Want to focus on whole patient? Here's a model

Helping patients stay relaxed

In the Planetree model, staff don't treat patients like they'd want to be treated. Instead, they find out how the patient wants to be treated, says Linda Sharkey, RN, MSN, vice president of patient care services and chief nurse executive at Fauquier Hospital.

"The way we want to be treated and how a patient wants to be treated could be completely different. We provide an individual approach to our patients and try to find out early in the stay what is important to them," Sharkey says.

Fauquier Hospital, in Warrenton, VA, is a Planetree-designated patient-centered hospital. The staff at Fauquier look beyond the problems that are being treated in the hospital and try to help decrease the patient's anxiety by doing whatever they can to help the patient remain relaxed, Sharkey says. "We take care of the entire person and partner with the patient to resolve all their concerns so they can concentrate on healing," she says.

For example, a man having outpatient surgery brought along his puppy, and his wife planned to stay in the car with the dog during surgery. When the surgery was delayed, the nursing staff took a sandwich to the wife as well a bowl of water for the puppy.

The hospital encourages patients to have a care partner, a family member or someone else they trust, who can be present when the physician, the case manager, or the social worker talks with the patient.

Pat Gerbracht, BSN, MA, CRA, director of case management and social work, says, "The care partner is another set of eyes and ears. When patients are sick and anxious, they may not remember everything they're told or remember what questions they wanted to ask. The care partner can remind them and can reinforce the treatment plan once the patient gets home."

In addition to the traditional therapies, the hospital offers relaxation therapies such as massage and visits by trained pet therapy dogs for patients who want them.

Patients may order meals from a food service menu of the hospital's Bistro restaurant and have them delivered when they want them, on their own schedule. The hospital's patient concierge takes care of any patients needs, including making hotel reservations for out-of town patients, celebrating patient birthdays, and providing flowers in a bud vase to cheer patients. A network of volunteer chaplains addresses the patients' spiritual needs and visit with patients who would like company.

The staff are expected to show people the way to their destination rather than pointing out the way. Each staff member also is responsible for what the hospital calls "service recovery." For instance, when a patient's appointment is mixed up and he or she has to return, the staff give the patient a gas card to compensate for the inconvenience.

"All the staff are responsible for making sure the patient has the kind of experience that shows that we appreciate the opportunity to care for the patient rather than thinking the patient is lucky that we're here for them," Sharkey says.