The Patient Experience Nurse

Earlier this month, we celebrated Nurse’s Week. Our Chief Nurse Executive had a whole week of wonderful things planned for the department including massages, root beer floats, a homemade meatball contest, and an awards ceremony. She had a few different categories but the one that caught my attention was the Patient Experience Award given to the nurse that consistently exemplified excellent patient experience.

The winner was someone I knew. I had spoken with him a time or two when I did patient rounds on his floor and had heard his name a lot as someone patients absolutely loved. The next time I saw him, I pulled him aside to congratulate him and I asked him what it was he did that earned him this award.

“I just talk to them.”

“Come on,” I said. “Lots of nurses talk to patients. What are you doing that’s making such a difference?”

His answer was not what I was expecting. I thought he’d go into some big thing about how he always does AIDET when he’s in a patient room and he always calls them by the name they wish to be called and he always manages up the other staff… Nope.

“I think it’s my job to help them understand their disease so they can better manage it,” he said. “Most of them don’t connect the dots between what they do and how they feel. If I can help them see how doing this thing makes them sick, they’re less likely to do that thing. If they understand that their health is something they can control, they usually do. But, too often, they come in, they get some meds, they go home, and then they’re right back here again in few weeks. I talk to them. I work with them. I encourage them. I help them.”

“Wow,” I answered. “That was not what I thought you were going to say.”

“I can see myself in everyone here. You got your life together? Great, me too. You got problems? Things in your life went sideways? I get it. I was there, too. You can’t judge people. If you judge, you can’t understand. If you understand, you can’t judge. You just talk to them so they know you’re on their side, you’re rooting for them. I think that’s what I do.”

I thanked him and left feeling so good that we had someone like that working at our hospital. Someone who connects with, roots for, and educates patients. Someone who doesn’t judge, but listens, informs, cares.

Maybe that’s the secret sauce.

Author: Kate Kalthoff

It's simple: leave people, places, and things better than I found them. For more than 20 years, Katherine Kalthoff has been working to improve the way healthcare organizations connect with the people they serve. She began her career at Gift of Hope, the organ procurement organization for Illinois, approaching families and securing their consent to donate a loved one’s organs for transplant. Through compassionate, empathetic listening, Kate led the Family Services team to one of the highest consent rates in the country. From there, Kate went to Advocate Health Care, Illinois’s largest healthcare system, as a Physician Relations and Business Development Manager, improving physician satisfaction and strengthening the relationships of both the employed and independent physicians with the system as a whole. Just prior to joining Northwest Community Healthcare as the Patient Experience Officer, Kate was the first Manager of Patient Experience at DuPage Medical Group where she built a platform of organization-wide service excellence through her inspiring brand of education, training, and one-on-one coaching. A much sought-after speaker and trainer, Kate has a very simple approach to her work: leave people, places and things better than you found them.

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