President and CEO Marianne Walker shares why it's so important to her
When President and CEO, Marianne Walker’s mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, it gave Marianne a clear perspective of what care providers and patients can sometimes experience in a complex healthcare system. Those experiences still resonate with her today and are some of the reasons why she is such a strong advocate for enhancing the Patient Experience at Guelph General Hospital.
For Marianne, one of the most profound learnings during that time was how often good-intentioned care providers made assumptions about her mother’s needs and those around her who were providing support. There were times when just asking a few questions would have made a big difference.
“No one wanted to hear her story. No one asked her what she wanted,” said Marianne. It was the same when it came to family members. “We knew her best. We knew her beliefs and how she wanted to be cared for especially at the end of her active life, but no one asked.”
She said she believes health care really needs to listen to family members. “There needs to be a dialogue which in part helps the family understand the journey of their loved one.”
She also saw how more communication would at times help make the care provided seem more personal. With her background as a paediatric nurse, Marianne knew how easy it was to get into the habit of providing healthcare as a list of tasks to be completed. Witnessing a task approach at times with her mother’s care, she said it was easy to see how it could be perceived as insensitive. Much of it could be softened with a simple solution – communication.
Better communication would have also helped with another aspect of her mother’s care – the fragmentation of information among providers. She gave a stark example. “During the final 12 days of my mother’s life, she was asked five times if she was DNR which she was. Each time she was asked it was upsetting for her and rightfully so.”
Some of the challenge came from numerous agencies providing homecare. Regardless of the cause, it was that experience which made her champion a different care model when asked to lead the restructuring of stroke care in the WWLHIN. For that, she insisted that patients who experienced a stroke have their care provided by a clearly identified “care team” which would minimize information fragmentation. She credits the integrated stroke model with playing a significant part in transforming local stroke care outcomes from being the lowest in the province to the best.
Enhancing the “Patient Experience” at GGH is still in its early stages. One way is to actively include loved ones in a patient’s journey. For the hospital and all our exceptional staff, it requires a continued shift in the organization’s culture. Marianne knows it can be done because she’s seen it at GGH many times and has witnessed it elsewhere in her role as an Accreditation Surveyor. One of the hospitals she visited has taken the extra step to actually identify those family members who want to actively assist the efforts of its staff. “I’m a Care Provider” name tags are given out to family members to help staff be more comfortable about reaching out and including them in taking care of their patients.
The passing of Marianne’s mother continues to resonate in Marianne’s leadership. Her experiences from that time will have a positive impact on the care provided at Guelph General Hospital now and for the times to come. “I believe the future for healthcare is bright as we create exciting new opportunities for patients and their families to participate in their care, improvement activities and organizational strategy.”
Meeting the challenge of an ever-increasing demand for our services
It's only through the dedication and professionalism of all our staff and by continuing to look for ways to do better, says Marianne Walker
In 2006, the Province of Ontario released its Places to Grow Act. In it, Guelph was named as one of the areas where the rate of population growth would exceed the provincial average. According to Statistics Canada, the Guelph census area is one of seven Census Metropolitan Areas in Canada to experience accelerated growth between 2011 and 2016. During this time, the population in our area grew by 8.3 percent. Last year, Guelph was the 3rd highest growth area in the country and highest in Ontario.
That increase along with an aging population results in ever increasing demands for health care. At Guelph General Hospital, pressure was felt throughout the past year and continues to this day. There has been a sharp increase in our “Patient Days” which is a measure of how full we are. Compared to last year, our Patient Days increased by 8.4 per cent.
What does that look like at the Hospital? The pressures are felt across the organization. We’ve opened our “surge” beds normally set aside for flu season and we’ve had to keep them open. We’ve looked at converting non-traditional areas such as a Paediatric Day Surgery unit into ward room for six patients to reduce the number of times we have to practice “hallway” medicine with bedded patients.
Having no empty beds means longer waits for people coming to our Emergency Department who need to be admitted. It means our lab is doing more tests, diagnostic imaging more scans, pharmacy filling more prescriptions and nurses and physicians caring for more patients. It impacts our support services too from our cleaning staff to food service providers. There’s even a need for more equipment such as beds. Unlike other years when pressures come and go depending on the severity of the flu season etc., the pressure now is relentless because what is causing it is different. A fast growing and aging population is here to stay in Guelph.
Despite these pressures our GGH team has demonstrated their leadership time and again to rise to this challenge and to continue to provide the best possible care to every patient. In this regard, our Hospital is fortunate to have many leaders in patient care excellence. We’ve been able to do this through the dedication and professionalism of all our staff and by continuing to look for ways to do better. For example, this year we formed our first Patient and Family Advisory Council. It brings a different perspective to the table and will have a say in significant decisions being made at the hospital.
We will always do our best at Guelph General Hospital to meet the needs of the community we serve which continues to grow quickly. We are already the most cost efficient hospital in the area but will continue to explore ways do better.
Our Senior team would like to recognize our amazing leaders, staff and clinicians for their ongoing commitment to providing the best care possible during these challenging times.
Saying "goodbye" as only Joyce Rolph could
|As engaging as usual, Joyce (left) took time to chat with everyone who came to her send off. Sharing the moment was Michelle Bott, Senior Director, and Joyce's husband, Perry.|
“The Blue Gown”
On completing interviews for members of the Patient and Family Advisory Council I had the unique opportunity to hear many heart-warming stories from patient and family members about their experiences at our hospital. One story in particular provided a powerful message to me and really captured why our focus on Patient Experience means so much.
Several years ago “Mr. Smith” experienced a stroke which left him with several deficits including impaired speech and left sided weakness. His wife was his care partner and through the years was his advocate and spokesperson during his frequent hospital visits.
One time, he was admitted with an acute respiratory illness and after several days he was well enough to go home. On his discharge day his wife helped him get dressed and he sat by the side of the bed waiting for discharge instructions. His nurse cheerfully approached him and said, “Mr. Smith look at you all dressed. You look like a real person now!” His wife was taken aback with this comment and said she wanted to say he was a “real person” when he was wearing a blue gown too!
For me, the reason this story hit home was it questioned my perceptions about patients. Do I see them as people like you and I who when healthy are high functioning individuals in the community? Or, does the blue gown change my perception of people?
Recently, I required some diagnostic tests even though I was perfectly healthy. What I realized is that donning the blue gown changes who you are. It turns you from a person to a patient. Suddenly, you feel more vulnerable and out of your element. You place immense trust that the health care provider is competent and caring in their role.
It does beg the question. How do we perceive patients and do we allow ourselves to see beyond the diagnosis and the blue gown? Patients who are admitted to our hospital are out of their element, generally feeling unwell and are trusting of our expertise and caring approach. My question to you is, does the blue gown change your perspective?