This is How RTs Improve Patient Experience at the Bedside

Image of RT working on a monitoring machine at the bedside of a hospital patient

Now that hospitals are paid for their services based in part on the results of the federal government’s patient satisfaction survey (see Lisa Houle’s patient experience article for more information), RTs are being asked to step up and not just meet, but exceed patient expectations at the bedside.

What does it take to ensure patients go home with a positive impression of the care they received? AARC members explain how they make it happen.

Every patient, every time

Rena Laliberte, BSRT, RRT, CPFT, clinical education specialist and emergency room coordinator for the respiratory therapy department at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, MI, says her hospital uses the AIDET approach. That stands for “acknowledge, introduce, discuss and duration, explain, and thank.”

“We treat every patient and family member who may be present this way, every time,” says Laiberte.

In addition to making sure patients and families get all their questions asked and answered she and her colleagues make it a point to ask if there is anything else they can do for the patient before they leave the room. “There is no ‘it’s not my job.’ If we can’t answer or can’t help we tell them that we will get someone who can.”

She believes these tactics spill over to the interactions RTs have with fellow clinicians as well, and it’s all benefiting patient care. “It stands to reason that if we all care for each other and communicate in a positive manner for the sake and wellbeing of our patients the patients will notice and their care experience will be wonderful overall,” says Laliberte. “It is not up to any one person in particular. It takes the village to heal the patient.”

Putting the patient in the center

Robert Guardabasco, CRT, CPFT, CTTS, works in the subacute care sector and says in that setting the patient experience is top of mind for everyone, driven not only by the desire to provide the best possible care to residents but also to acquire a five star rating and attract referrals.

“In this sector, the pace of care is slower, which allows us time to work with patients as individuals,” says the therapist at Genesis Healthcare in New Jersey. “Each of my team members is encouraged to follow the patient’s plan of care and to spend time with each of them to develop relationships and trust with each patient.” It’s a paradigm he believes leads to better outcomes and fewer repeat admissions.

“We have a patient centered approach,” says Sandy Saffa, RRT, who also works in the long-term care setting. For Saffa and her colleagues at Community Physical Therapy in Illinois, that means listening to the patient’s and family’s goals and concerns, showing patience and respect, and personalizing the care they receive.

“As professionals, we are in the business of fixing what’s broken, but often the resident’s needs, wants, and beliefs are overlooked,” she says. “Our clients deserve our human side also.”

Every little thing helps

Kenny Miller, MEd, MSRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, AE-C, FAARC, serves as educational coordinator and dean of wellness at LVHN in Allentown, PA, where he says staff is encouraged to exhibit the PRIDE behavior — privacy, respect, involvement, dignity, and empathy. “We require all RRTs to sign the communication board in each patient’s room and I performed QA on the RRTs’ interactions with the patient and their family.”

He believes it is essential for therapists to introduce themselves, explain who they are and what they’ll be doing, and ask if the patient has any questions before they leave. “It helps improve the overall patient experience and adds value to the RT department as an integral part of the health care team,” says Miller.

As director of clinical specialty services at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, Scott Slogic, RRT, works closely with his hospital’s patient experience group and patient advocates — ex-patients who have agreed to share their perspectives.

“The very first thing the advocates told us, and unfortunately this was recently, was that staff routinely do not talk to them when they enter the room,” says Slogic. “Staff do not introduce themselves, identify what department they represent, and then explain why they are in the patient’s room. This included patient advocates who were in critical care.”

That mindset has to change, continues the manager, and he practices what he preaches. “I always introduce myself, tell them who I am, and why I am here. I then ask if there is anything I can do to improve their stay.”

While he readily admits that can be tough — “In a high velocity, five patient assignment, with multiple teams rounding and the electronic medical record needing constant nursing it is easy for the patient to be forgotten,” says the director — he believes clinicians can get the job done for their patients.

“Even small things to improve their experience helps them,” says Slogic.

They don’t forget

James Rintoul, CRT, from Fairview Hospital in Sheffield, MA, has a unique perspective on the patient experience. He was recently in the hospital as a pulmonary patient himself. “As RTs we are caring for patients who are having difficulty with the very basics of life, breathing,” says Rintoul. “As many of us have over the years, helping others from birth to end of life with compassion is what we do.”

He recommends RTs stay calm and treat their patients the way they would want to be treated if they were the ones in the hospital bed. That’s what he wanted when he was hospitalized and that’s what he tries to give his patients every day.

“We work with care as a team to alleviate distress and preserve life. If it is not a positive outcome we treat the patient with dignity, and comfort the family,” says Rintoul.

Those efforts will stick with patients and families, and to him, there is nothing better than running into a former patient who lets him know it. “I find it warming and rewarding when someone approaches me and says ‘I remember you’ with a slight smile or sparkle in their eye.”