When patients walk into Mercy Gilbert Medical Center in Gilbert, Ariz., they are greeted by the soothing sounds of a harpist. As they stroll through the plush, carpeted hallways they do not hear overhead pages or nurses calling to each other around nursing stations.
On the outside of each patient room is a plaque with the words Pause, Reflect, Heal. It serves as a reminder to staff that before they enter the patients room, they should take a deep breath, remember why they are there, and what they can do to help each patient have the best day possible. The hospital, which opened its doors in June 2006, was designed to be a healing environment.
We have learned that providing a loving and compassionate environment that is aesthetically pleasing promotes healing, says Kim Hashim, RN, MS, vice president and chief nursing officer at Mercy Gilbert.
Not only are the aesthetics and noise level far different than what you would find in a traditional medical center, staff members are also encouraged to embrace the concepts of Radical Loving Care, a philosophy championed by Erie Chapman, author of the book, Radical Loving Care: Building the Healing Hospital in America.
The concept calls for hospital employees to provide loving care to their patients and to each other. In addition, every hospital leader should be taking care of those who care for others.
Radical Loving Care
A large part of Radical Loving Care emphasizes building relationships with patients.
Rather than just being the older woman in room 312, we encourage nurses to get to know our patients as individuals, to find out their likes and dislikes and the things we can do to help them through this vulnerable time in their life, Hashim says. Its easy to understand why a patient might be cranky or depressed after learning their son is in Iraq or they are worried about their pet who is alone at home.
Nurses at Mercy Gilbert are encouraged to get to know their patients through hourly rounding. When theres a shift change, the outgoing nurse introduces the new nurse and asks if there is anything they can do to make the patients day better.
Radical loving care is an outflow of an inner reality of love, compassion, kindness, peace, patience, goodness, self-control, and joy, says Libby Pierce, RN. As a pediatric nurse, I look and listen to the whole heart of a person, of a child and their family and I go the extra mile to meet the spoken and the unspoken needs.
The Radical Loving Care philosophy also serves to remind nurses of why they originally chose a career in nursing.
All nurses and staff at Mercy Gilbert receive a blessing of the hands ceremony performed by the hospital chaplains at employee orientations and during special recognition ceremonies such as Nurses Week.
At this ceremony, employees dedicate themselves to providing loving care on a daily basis to our patients, says Maureen Hummel, RN, ONC, who works in the hospitals Ortho/Neuro unit, The chaplain takes time to bless each caregivers hands while applying a scented oil. The experience made me very emotional and teary.
We promote the healing of patients through a holistic approach that addresses not only the patient’s physical needs but also their emotional and spiritual needs, Hashim says. We like to say that rather than hire our staff, we choose them based not only on their skill level but on their gifts at delivering loving care.
Job applicants are asked a series of behavioral interview questions to determine if they might be a good fit for Mercy Gilbert. We try to determine if a job candidate displays a passion for others and a desire to go the extra mile to help others, Hashim says.
For nurses who have been employed at other hospitals, working at Mercy Gilbert is a very different experience. The hospital has no set visiting hours for patients families, and each room has a daybed so family members can spend the night if they chose to do so. Music, massages and pet therapy are each offered free to all patients. Volunteer artists visit patients and create paintings that personalize their rooms and reflect their personal interests.
Rather than having calls go into a voice mail system, nurses carry wireless phones that allow for direct connection with physicians, patients and families nurses and other staff. This technology allows nurses to receive calls no matter where they are in the hospital.
Cleaning machines have a special silencer to avoid startling or waking patients. Each patient room features the Skylight system, which provides in-room entertainment and health education specific to each patients needs. The system also provides periodic surveys for patients to monitor their satisfaction levels, giving staff immediate feedback.
In addition to high patient satisfaction levels, staff satisfaction also ranks high at Mercy Gilbert.
We have very low turnover, Hashim says.
Nurses including Hummel say its a privilege to come to work each day at Mercy Gilbert: I enjoy working in a very calming and supportive atmosphere. Our leadership team support us in carrying out the principles of Radical Loving Care, and when we have suggestions [the leadership team] not only listen, they truly hear us.
Nurses and other staff members are also recognized for their commitment to carrying out the principles of Radical Loving Care. Each month, the leadership team shares an acknowledgement from a patient about their experience at Mercy Gilbert. All caregivers from the physicians to nurses to radiologic technologists to environmental services staff are included and recognized by the hospital’s executive leadership team.
Although Mercy Gilbert is a Catholic hospital, the facility honors patients and employees of all different faiths. Nurses are even encouraged to pray with patients if they are asked to do so.
When a patient or family feels powerless in the midst of a medical world that is fearfully unfamiliar, the approach of radical love and service from a nurse can bring such thankfulness and relief, Pierce says. Sometimes a kind word, a gentle touch or a simple prayer can make a big difference.