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August 7, 2014 - Third Floor Adding Small Changes That Make Big Impression on Patient Follow-Up Protocol


University of South Alabama Medical Center 3rd Floor Nurse Manager Valerie Heinl

It’s small, simple and it’s inexpensive — but the new patient follow-up protocol recently introduced on the third floor of USA Medical Center is already generating positive feedback from discharged patients.

A greeting card is slipped into each patient’s file. As nurses and doctors and techs work with the file, they sign the card and add an encouraging note.

When the patient is discharged home, the unit secretary pulls the card and pops it in the mail.

“We’ve had tons of positive feedback,” says Valerie Heinl, nurse manager for the third floor, which cares primarily for GI surgery and cardiology patients. “There’s a big increase in the letters we get from patients.” Before the new program, the staff bulletin board might have had a note or two from grateful patients. Now it’s covered, says Heinl.

The staff effort to offer a kind word to patients is doubling back as positive reinforcement for the staff. “They feel their work is more valued and that moves back into their practice.”

Heinl confesses that she borrowed the idea from a Louisiana hospital that described their program in a conference presentation, but she recognized it as an effective idea that would be easy to implement.

“Anything you can do to make a better experience for patients is a good thing,” she says. “We’re always working toward better satisfaction from patients.”

The cards aren’t the only element in that effort, she says. She personally visits as many patients as possible each morning just to make sure they are getting the attention they need.

And the entire nursing staff is working on a project to forestall the need to call nurses. It started as an effort to respond more quickly, Heinl says, and turned into an effort to anticipate patients’ needs so they don’t need to press the call button at all.

“We’re trying to change the culture to be more patient-centered and think from the patient’s perspective,” she says. “Nobody wants to be in the hospital, but we try to make it as pleasant as we can while they are there.”

About the University of South Alabama Medical Center

The University of South Alabama Medical Center offers patient-centered care to the central Gulf Coast with unique services including Mobile’s only Level I Trauma Center and Regional Burn Center, plus centers of excellence in stroke care and cardiovascular diseases, and a wide range of acute care services.


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