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The idea to improve patient satisfaction came to the nurse manager at 2:00 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 patients on the unit that she managed were receiving individualized newsletters with the appointments for the day so they 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. Because the nurses on night shift had distributed the newsletters at 7:00 a.m., the patients had 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 about what had happened that day. "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.
Newsletters were preprinted sheets geared toward specific conditions and containing both educational information and important phone numbers the patient might need, such as the consumer affairs department and the physician on the case. Nurses then individualized the newsletters by writing down the scheduled tests and procedures by hand. Routinely scheduled events such as lab rounds and meal breaks were pre-printed on the newsletters. 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, 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.
• Lisa Oldham, BSN, RNC, CAN, nurse manager, Hackensack University Medical Center, 30 Prospect Ave., Hackensack, NJ 07641. Telephone: (201) 996-2425.