When Our Hospital Patients Talk, We Listen

MedStar Washington Hospital Center was seeking former hospital patients who had something to share about their experiences.

Patient Jill Pinch saw the notice online: MedStar Washington Hospital Center was asking former hospital patients to volunteer to help them improve safety, communications and the overall hospital experience.  Jill had something to say. 

On November 29, 2013, the 35-year-old arrived at the Hospital Center after struggling for hours at a D.C. birthing center. Jill and her husband had planned natural childbirth, but in the end, Jill needed a C-section to bring her first-born, William, into the world.  And he needed a week-long stay in the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to fight an infection.

“I was defeated, desperately trying to reconcile myself to this new reality,” Jill says. “But I had no frame of reference to help me understand what to expect. I didn’t even know what questions to ask.”

With that as background, Jill became one of the first members of the Hospital Center’s new NICU Patient and Family Advisory Council for Quality and Safety (PFACQS, pronounced P-fax) in 2015. Together, former hospital patients, family members and hospital staff discuss the patients' personal stories, their experiences and new ideas to help the staff see the hospital through the patients' eyes. The goal is to improve overall hospital patient safety, quality and, ultimately, the experience by keeping the Hospital Center’s mission—putting patients first— front and center.  

Building on Success

“The clinical care William and I received was exceptional,” Jill says. “But some communications could have been improved. Through the council, we’ve been looking at ways for the hospital to better share information about what’s happening, what to expect, what on-site resources are available to help patients and families adapt to their situation." 

Since this PFACQS was launched, the Hospital Center has created groups for hospital patients in the heart program, intensive care units and cancer.

Former hospital patient Alex Matthews joined the cancer PFACQS.

“I spent three weeks in the Hospital Center after having major surgery for pancreatic cancer in 2013,” he says. “My care was phenomenal. The nurses, in particular, were so caring and attentive. When I saw the hospital was looking for volunteers to help make it even better, I felt like I owed it to them.” 

Like Jill, Alex thought some of the non-medical aspects of his hospital stay could have been smoother.  He has ideas about wait times from admission to surgery and the timing of certain instructions delivered on the unit. Hospital staff on the cancer PFACQS listened. Now, they’re trying to streamline the admitting process and address other concerns voiced by Alex and fellow patient advocates.  

“Based upon what I’ve seen, the Hospital Center is committed to listening to the patient’s voice, and using our points of view to deliver the safest, evidence-based and compassionate care to every one of its patients,” Jill says. “Together, we’re making changes for the benefit of all.”

For more information on the Hospital Center’s PFACQS Program, click here.