The Affordable Care Act includes a provision calling for hospital reimbursement to be based in part on patient satisfaction scores from the government’s HCAHPS patient satisfaction survey. That means every employee in the hospital is now judged in part on how invested he or she is in ensuring patients are satisfied with the care and services they receive.
What can you do to stand out from the crowd when it comes to patient satisfaction? Making a connection with your patients is the first step. To find out how RTs do it, we turned to our Specialty Sections. Here are a few “sound bites” from some of the folks who responded to our request —
I have learned that you become more engaged with patients by asking them questions about them as a person and about their life’s experiences. Once they know you see them as a valued person and you learn about their outlook on life, you have a better knowledge of their motivation for self-care and what level of care and education will best work for them.
— Jack Kunst, RRT, RPFT, Grand Rapids, MI
Empathy, humor, and trust are paramount to a great partnership. I used to make them feel like they’re not alone but sometimes they want you to know that they don’t fit into the same categories as all others (i.e., COPD) like them. They want to be treated like an individual, and yes, they are different from the patient in the other room with the same condition.
— Elyse Carroll, BSRC, RRT, AE-C, New Britain, CT
Nothings bonds better than eye-level contact. Ask permission to sit and talk to them. Ask open-ended questions to get more than a “yes” or “no” response. Questions about family, work, and hobbies are good ice-breakers that show you are interested in them beyond the treatment level.
— Karen Lane, RRT, Saint Charles, MO
First impressions really do count. Our staff makes sure to walk up to the patient where they are sitting in the waiting room, rather than shouting their name at the door. We greet them with a smile, a handshake, and eye contact; offer to help them up if they are elderly or otherwise in need, and offer to carry any belongings.
— Cathy Lynn Case, BSEd, RRT, CPFT, Edgewater, CO
If you can find any common interests, that’s usually instantly a plus. I formerly worked in a small town hospital where I grew up, and any personal connection you can make makes that connection so much easier.
— Jacalyn Oravec, RRT, RPSGT, RST, CPFT, Central City, PA
We have a new hospital with new longer hallways and a new look, which can be confusing, so we try to ease that anyway we can. We either walk with the patient back to the PFT labs or take them in a wheelchair as needed. This gives us time to converse with the patients, assuring them they are first.
— Yvonne Adair, CRT, RPFT, Zanesville, OH
Use simple terms, tell them what to expect, and end with, “What questions do you have?” I always try to make the patient comfortable, make sure they are able to perform their best on all testing, and most importantly that they understand that this information will help the MD manage their lung health.
— Linda Wilson, RRT, RPFT, Seattle, WA
All of my patients are pediatric and they are usually trached; many are on the ventilator. I usually look for a toy in their room and play with them for a few minutes. That usually works.
— Mark Barch, MS, RRT, Arlington, TX
Since I am a supervisor I try to speak to each patient that comes through our office. Our techs go beyond what is called for … we offer to take them to their next test if they are unsure of where they are going. We offer water if we feel they need it and it can be allowed, and we tell the people waiting for them when testing is almost done so they can get the car to pick them up. It’s basically the little things that work.
— Pam Kayser, RRT, RPFT, Portsmouth, OH
I understand many patients lose their sense of personal identity, and almost all lose a great deal of privacy, when hospitalization is required. Therefore, I try to relate to patients as individuals. For instance, if I see get well cards or flowers or balloons or drawings, I may say something like “oh, that’s very nice.” If the patient chooses to respond I may ask about who sent it or how they know that person. My intent is to reinforce the patient’s connection to the outside and perhaps provide a pleasant memory. I think it also helps the patient level of cooperation.
— Barry Westling, MSc, RRT-NPS, RPFT, FAARC, Merlin, OR
Some patients are not willing to change their sleep habits and do not want to “hear it,” so I feel them out. I still attempt to teach good sleep hygiene but may attenuate the “speech” per the patient’s comfort or willingness to learn. Then in the morning I will back up whatever we talked about with something in print … an article on whatever the subject was.
— Michael Houston, RRT-NPS, RPSGT, La Place, LA
We listen to what the patient has to say, we observe their condition, we get a plan to work on, we provide “service,” and we perform these tasks with the dignity and diligence required. I’ve found that even if you can’t find a solution but have worked with that intent and remain honest, those who need what it is you’re working on see that effort on their behalf and appreciate your work.
— William Baker, RRT, Tucson, AZ
Engage them, whenever possible, in their plan of care. Elicit patient/family goals. We have found that working toward what is most important to them and providing patient centered care gets the best outcomes.
— Sandy Saffa, RRT, Addison, IL
The key to performance during PFT testing is the technician expressing a personal interest in the test subject. Talk with and support them regardless of their status in life.
— Dale Claes, BS, RRT, RPFT, Fresno, CA
In the sleep lab, we deal with the chronically sleepy, and I must go into every encounter ready for anything. That hour of set-up for the sleep study is usually more than enough time to not only assure them that they are in caring hands, but it’s also enough time to assure myself that I can do this the caring way every time.
— Tom Mayer, BA, CRT, CPFT, RPSGT, CSE, Eureka, MO
It’s best to use short, simple words and stick to one topic at a time. Listen to what patients are telling you and don’t interrupt your patients even though you know what they are going to ask.
— Vickie Klein, CRT, CPFT, Lee’s Summit, MO