Our patient experience teams strive to create the best experiences possible
when you're in the hospital.
Every day, with every person, in every interaction, the caregivers of St.
Joseph Health practice a culture of excellence across the continuum of
care. They achieve this by ministering to you as the “Dear Neighbor”
in need—in mind, body and spirit. Why is this culture so important?
Jimmy D. Watson, Sr., St. Joseph Health’s regional chief patient
experience officer for Northern California, shares how compassionate encounters
uplift the human connections and the experience you depend on when you're
in the hospital.
Q. As a patient, how do I benefit from my hospital having people focused
exclusively on my experience? Why does St. Joseph Health dedicate teams
to that role?
A. We are keenly aware that every action we take has an impact on your
care, and that this is true for everyone at St. Joseph Health--including
our caregivers and volunteers. In other words, making your hospital stay
the best it can be is necessary for exceptional care. My role, and that
of my team, is to grow relationships and build resources that provide
ever-improving experiences for every person who we are honored to serve.
From the moment you come through our doors, we want you to experience
exceptional care--everything from the "feel" of the rooms, to
amenities, to every interpersonal interaction, is a part of creating that
It all comes down to growing our connection with you. In addition to verbal
communication skills, we teach our caregivers the importance of simple
non-verbal communication, things like knocking before entering your room,
and washing our hands in front of you to show we care. We put a great
deal of emphasis on coaching our leaders and caregivers on best practices
and processes, but our approach to improving your experience is more than
just tactics; it is a holistic approach that puts us in your shoes. What
I mean by that is, it provides an opportunity for us to see and understand
how our plans and actions are likely to be received by you, our patient–-before
putting them into practice. We believe this approach to patient experience
sets us apart, and every detail makes a difference.
Q. When I was in the hospital, I had a different team of nurses every day.
How can caregivers build a connection if they are one among many, and
can you give an example of how you teach them to do that?
A. On average as an inpatient, you may come across as many as 80-100 caregivers
in a single hospital stay. It is our responsibility to train each of these
caregivers to communicate compassionately with you. We build the connection
by being mindful of our own presence, while listening without interruption,
to fully understand your needs. This remains true whether your needs are
part of the treatment protocol the caregiver is there to provide or not.
A seemingly small but significant example is acknowledgment. When we visit
your room, we will first greet you, the patient, then acknowledge any
family or friends who are present. Once we’ve met everyone, we then
introduce ourselves, tell you who we are, explain what we’re doing
and how long it will take. At the end of each interaction we make a point
to thank you for the opportunity to serve you.
Why do we do this? The age-old saying is true: you will never get a second
chance to make a first impression. The first interaction can set the right
perception for all interactions that follow. It is our moment to talk
with you, listen and ask if you need anything. Additionally, as a best
practice, our caregivers communicate at each handoff to ensure continuity
of your care, understanding and connection to your individual needs.
Q: Can you give some examples of what makes the patient experience different
at St. Joseph Health hospitals in general?
A: Throughout St. Joseph Health, we put you, the patient, at the center
of all we do. We have opportunities every day to truly reach your heart
--to create moments of emotional connection and kindness that validate
and dignify you while you are in our care. We refer to this as a Sacred
Encounter. For example, we had a mother in one of our Intensive Care Units,
and the care team discovered she had a young son who was about to celebrate
his 10th birthday. I don’t know if you have kids, but reaching double-digits
is a big deal. The care team arranged for the young son to join his mother
in the ICU for a birthday celebration.
Afterwards, she shared how grateful she was for the efforts of the caregivers
involved in the event. She said, "They went out of their way for
me, and I am so grateful to them for making my son's birthday celebration
happen," which really touched us all. This is just one example of
how your experience as a St. Joseph Health patient is different--when
we truly communicate with you, we understand your physical, mental and
emotional needs--and through that understanding, we make a difference
in your life. It goes well beyond clinical healing and it is customized
to meet the needs of the whole person.
Q. Does the patient experience include spiritual support?
A. Yes, absolutely, if you so desire. St. Joseph Health focuses on the
totality of the individual. We exist to care for the whole person—body,
mind and spirit. That’s an essential element of our health care ministry.
The chaplains are available to listen and talk to you, as well as our caregivers,
volunteers and visitors. We know visitors are vital to the recovery of
our patients, but they may be new to the hospital, uncomfortable and worried
about their loved one. We want to provide the mental or spiritual support
they need because if we can help lift them up and ease their stress, they
will be better able to lift up and support their loved one in need. I
recently came across a patient's family member sitting in our main
lobby. She looked distressed, and when I offered to talk, she asked instead
if I would just be present with her and sit quietly. We sat in silence,
I held her hand, and when she was ready, she thanked me and made her way
down the hall. For this woman, silence was the key, and having the ability
to present in the moment with her was an honor.
Q. You mentioned volunteers. How do volunteers support the patient experience?
A. There are thousands of volunteers who give of themselves across the
entire St. Joseph Health network of care. Frankly, we would not be able
to provide such exceptional care on a daily basis without our volunteer
community. They come with open hearts and hands to donate their time and
serve unselfishly. They fill an important role in our patient experience,
as it can be beneficial and healthy for both the volunteer and the patient.
gives the volunteer a sense of purpose, and the patient benefits from every small act of kindness like having
their blankets straightened or simply hearing a friendly hello and seeing
another smiling face.
For anyone considering volunteering, please remember it is so
important to think about your strengths. If you are outgoing, join the welcome team at the information desk. If
you’re a pre-med student, perhaps you would like to help our emergency
room team. You will be happier and more successful when you are placed
somewhere you are naturally comfortable.
I encourage anyone interested in volunteering to contact the volunteer
office at the
St. Joseph Health hospital nearest them.
Q. What made you decide to devote your career to patient experience?
A. Over 20 years ago I started my medical career as a pediatric nurse,
and eventually moved into the operations and leadership side of health
care. That is where I realized my true passion is people and creating
a fulfilling, meaningful environment for people on all sides of the patient
experience. I want to make sure the caregivers I’m responsible for
are engaged, feel appreciated, valued and heard. I also want to make sure
the patients, their loved ones and friends feel the same. Doing this empowers
everyone involved in the shared decision-making process, from our caregivers
to the patients and their loved ones–it’s part of how we fulfill
here to learn more about how you can become a St. Joseph Health volunteer. Click
here to learn more about St. Joseph Health’s Mission, Vision and Values.
What was your positive patient experience at one of our St. Joseph Health
hospitals? Share your story below.