An Unexpected Part 2: Who is Responsible for Teaching Patient Experience to New Clinicians?


Well, I did it again… I eavesdropped and then interrupted a table full of people who were just trying to have a nice day at a local winery. On a recent family outing to the winery near our home, I heard the people at the table behind us talking a lot about med school, MCATs, and other “doctor stuff”. You may remember that I did this last winter at a local Panera with some nursing students! Well, this time, since I wasn’t alone, I waited until my husband went to the bathroom (because he’d say that I’m embarrassing) and then I turned around and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but are you guys in med school?”

With pride (rightfully so), the one woman said, “I am!” So, I introduced myself and talked to her about our work, bribed her with smiles from my baby, then I asked her the same series of questions that I asked the nurses at Panera last winter. (If you missed it, check out that blog here.)


Pamela: Have you heard of HCAHPS?

Doctor-in-Training: Oh yeah, that’s for the high school students that come in to volunteer at the hospital.

Pamela: Well, that program might be called HCAHPS 🤷‍♀️ but I’m talking about patient experience scores called HCAHPS.

Doctor-in-Training: I know that we get paid based on surveys, but I don’t know HCAHPS. I’m not from Maryland so maybe it’s different in my state.

Pamela: Yeah, the surveys are usually about the patients’ perception of their care. Do you learn anything more about that in school?

Doctor-in-Training: Every Tuesday afternoon we have ethics day, maybe they’ll cover it there?


To be fair to the Doctor-in-Training, I don’t know where she is from, where she goes to med school, or even what year of her training she has completed. But I do know one thing for sure: even though she isn’t from Maryland, HCAHPS are still a very real thing for her, no matter the state!

Again, my wheels started turning: how will these new clinicians learn about the expectations and key care practices that drive patient experience results? How can we hold them to standards and results based on performance if they have not formally been trained?

In my past role as an in-house patient experience professional, I remember a time when I was coaching a physician, and after I had finished shadowing her I proceeded to give her the in-person feedback. As I finished up her feedback, she looked at me and said “Thank you so much! Coming from schooling, you’re constantly getting feedback, then you’re in the working world and you never get feedback unless you’ve done something wrong.” She continued, “It’s so difficult to continue to learn and grow without feedback.” It resonated with me then, and still does today. She was expected to grow as a professional the same way she grew as a student without the support systems around her to help her grow professionally.

This is why I’m so passionate about the work that we do. I get the privilege of supporting and encouraging physicians, nurses, and other care team members as they work with patients all across the country. And better yet, I get to help train other coaches to do the same! This work has meaning and purpose and it serves to strengthen those on the front lines – the ones providing direct care to the patients.

In case you’re wondering… back at the winery, by the time my husband returned from the bathroom, I was still chatting with the Doctor-in-Training and her friends and he asked, “Do you always have to talk to everyone?” (I told you, he thinks I’m embarrassing), and the answer is “Yes!” Yes, I have to talk to everyone because everyone has something to share – and they make great fodder for these blogs! If you see me out and about, don’t be surprised if I interrupt your fun to ask you questions about patient experience. 😊


Editor’s note: Janiece recently had the opportunity to taste some of the wine that Pamela purchased that day at the winery… wonderful! Thankful for Pamela and her continued field research!

Pamela Hessler

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