By Kristin Baird
Over the past year, family members were banned from hospitals and restricted during clinic visits. During that time, staff and providers became accustomed to focusing mainly on the patient, and not the bedside conversations with concerned family members.
This was necessary for infection control. But now family members are back and expect to be involved with the same high-quality service shown pre-pandemic.
During the peak of COVID restrictions, staff were not only caring for patients in beds, they were setting up virtual visits [i]and clinical updates for the good of patients and families. But now families are back and their expectations haven’t changed. They still expect to be informed, included, and respected. It is your job to engage families for higher quality safety and service.
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)[ii] encourages family involvement in patient care for better outcomes. They give four strategies for involving patient and family members. They include:
I haven’t always felt welcomed as a family member at the bedside. There was one time when my 86-year-old mother was admitted to the hospital with dangerously low sodium levels. I tried to be at the hospital early in order to meet with the doctor making rounds. I had already checked with the nurses about mom’s most recent lab work and learned the lab still hadn’t been up to draw blood.
When the doctor arrived, she told me that they were not seeing any improvement based on my mom’s latest lab results. I pointed out that the lab values she was referencing were from 24 hours ago and that no blood had been drawn yet today. She got visibly angry with me. She pointed at my mom and said, “She wouldn’t know if blood was drawn today or not. These labs are from this morning.” Was this higher quality safety and service? Ouch.
First, my mom was aware when people were jabbing needles into her arms. Second, the doctor totally dismissed me and was preparing to write orders based on old lab values. When I asked her to please check with the nurses, she stormed out of the room, and I could hear her screaming at the nurses.
I wasn’t surprised when she didn’t come back to speak with me, but at least action was taken because of my involvement. New lab work was drawn which was significantly different from the previous day changing the mode of treatment. We had a good outcome, but that isn’t always the case. Angela Fieler wrote about her care team experience with her mother here.
Had the doctor engaged me and focused on higher quality service and safety, I would have entrusted my mothers care to her team and felt valued.
Patient and family members must be included in the care plans and deserve to be heard and respected.
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