The Family Experience: Creating a Healing Environment

The Family Experience: Creating a Healing Environment

It went downhill…fast. Her instincts told her, despite his protests that he could just “go home and get some sleep,” that this would be the last time. So instead of driving him home, she took the nurse's suggestion and drove him to the ER across the street.

She saved his life.

The impact on family of a health scare as serious as this is no small thing. The fear of losing someone you love, the loss of control, and the challenges of navigating the complexities of our healthcare system can overwhelm even the most assured of us.

undefinedRecently, I had the opportunity to meet with the family of the gentleman mentioned above. He hadn’t been sleeping well and wanted to understand why he was always so tired, so he scheduled a sleep study. When he arrived, they measured his oxygen at just 74, and they directed him to the ER. His wife, Lori, wisely sensing the urgency of the situation, didn’t delay, despite Mark’s insistence that he could just go home. At the ER, he was admitted right away with pneumonia and quickly placed on a ventilator. After 10 days or so, still on the ventilator, he was referred to Vibra Hospital of Charleston.

His family had questions…and no small amount of anxiety.

Our clinical nurse liaison and I met with the family (his wife, his sister, and her husband), and the questions came in a steady stream. Why did he need a different hospital? Could he not be liberated from the vent where he was? How would they know he was getting the quality care he needed? How could they make sure they were kept in the loop on his progress?

This kind of concern and anxiety is normal. And declining to address it can be detrimental to the patient's recovery. It's why we make it a priority to involve patients and their families in the development of a patient's plan-of-care.

It’s also why we have a patient concierge. The concierge's aim is to help the patients and their families focus on recovery. That might mean helping to find a place to grab dinner. It might mean helping a patient to get a haircut. Sometimes it’s simply sitting down and spending a few moments listening to a patient whose family can't be at the hospital every day.

Our concierge in Charleston, Nick, is a musician. He often spends time singing with patients. There was a patient he befriended who was struggling with her spirit. As they grew closer, they sang together and her mood improved. Nick even made a recording of her sharing childhood memories, a priceless treasure for her family. Everyone agrees this had an impact on her recovery, even if it's hard to quantify.

At times it even goes beyond the hospital walls. Recently, at our sister hospital in Amarillo, a patient was at risk of losing his dog while in the hospital. His dog was all he had, and if you're an animal lover, you know that dog was his family. One of his nurses took the dog in for a week while he finished recovering. In the interview he gave to a local news station, you can see what it meant to his ability to heal.

The results, and the rewards, of prioritizing the family experience are so much more than a number. They’re in the smiles of the families who feel like they, too, “can breathe again.” They’re in the laughter of the people who a few weeks ago couldn’t conceive of such a recovery. They’re in the text messages that show their gratitude for taking time to understand that healthcare is about so much more than just a patient.

I look back to that first meeting with Mark and Lori, and I have to smile. In healthcare, as in life, there are no guarantees. But with Mark now liberated from the vent and having moved on to a nearby rehab facility to regain his strength, it’s gratifying to know he and his family are back on the path to good health.

And it's a testimony to the importance of the family experience.


David (Dave) Caddell is the Chief Marketing Officer at Vibra Hospital of Charleston whose career in healthcare spans 22 years. He loves the challenge of working as part of a team whose goal is to provide an exceptional customer experience during a difficult time in the patients and their families lives. A long-time South Carolinian, Dave enjoys performing live music, cooking, and yard work. He and his wife of 23 years spend time in the historic Charleston area with their two sons.


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