While we all love to hear positive stories from our patients, there are times when we don’t get it right and our patients go home unhappy. Dissatisfied patients often feel compelled to share their experience through the Patient Relations office, in the hopes that we’ll make improvements.
Although it can be difficult to hear negative feedback, sharing these experiences serves an important purpose; it allows us the opportunity to reflect on how we interact with our patients, identfy system issues and improve on iefficiencies or problem areas – all of which leads to more satisfied patients in the future.
The letter below came to us from an anonymous patient, who wished to help us make improvements by identifying some of the problems he experienced while in hospital:
Dear Patient Relations,
I came into hospital for surgery and in the days prior to the surgery, I was immeasurably terrified. I feared the worst which is consistent with my general anxiety of hospitals. At the age of 60, I now relate to hospitals as the place to visit family who are in palliative care. I mention this fear as it impacted me during my stay in the hospital.
Day-one was a write off in terms of the clarity of my memory. Day two I recall feeling like a scared child, having been treated by some (not all) with respectful indifference, impatience and lack of empathy. By way of example, when I asked if I was due for my pain meds, I received a curt response that I was previously told to take my meds and that they were in a small paper cup adjacent to my bed. I felt scared and intimidated and decided not to say anything. I did not have the courage to state that I had no recollection of being told to take the meds on my own and that arthritis in my neck collar inhibited my ability to look at my night table. Another medical attendant that day became upset when I asked who they were. They angrily replied that they has already spoken to me hours earlier. I apologized again for not remembering. Later that day (or possibly the next) my wife pointed out to someone that there was oozing from my incision. A big band aid was put on top of the existing, keeping the ooze within. I questioned why the old band aid would not be removed first (and the incision cleaned). I received a very irritated response. The next day a medical intern (physician) looked and verbalized her dissapproval when she saw this “patch” job.
Here is the thing. I can point out a number of incidents that were unacceptable compromises. But I also get it. Staff might be over-worked. They may have been under pressure and some may argue that theirs is often a thankless job. One morning a nurse came in with a seriously negative attitude. This time, I have no clue what possessed me, but I stood strong stating that there was no reason to come into my room and approach me with a bitchy attitude. I was equally inappropriate in my tone and manner. The five subsequent seconds of silence was deafening and telling. I took the lead and jokingly stated that we were both off to a bad start in the day. I apologized and introduced myself. This person morphed into the most decent and caring of people. She too apologized and stated that she did not mean to be offensive.
Here is the thing, the support staff really has three clear divisions;
- The base encompasses those who are “appropriate” in their behavior, best characterized as those who are just there to do their job. Nothing more. They offer the patient no emotional comfort or security, arguably more critical than a pain pill. They always have a chip on their shoulder.
- The second tier, the majority, is distinguished as being appropriate all around, not a bad place to be. These are the ones I wanted to look after me. That is, until the third tier surfaced.
- The third and top tier is actually the problem because without them, the middle tier would look pretty good. The top tier were simply stand-outs. They managed my fear as well as my pain. They elicited confidence in their care. And they never made me feel like I was an intrusion if I had a problem or request. They never made me feel like they were in a rush to leave my room. I actually talked to one amazing nurse about this. She was clearly embarrassed and apologized, thanking me for my kind words. She admitted to the issues but stated that she would rather not talk about it. She stated that “we all know who is who and there is nothing anyone can do about it.” Even at this point, she ended by stating how fortunate I was to be in this hospital, with such great medical staff. Wow… she set the gold standard.
I am writing this non-specifically as no one person is at fault and no one person owns the podium either. I just want to let you know that on balance, you have a great hospital. I just think there is an opportunity to empower those at the bottom-tier to raise to their service standards without consequences, but instead with the reward of notable achievement. Maybe, just maybe, their growth should be recognized as an achievement. It may just raise the bar for all encouraging each to reach for the recognition of excellence standard. Recognition is a compelling motivator. At this juncture, the bottom tier has no motivational reason to reach up. After all, they are doing their job.
This submission is provided with respect and hopefully, without bias.