Nursing News

New Program Engages Faculty and Students in Patient Experience

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By Megan M. Krischke, contributor

December 16, 2011 - Improving the patient experience across the health care continuum is the mission of The Beryl Institute, which provides a global community or gathering place, of sorts, where people can share ideas, practices and thoughts, as well as connect with others, both in their area and around the world.

In a recent national study, their researchers found that patient experience, although still largely undefined, is one of the top three issues for health care leaders. In fact, the issue has risen to the forefront as HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) surveys are now holding leaders publicly accountable for their patient satisfaction scores.

The Institute recently began partnering with universities so that students entering fields such as nursing, medicine, public health, health care management and business could be introduced to the issues around patient experience early in their education. Five universities, including George Washington University, Rush University, UCLA, Vanderbilt University and University of Tennessee-Knoxville, are currently participating in the pilot stage of their Educational Outreach Program.

Top Issues for Health Care Leaders
Jason Wolf, executive director of The Beryl Institute, says they define the patient experience as: The sum of all interactions, shaped by an organization's culture, that influence a patient's perceptions across the continuum of care.

“The program was developed to give students access to our resources to use in their studies and research,” explained Jason Wolf, Ph.D., executive director of The Beryl Institute. “We decided it was important to provide complimentary student memberships because we think this is critical information to put into the hands of future health care leaders. Our commitment is to not only frame the discussion, but also to engage as broad of an audience as possible in the importance of the patient experience as a central issue in health care today.”

When a university becomes a member of the program, its students have access to an extensive series of resources including white papers, Webinars, topic calls and discounts to events. Some of the topics addressed include service excellence, the art and science of creating a positive patient experience, value-based purchasing and bottom-line impact.

Top Issues for Health Care Leaders
Victoria Niederhauser, RN, DrPH, states that it is critical for nurses to consider issues around patient experience early in their educations.

Dean of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, College of Nursing, Victoria Niederhauser, RN, DrPH, felt her school’s participation with the program, which began in October, was a natural fit.

“Our goal for participating in the program at an undergraduate level is to expose students to the bearing nursing care has on the patient experience throughout the health care continuum, and how patient satisfaction is linked to a lot of topics that are gaining importance through health care reform,” explained Niederhauser.

“For example, the HCAHPS score--one measure that many agencies will be looking at to assess how well hospitals are doing and to determine reimbursements--is related directly to how the patient is being cared for in the hospital; how their pain is being managed; how responsive the nursing and medical staff is to their needs,” she continued. “It is critical for our nursing students to understand that their actions are significant to the overall health care system.”

Niederhauser added that the partnership with the Institute is helping their doctor of nursing practice students to find opportunities for grant funding on topics related to patient experience.

“We want to bring in resources to our curricula that create a better understanding and awareness of how we can continue to make positive experiences for our patients,” she said.

“Part of the program's intent is to identify interested faculty and begin to develop core curricula and resources that can be used in courses. The Institute is in the process of defining a patient experience body of knowledge that will lead to a centralized and core educational framework on the topic,” noted Wolf. “My hope is that we can support nurses with resources that will not only create positive experiences, but also will ultimately lead to improved patient outcomes.”

“Nurses are on the floor and at the bedside influencing the experience of the patient during every moment they engage with patients, family members and other members of the health care team,” he added. “The impact of experience is significant as exemplified by a recent study conducted by Duke and UNC [University of North Carolina]. The study revealed that patient experience indicators reported by HCAHPS questions were more reliable indicators of quality outcomes, as measured by 30-day readmission rates, than core measures.”

Niederhauser emphasized that from nurses working in acute care to those who serve as navigators and case managers, everyone is responsible to set patients up to be successful and to care for them as they move in and out of facilities.

She added that this program’s patient-centered focus is extremely relevant for nurse educators and nurses in practice. “There is a wealth of information and opportunity to work together to better our health care system,” she concluded.

Wolf hopes that students who participate in the program will come away with a variety of benefits: specific practice ideas, new connections and networks, new ways of thinking about their practices and an understanding of the importance of the patient experience.

“The ultimate goal of the Educational Outreach Program is to develop leaders who will positively impact the patient experience throughout their careers. As much as one organization can do to change health care, we are working hard to do our part,” Wolf reflected.


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