April 21st, 2008|0 Comments

Little things are often the most meaningful to a patient’s hospital experience. For breast cancer survivor Elizabeth Mullen, responses to her suggestions for easier, more comfortable care have made her visits to Fauquier Hospital, Warrenton, Va., positive ones.

When Mullen remarked that registration for chemotherapy in the infusion center would simplify the procedure for patients, her suggestion became practice.

Next, she proposed a TV system that would provide greater choice of viewing during therapy. The hospital responded by placing audio hookups with earphones in the infusion center’s treatment chairs.

About to begin her sixth year of various chemotherapy treatments, Mullen says the center is a great place where there’s a lot of laughter.

“It’s also a good example of how the hospital is focused on patient-centered care,” she says.

Designation of caring
Last year, Fauquier Hospital became the first hospital in Virginia to be distinguished as a Designated Planetree Patient-Centered Hospital, one of five in the country. Planetree is an internationally recognized leader in the growing movement to transform the healthcare experience by considering every aspect from the patient’s perspective.

“Fauquier Hospital decided to adopt the Planetree model because we felt strongly that providing an individual patient care experience is the right thing to do for our patients, staff, and community,” says Linda Sharkey, RN, MSN, vice president, patient care services/CNE. “Through our research with our surrounding communities, we found that this care model was what our patients and community want.”

“Planetree designation is a stamp that shows that Fauquier Hospital has met certain criteria for patient-centered care,” says Planetree coordinator Susan Bennett Smith, RN, MSN, CAN-BC, interim director of human resources, director of education/staff development. “Its philosophy is the culture of the entire organization which provides focus to everyone who takes part in patient care,” she says.

Historical roots
Planetree, named for the sycamore, or plane tree, under which Hippocrates sat as he taught tenants of holistic medicine to students in ancient Greece, aims to refocus Western medicine on patient-centeredness.

In 1978, a patient in a San Francisco hospital, dismayed at the lack of personalism during her ordeal, founded Planetree. It was later reorganized by Griffin Hospital, a nonprofit institution in Derby, Conn., where the Planetree Alliance is now based. The alliance totals more than 100 hospitals and other healthcare affiliate institutions across the country, in the Netherlands and Canada.

The process
At the beginning of their journey with Planetree eight years ago, Fauquier Hospital became an affiliate and started a dialogue with Planetree members who are like-minded in forming a healing partnership with patients. The hospital applied for designation that involved an initial self-assessment and submission of documentation.

A review team toured the facility, met with hospital leadership, and conducted detailed focus groups and interviews with patients and staff to evaluate whether the Planetree philosophy had taken root. National healthcare experts made the final determination.

Patient empowerment
“Planetree designation means that Fauquier Hospital has achieved a fostering environment and that the organizational culture prioritizes for patient dignity and empowerment, one of the biggest benefits of Planetree,” says Bennett Smith.
Sharkey says the hospital “believes that this culture encourages patients to be involved in their healthcare decisions through education, transparency of information sharing, and recognition of their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.”

At Fauquier Hospital, patients are told they can see their medical records at any time. Computers with wireless Internet access are available in patients’ rooms. A resource center provides kiosks with computers for entry to electronic, print, and audio/video health and medical information.

Patients, families, community members, or employees can send an e-mail with questions for nurses to research and then respond with their findings.

When patients receive diagnoses, they or their significant care partner can participate in the Care Partner Program to keep informed and involved in care, or find out more information about the patient’s condition. The program’s application is unique to patients and caregivers, says Bennett Smith. While some caregivers want active involvement, others need a respite while their loved one is hospitalized. The goals of a newly hired nurse-patient concierge are to see new admissions, facilitate diagnosis-related information, act as patient advocate, and proactively prevent any unwarranted issues.

“The Planetree model provides us a competitive edge and is recognized by The Joint Commission for quality in patient safety,” says Sharkey.

Fauquier Hospital’s patient satisfaction has increased since its affiliation with Planetree as benchmarked to national patient satisfaction measures, and employee satisfaction is up as well, says Bennett Smith.

“I’m happy that there is a movement toward patient-centered health rather than the way hospitals used to be,” says Mullen.

Lorraine Steefel, RN, MSN, CTN, is a senior staff writer for Nursing Spectrum.

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