How St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County staff are reconnecting and redefining their roles in the patient experience in health care.
From the time she was a teenage volunteer at the old General Hospital in Eureka, Cheryl Johnson remembers being attracted to health care. That's why after graduating from Eureka High School it was an easy decision what her major would be when attending Humboldt State University — nursing.
Thirty-eight years later, Johnson is still taking care of patients. For the past 20 years she has worked in the short stay unit at Redwood Memorial Hospital. "I love the sense of community," says Johnson. "It feels good to tell those I see at church or at the grocery store that they're going to get safe, high-quality care here. They put their trust in me and that's a big deal."
Johnson, along with the more than 1,300 employees at St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County are redefining and reconnecting with the patient experience. Changes in health care, whether it be technology or processes, are a constant. But how patients want their experience to be — safe, compassionate, personable and high-quality, has remained relatively unchanged. New patient experience workshops, launched in 2014 by St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County, are being attended by every employee. The workshops are a reminder of why they're working in health care — the patient.
"Every single person at our hospitals plays a role in the patient experience. From the cafeteria worker to human resources to nurses, we all touch a patient in some way," said David O'Brien, MD, president, St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County. "The patient experience workshops bring us together to get back to the basics of why we're here and what we're doing." It may be as simple as introducing yourself to a patient, complimenting a co-worker, respecting patients' rights or simply saying "thank you." They're all important, and when done, are just one piece of the whole patient experience.
George Batiste, a nurse for 30 years, is improving the patient experience by calling surgery patients at St. Joseph Hospital the day before their procedure to confirm their time of arrival. Andrea Palacio, a wellness coordinator and fitness enthusiast, is passionate about helping employees live a healthier lifestyle and she knows that happy, healthy employees help result in happy patients.
None of the lessons taught about reconnecting with the patient experience involve fancy equipment or complicated procedures. Redwood Memorial Hospital registered nurse in obstetrics Jennifer Bernstein knows that first-hand. "The best thing I can do for a patient is to make her more comfortable with what happens," said Bernstein. "For a mom-to-be, you want everything to go as planned, but when we must take a different course, I'm there for that patient to reassure her and make her feel safe."
St. Joseph Hospital lead maintenance engineer James Cabrera has changed hundreds of light bulbs over his career. But he takes a normally mundane task and turns it into an opportunity. "My job is behind-the-scenes but when I'm in a patient's room doing maintenance, such as changing a light bulb, I make things personal," said Cabrera. "I let the patient know who I am, why I'm there and always check to see if there's anything else I can do for them."
Not only does St. Joseph Health strive to provide the safest and highest quality health care possible, we are also striving to personalize each patient experience. "From our engineers to our volunteers to our clinical staff, we all have qualities we bring to each interaction with our patients and each quality is just as important as the other," Dr. O'Brien said.
For Cheryl Johnson, being a nurse at St. Joseph Health means making every moment count. "I strive to have patients feel whole and centered after every interaction. Not only am I helping the patient, but I'm also getting everything back that I give." For more information on how St. Joseph Health, Humboldt County employees are redefining the patient experience, visit WeAreStJosephHealth.org.