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Improve Patient Experience in Two Sentences

By Jennifer Thew RN  
   December 22, 2015


Making a personal connection with a patient doesn't take much time, technology, or investment, but it can pay off big when it comes to improving patient outcomes and satisfaction.

Barbara Jacobs, RN, MSN, would like you to know she has the two cutest grandchildren in the United States.

"It's a fact," the CNO at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, MD, told me. "Other people think they do, but I actually do. I actually have them."

Her adoration for these two little boys is not exactly a well-kept secret. 

"Everyone here has heard about my grandchildren," she laughs.

Why, you may wonder, should we as healthcare providers care about her love for these little guys? Well, because she does.

"If I say that to a caregiver and then another caregiver comes in and says, 'Hey, Mrs. Jacobs, I hear you have two cutest grandkids in the United States,' they've completely transformed our relationship with just that sentence," she told me, "because [they] have made what's important to me, something that they recognize and made me seem like a person."

Jacobs is a huge proponent of these types of encounters and is working to promote the development of what she calls "personal connections" between the staff and patients at Anne Arundel. 

Putting the Care Back in Healthcare
Jacobs' interest in fostering personal connections began about five or six years ago, when she noticed the practice of interacting with the patient as a person was starting to get lost amid hectic days and technology.

"We were getting everything into the computers and getting so technologically savvy and had volumes of information on a patient, but we were missing the human side of their care," she says. "If you look at people who went into nursing, what helps us feel good about ourselves is helping other people. We want to do that, but sometimes [because of] the distractions of busy days and all of the multitasking that people do, we lose track of the caring part that makes that patient feel cared for."

So Jacobs, who has been at Anne Arundel since September 2015, has been working with staff to help develop personal connections without making it into another time-consuming thing on an already overflowing to-do list.

"We've talked a lot about how it's important to go into a room and pick something you can connect on," she explains. "If they're knitting, talk to them about their knitting. If their husband sits at the bedside all day long, say that they're lucky that their husband sits at the bedside all day long."

Jacobs is not alone in recognizing the importance of seeing patients as a whole people and not just the hip-fracture in room 315. In its report, "Crossing the Quality Chasm"—issued all the way back in 2001—the Institute of Medicine cited patient-centered care, which it defines as "care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs, and values, and ensuring that patient values guide all clinical decisions," as one of six aims for improving the healthcare system.

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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