Editor’s note: “Everything We Say and Do” is an informational series developed by SHM’s Patient Experience Committee to provide readers with thoughtful and actionable communication tactics that have great potential to positively impact patients’ experience of care. Each article will focus on how the contributor applies one or more of the “key communication” tactics in practice to maintain provider accountability for “everything we say and do that affects our patients’ thoughts, feelings, and well-being.”
What I say and do
I always ensure at the end of my visit with a patient and their family that they know when to expect me to return to see their child again.
Why I do it
One of the biggest frustrations I hear from families pertains to the discharge process. In talking with families, they want to know the approximate time for discharge. Often, during morning rounds, we mention that the patient may be able to go home later in the day and we say that we will come in again later to check on them. However, unless we give families a time frame for when we will come back and do that check, they are left waiting without any clear expectations.
How I do it
One of our goals during morning family-centered rounds is to discuss discharge for every patient, every day. Along with discussing the possibility of going home, we try to give the family goals that they can work on throughout the day that are tied to discharge – for example, the approximate by-mouth intake for a toddler admitted for gastroenteritis and dehydration.
I also give the family an approximate time when either I or the resident team will come back to see if they have achieved this goal. This may be either late afternoon or first thing in the morning if we are planning an early-morning discharge before rounds. The families seem to find this helpful because they are not tied to the room all day waiting for the doctor to come back.
I also make sure that the families know they can contact their nurse any time if they need to see any of the doctors sooner than we planned. I let them know that a physician is here on the floor 24 hours a day and that the nurses can easily reach us at any time if they have further concerns. In my experience, this is reassuring to our families.
Christine Hrach is a pediatric hospitalist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.