HOLYOKE — Hearing from the front lines is a sure way to determine an organization’s strengths and uncover what needs to be strengthened. Holyoke Medical Center’s Patient and Family Advisory Council provides that service.
To Linda Healy of West Springfield, becoming a council member was an extension of the work she has done as a medical center patient representative. “By going around and talking with patients, we get an idea of what is working well, and what may need some adjustment,” she said.
HMC’s Patient Safety Director, Tina Lesser, RN, said Healy’s patient-centered view is crucial to the success of the council, which is now a little more than a year old. Lesser coordinates the council and serves as a medical center member.
“We want to involve patients and their families in just about everything we do at the hospital. They are at the center of what we do,” she said.
While the establishment of a patient and family council was mandated by the state, Holyoke Medical Center welcomed the approach wholeheartedly because the hospital’s emphasis has always been on patient-centered care, Lesser said. “Our focus is on the patient and family and making them part of the process. We view them as partners in the delivery of care.”
Establishing a Patient and Family Council formalizes this long-standing approach at Holyoke Medical Center by stating the focus more directly, she added.
During the past year, the council has shaped its framework and goals. The council included patient representatives like Healy from the start to make certain that the patient perspective is integral to the fabric of the council.
Merle Ryan of South Hadley, volunteered to serve on the council. Like Healy, Ryan has been a patient representative at the medical center.
“I see patients on a regular basis. Because I’m not a hospital employee, I think the patients can be a little more honest about their care. I hear that the nursing care is fabulous,” she said. “But there are little things that can make a patient’s stay as comfortable as it can be. It could be the temperature of the room, the food, the noise level on the floor. Sometimes patients have trouble getting an answer because they don’t want to bother the staff. But they will speak to me.”
Being a member of the council gives Ryan an opportunity to share what she hears in a different way. Instead of setting out to solve one person or family’s issue, she has a chance to advise the hospital on changes that will help everyone, she said.
Healy agreed. “We can zero in on something we can work positively on, and try to make things even better,” she said. “We bring an insight. I feel good about my involvement. Our perspective is well-considered.”
Council members also serve on in-hospital committees to expand the patient perspective throughout the facility. One such committee is the Falls Committee that works to prevent patient falls and injuries. “A patient or family member gives another insight into the question of how can we be more effective in preventing falls,” Lesser said.
The efforts of these volunteers are appreciated. “We recognize the sacrifices that people make, the time they put in to the council and serving on other committees,” she noted.
The council is looking to add to its community members. “We want this council to be as diverse as the community it serves,” Lesser said. The council is looking for more representation from men, younger residents, and members of the Latino community. We would like to see greater representation from the whole community.”