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The idea to improve patient satisfaction came to the nurse manager at 2 a.m. one morning when she couldn’t sleep. She got out of bed to check her appointment book for the day and thought that patients might like to know what tests or procedures were scheduled on any given day, as well.
Soon, a newsletter was implemented on the unit that she managed. Each newsletter was individualized with the patient’s appointments for the day so he or she had some control over their time and family members knew when to visit. "The newsletter empowered patients," explains Lisa Oldham, BSN, RNC, CAN, nurse manager at Hackensack (NJ) University Medical Center.
It also prompted patient education. The day-shift nurse would go over the newsletter with the patient discussing the tests and procedures scheduled for the day and answer any questions the patient had. Because the nurses on night shift had distributed the newsletters at 7 a.m., the patients had time to formulate questions. The evening staff would review the newsletter with the patient again at the end of the day to answer any questions the patient had after the test and procedures had occurred. "Within a 24-hour period, the patient would have been educated, or his or her education reviewed on every single scheduled test and procedure at least twice," says Oldham.
In addition to the patient’s scheduled tests and procedures, the newsletter had important phone numbers the patient might need, such as consumer affairs and the physician on the case. There were several different preprinted sheets that were geared to various conditions so that each newsletter could have some educational information. For example, the cardiac sheet had a heart with its various parts named. Routinely scheduled events such as lab rounds and meal breaks were printed on the sheets. The night nurses would write the name of the test or procedure and its scheduled time on the sheet by hand. The newsletter was kept by the patient’s bedside so nurses could easily make changes during the day.
Although the newsletter was pilot-tested on a new unit, patient satisfaction scores kept increasing during the month it was implemented, says Oldham. Its success prompted the medical center to conduct a pilot test on several units. If the scores for patient satisfaction on those units are up on the third quarter report from Press, Ganey Associates, a health care satisfaction measurement company based in South Bend, IN, the newsletter will go hospitalwide. The pilot newsletter is professionally designed and printed, unlike the original, which was printed from a computer.
[For more information on creating a daily informative newsletter for patients, contact Lisa Oldham, BSN, RNC, CAN, Nurse Manager, Hackensack University Medical Center, 30 Prospect Ave., Hackensack, NJ 07641. Telephone: (201) 996-2425.]