Taking the stress out of an emergency room visit

A sore throat was the first sign something was wrong for Barbara Schmitt.

Out of town on vacation, Barbara visited a local doctor and had her suspicions confirmed: strep throat.

“By late Friday afternoon when we returned home, though, my throat still hurt a lot,” says Barbara. “It was to the point where I really had not eaten much of anything for the past two days because it hurt so much to swallow.”

With her in-law’s 50th wedding anniversary the next day, a call to her regular doctor confirmed no appointment was available. After doing some triage over the phone, an urgent care visit was recommended and a diagnosis was determined: peritonsilitis (an inflammation of the connective tissue above and behind the tonsil.)
Late in the day, a trip to the emergency room was the only solution for getting treatment, and that’s where Barbara says the staff at Fairview Ridges Hospital made a bad situation as pleasant as it could possibly be.

“No one ever wants to go the ER because it can be scary and stressful,” she says. “What stood out to me about the experience at Fairview was each and every person treated me as an individual who needed some help. They were kind, gentle and efficient without being impersonal.”

From the moment she arrived, being registered by Carrie Anderson, patient access services representative, to the moment she left, Barbara says every person and every hand off made the experience one to remember.

“When registering a patient, I always try to make the situation a bit lighter,” says Carrie. “I make sure they don't have any unanswered questions, and when I have a few extra minutes, I try to stay and chat with them. I want them to feel like someone is listening.”

Karen Lesch, RN, also played a big part in that day. As a nurse and one of the primary care givers for patients in Fairview Ridges’ emergency department, Karen says she asks herself one question before she meets any new patient: what am I going to bring to the table?

“I believe the most powerful skill I possess is empathy, and it has to be genuine,” Karen says. If your patient starts to cry, hand them a tissue. If the patient has the need to tell their story, listen. Empathy isn’t an action, it’s a feeling that can be pretty profound.”

For Barbara’s provider, JR Walker, MD, a successful patient experience, especially one that takes place in an emergency department setting, depends on a provider’s sense of passion, clinical confidence and empathy.

“My goal is to provide high quality medical care with a genuine sense of empathy and compassion,” he says. “This starts with listening first and then addressing both the patient’s medical concerns as well as their discomfort.”
Jamie Hornibrook, director of nursing, emergency department, at Fairview Ridges Hospital, says this type of seamless patient experience happens because the entire team is dedicated to making those one-on-one connections.

“We have an excellent team and our staff understands that each patient interaction is important,” he says. “Our staff cares about each other, our patients and our communities, and as a result, these great experiences happen.”
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