Fresh Perspectives from a Recent Patient Experience

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And I’m back…. As I shared in the fall, my husband and I were expecting our first baby, and good news: he’s here! Not only did he arrive on time, with lots of personality right from the beginning, but my personal experiences gave me more fodder for these blogs. [Editor’s note: Pamela was texting us from the hospital with ideas and things she noted before he even arrived!]

First things first, working in the world of patient experience, I recognize that I have a bit of a different perspective on all aspects of my hospital stay. For example, some of the things that impressed me, my husband didn’t even notice. However, there was one thing we both agreed on: the snack cart on the Mother Baby Unit was great!

For me, I loved that all of the nurses and care providers used my son’s name, as I was still just getting used to hearing it, and I also appreciated that I knew all of their names.  But, one of the most exciting parts of my stay in the hospital after giving birth was when the Nurse Leader came to do Nurse Leader Rounds on me! I know, you’re probably doing a little eye-roll like “Who really thinks Nurse Leader Rounds are that exciting?” Patient experience professionals (like me), and people with lots to say (like my husband), that’s who!

As the Nurse Leader started her rounds, she introduced herself, went through her regular questions using her iPad to prompt her, and then ended with a version of “Is there anything we can do to improve?” Immediately, my husband interjected with “You don’t want to ask her that….” I could see the look on the Nurse Leader’s face as she jumped to worst-case scenarios before I was able to quickly assure her that everything had been great. I took a minute to explain that my career and passion is patient experience. I quickly transitioned to ask what platform for tracking leader rounding she used and asked her questions about how leader rounds are going for her. This is proof that no matter how I might try, sometimes I just can’t take off my patient experience hat.

Since September 2018, nine of my friends and family members, including myself, have had babies. You read that right, nine new babies in nine months at eight different hospitals in three states. Needless to say, much of our conversations have revolved around our new little humans, but also our shared and differing experiences through our labors, deliveries, and hospital stays.

Whether they followed their exact birth plan, changed their plan due to complications, or didn’t even make it to the labor and delivery unit before throwing the plan out the window (like me), one thing stood out to me about all of the experiences: everyone remembers how their nurses made them feel. The stories I have heard from some of my closest friends remind me why the work that we do is so important. I was beyond lucky—my labor and delivery nurse truly felt like our coach during the experience. However, I have friends (more than one) who felt judged for their choices by their labor and delivery nurses. They don’t always remember exactly what was said to make them feel that way, but they remember the essence and it clouds their perceptions of their delivery and the hospital.

Another highlight of my time in the hospital after my delivery was when my favorite midwife (she was my favorite before this happened, but even more so afterwards), sat with me for almost an hour to talk with me about my experience, ask about my plans for feeding and caring for my new son, and asked for feedback about their practice from my professional experience. While an hour is a long time and might not be possible on a busy day, her genuine interest in me and my newly expanded family was incredibly impactful during a very vulnerable time. I found it to be incredibly valuable as some of the little bits of what she shared with me casually became some of the information that was most helpful during those first few weeks of motherhood. Most importantly, it was because of this conversation and social connection that I trusted her on a different level.

Even after I thought my personal “patient experience” was over, it wasn’t. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a card signed (with personalized messages) from each nurse who cared for me and my son during my journey in the hospital.  While it was clearly part of their process, it was still touching that everyone took a moment to share a kind word with us.

The thing I wish that I would have shared with the nurse leader during her rounds is this: there was one thing so simple that could have made my stay easier: a pen. There were so many forms to fill out—birth certificate information, Edinburgh Tests, menus, etc.—and luckily I had packed one!

Pamela Hessler

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