New program lends an ear to people who may be alone
Hospital Patient Relations departments are often considered the “catch-all” area for compliments, questions and concerns and are de-facto educators who serve as an important resource for patients, visitors and employees. At Parkland Health & Hospital System the staff goes even further and is launching a new service that will no doubt touch the hearts of both patients and staff alike.
Through the Friendly Visitor Program, Patient Relations Advisors or hospital volunteers will seek out patients who have not had any visitors during their hospitalization. The program ensures patients receive emotional support in addition to the high quality medical care.
“In some cases the patient may not have any family or if they do, their relatives may live in another state,” said Miranda Bond, Director of Parkland’s Patient Relations department. “Being hospitalized can be stressful especially if you don’t have someone with you. Through this program, we can help reduce some of that stress.”
The premise is simple, the rewards great. And all that is needed is the ability to talk – and to listen.
One recent afternoon Bond met with a patient who nurses said had not had visitors during his hospitalization because his family was in another state. Since they were so far away, the family contacted hospital staff for an update on their loved one. Bond used this as an opportunity to visit. Knocking gently on his door, she asked if she could come in for a moment. At first the patient was apprehensive but quickly learned that she wasn’t there to take vital signs or draw labs. She was there just to visit.
“Once I explained that I didn’t want anything from him, he opened up. We talked about life, his relationship with his family and even how the Dallas weather can change in the blink of an eye,” she said. “At the end of our conversation, he thanked me and said it ‘was the best.’ And it was for me, too.”
Although in its infancy, Patient Relations Advisors Elizabeth Sellers, Mariana Hurutado and Alberto Mendez believe the program will enhance the overall experience for patients.
“Even though patients are hospitalized for medical care it’s also important that we provide them emotional care,” Hurutado said. “Using a holistic approach helps with their physical well-being as well.”
Mendez concurred, noting an interaction with a patient who wanted to discuss food and nutrition. “We talked about different recipes and during the discussion I could see that he was feeling better,” he said. “The patient just wanted to talk to someone and in the end thanked me for listening.”
Sellers said the department will rely on nurses or other staff members to identify patients who haven’t had a visitor during their hospitalization or who may benefit from a visit.
“We want to show that we care about all of our patients and that they’re not alone. We may drop in for a minute, five minutes or whatever it takes,” Sellers said, adding that lending an ear or a gentle touch can be just what the doctor ordered. “I can’t say enough about how important human interaction is – and the smiles alone are priceless.”
In the end, “it’s the smallest actions that have the most impact,” Mendez noted.
For more information about Parkland’s services and volunteer opportunities, visit www.parklandhospital.com.