UW News

April 16, 2009

UWMC advisory councils excel in putting patients, families first

Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering

Patient- and family-centered care is more than a buzz word at UW Medical Center. As part of an ongoing process to include patients and families in everything from creating guidebooks to interviewing residents, the medical center recently announced the formation of a sixth advisory council that will focus on outpatient services. The Outpatient advisory council joins UWMC’s five other councils encompassing: Intensive Care Units (ICUs), Inpatient Oncology, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Perinatal and Rehab Services.

UWMC Executive Director Stephen Zieniewicz said the hospital benefits every day from the work being conducted by patient and family advisors, working in conjunction with staff. The medical center’s move in 2007 to room service, for example, stemmed in part from conversations that took place between Assistant Administrator Walter Thurnofer and the inpatient oncology and perinatal advisory councils.

The ICUs council was established more than a year ago, and the group is putting the finishing touches on an informational book for patients and families. Council members are also working to ensure necessities such as toothpaste, toothbrushes, combs, note pads and pens are available for family members that may spend their days at the medical center.

Those “little things” are something that Kathleen Bullock wished she’d had access to a few years ago. Bullock’s husband, Joe, spent the last two months of his life in the ICU at UWMC. He died in February 2007. “There were some really wonderful experiences that I had with some of the nurses and staff,” said Bullock. “And there were some really not so good experiences.”

Bullock ended up writing a letter to medical center staff about her concerns, and she said she was surprised to receive a long response. She felt there was a mix-up with parking, for instance, and she was reimbursed. And when the ICU council was being formed, nurse managers Kyle Sisco and Keri Nasenbeny tapped Bullock to join the group.

Now, many of the questions Bullock said she would have liked to have answers for are in the ICU handbook. And initiatives like bedside reporting — a hand-off procedure for nurses that occurs during a shift change — are being implemented.

Bullock said being involved in the ICU advisory council is incredibly rewarding. “I am proud that this is happening,” she said. “I’m doing it in my husband’s memory.” She also said that she wants to give back to the people who were so good to Joe, and give back to the hospital.

In addition to her advisory council role, Bullock will soon volunteer her time for a new ICU waiting room liaison position in which she’ll work with families who have a loved one in the ICU.

UWMC’s advisory councils will be profiled this spring by the Institute for Family-Centered Care, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that aims to advance the understanding and practice of patient- and family-centered care in hospitals and other health care settings.

For more on the advisory councils at UWMC, contact Hollis Guill Ryan at 206-598-2697 or via email at hollisr@u.washington.edu. Look for the UWMC profile in the next few months at http://www.familycenteredcare.org/.