GREENVILLE – A little over a year ago, Colleen Sweeney, RN, BS, of Sweeney healthcare enterprises, came to Wayne HealthCare to teach employees, physicians and leadership about a new approach to patient care – one that was more patient-centric and included using empathy towards patients who may fear healthcare treatment.
This week, Sweeney was back at the hospital with her program, “You Don’t Say – a lesson in what patients need to hear,” teaching about the concept of unscripting (examining the words that come out of our mouths) and how not to leave a patient encounter to chance. As a nurse herself, she discovered a small collection of words have the capability of completely transforming the patient’s experience.
“There has been a push in the last decade…for people in healthcare to be scripted [where they tell you what to say],” she said. “This program is about putting ourselves in the patient’s shoes. We’ll think about what the patient’s experiencing at that time and how some of the things we say to them make absolutely no sense at all.”
Sweeney explained that using words to explain patient’s condition, procedures, etc. should be on their level, in a way they will understand.
In addition, Sweeney taught the group about the best practice of AIDET in healthcare. The acronym stands for:
- Acknowledgement: Make eye contact, smile, greet them
- Introduce: Your name, department, your purpose
- Duration: Explain the length of a procedure, explain expected wait before getting results
- Explanation: Explain tests or procedures, explain the role of the staff
- Thank you: Thank people for choosing you, thank them for their patience
“I laughed when ADIET came out…when I saw it I thought, ‘We’re unveiling this at hospitals? We’re teaching this?’ Because to me, you know what it seemed like? The thing your parents should have taught you, the thing you teach your children – plain ‘ole manners,” said Sweeney.
A large part of unscripting is listening, said Sweeney. Attendees completed interactive exercises where they partnered, introduced themselves, and asked each other questions. A second exercise had attendees explaining words to each other pretending the other had been asleep for the past 250 years.
“Studies show that 70 percent of your day is spent communicating, in one form or another, whether that’s speaking, writing or listening,” she said. “How important are the words that come out of your mouth? They are memorable.”
Sweeney spent her entire nursing career working in the ICU, she later was asked to become her hospital’s director of the patient experience (customer service). Since then, she’s become a chief expert on examining patient’s fear.
“I’ll tell you there are some things that will come and go, but one thing that will never leave is patient’s fear,” she said. “That will always be with us, that the people we take care of , 96 percent of them have a very specific fear about the very fact that they’re in the hospital, or something around their care. And that’s the reason we have to address it.”
She referred to a theory in psychology, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, a pyramid that relates to a patient’s needs on their journey to the top.
“This is not only a matter of alleviating their fears, what we communicate through words also is a matter of quality and safety,” she said.
“Sometimes we can say things never thinking that the patient or their family is pondering on all of those things. Just thinking about what someone has said to them and how it affects them, because it’s always about us,” she explained.
“We aren’t caring for patients if we aren’t caring about patients,” she said.
The program was a continuation of employee training for the hospital’s HealthCare with Heart program defined as “growing a culture of satisfied, patient-centered employees who form the heart of Wayne HealthCare.”
The management team that coordinated the employee workshop was Angie Lakes and Nancee Desch.
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