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Patients and families share positive feedback on their experiences at VUMC

Apr. 27, 2022, 3:11 PM

Patient care technician Pamela Spencer holds up a handwritten letter from a patient’s parent filled with praise for Spencer’s special bond with her patients.
Patient care technician Pamela Spencer holds up a handwritten letter from a patient’s parent filled with praise for Spencer’s special bond with her patients. (photo by Brian Hallet)

by Jill Clendening

Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s mission is “personalizing the patient experience through our caring spirit and remarkable capabilities,” and feedback from patients and families continues to reflect their positive experiences at the Medical Center.

“In celebration of Patient Experience Week, I want to celebrate all my colleagues at VUMC who every day strive to achieve our mission and make health care personal,” said Vice President of Patient Experience Brian Carlson. “Thank you for all you do in support of each other and our patients and families.”

To mark Patient Experience Week, April 25-29, a national event to celebrate how health care providers impact patient experience, several employees from across the Medical Center were invited to participate in a video to share their thoughts about why patient experience is so important. They were surprised with notes of gratitude from patients and families expressing how they made receiving care at VUMC an exceptional experience.

Pamela Spencer, a patient care technician with the Hematology/Oncology Clinic at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, smiled as she unfolded a handwritten letter from a patient’s parent filled with praise for Spencer’s special bond with her patients.

“With the hundreds of kids she is sure to see each week, she comes out to retrieve you from the waiting room with the greatest eagerness, like she has been waiting for you, and thinking of you and missing you since your last encounter,” the parent wrote. “She creates such a personalized interaction that you feel like you’re walking into an ongoing, inside joke with quick, witty banter … My son so looks forward to her coming to retrieve him that there is a complete let down if he is called back by anyone else. Ms. Pam is family.”

“Wow!” Spencer said. She said her goal is to always make families feel comfortable and added the patients and families she assists daily are unaware of the positive effect they have on her as well.

Edward Coppola, a Behavioral Health specialist at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital, was touched when he read a former patient’s note who shared that Coppola “provides space for everyone to speak and process, while also keeping us afloat when we feel like we are drowning.”

Coppola said a big part of his job is establishing trust with patients and making sure they know they’re in a safe, supportive place to heal. Working alongside team members that feel the same makes building that trust even easier, he added.

“We can listen in different ways … if you’re actually completely present, and they can really tell that you’re invested in every word they have to say, then it can help improve that relationship and help meet the needs of that patient and the goals they’re trying to achieve.”

Ella Huff, RN, cares for patients in the Mother Baby Obstetrics Unit in Medical Center East. She read a thank you from a patient who was overwhelmed by her fear of being hospitalized. After the woman’s baby was delivered by C-section, Huff’s attentiveness changed her mind.

“I felt like my care and wellbeing mattered to her,” the patient wrote. “I had a positive experience at Vanderbilt because of her. Now, I’m no longer afraid of going to the hospital. I wish every patient had a great nurse like Ella.”

Huff remembered this patient well.

“I think about her, honestly, a lot,” she said. “She was really sweet, and she was so, so nervous the first day after her C-section. Then, I remember when I discharged her from the hospital she was like a brand new woman.”

Thomas Doyle, MD, got emotional after reading a letter from a parent about Doyle’s care for their son.
Thomas Doyle, MD, got emotional after reading a letter from a parent about Doyle’s care for their son. (photo by Brian Hallet)

Pediatric cardiologist Thomas Doyle, MD, got choked up when he read a letter from a parent that recounted Doyle’s exceptional surgical care of their son for 18 years, beginning when he was just two years old.

“That’s pretty darn nice,” Doyle said as he refolded the pages. “That makes it all worthwhile … We have a poster down in the procedure area where we work that says, ‘A hundred years from now it won’t matter what car you drove or the house you lived in, but if you make a difference in the life of a child, the world will be a better place.’ I think that holds true every day in this institution.”

VUMC receives more than 250,000 surveys and more than 260,000 comments annually, a number that continues to grow as both clinical locations and services expand. Scores related to patient experience continue to exceed the Medical Center’s Pillar Goals, as measured by survey feedback from patients after receiving care.

Four of VUMC’s survey areas — Ambulatory Surgery, Vanderbilt University Hospital Inpatient, Medical Practice (provider-based visits) and Urgent Care — are performing in the top quartile (above the 75th percentile) compared to all other health care organizations who also use Press Ganey as their survey vendor.

Positive comments now exceed 76% of the comments received, compared to four years ago when about 66% of patient comments were positive. Most of the positive remarks share praise for the doctors, nurses and staff and how VUMC employees make them feel. A large number of positive comments also relate to VUMC’s reputation and patients’ loyalty to the Medical Center.

“Feedback from our patients consistently shows what a difference we make in their lives, and our ability to take their feedback and work together for consistent improvements is one of many things that makes VUMC such a special place,” Carlson said.

Go here to view the Patient Experience video.

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