Communication is critical for patient advocate in ED

A proactive communications effort, before and after the creating of the new ED patient representative position at St. Mary's Hospital in Tucson, AZ, has helped smooth the transition for ED staff, patients, and families, says Cassandra Pundt, RN, CEN. Pundt had been the ED nurse manager for 10 years when she created and filled the new position.

"I met with the staff at staff meetings and also with the physicians, did a presentation on new my role and how to access me," Pundt recalls. "I also gave out business cards, which included my cell phone number."

In addition, since she also trained the staff in how to deal with difficult individuals, "I made it clear that if they have an issue with a patient or a family complaint, they are supposed to first try to resolve it themselves," she says. "If they feel they were not successful, they can then either go to the charge nurse or access me if I am on campus."

As for patients and their families, they are all given an emergency center fact sheet when they enter the department, which is in English and Spanish. "It tells them that if they have a complaint or a problem, to contact me, and it includes my telephone number," says Pundt.