Nurses are undeniably the backbone of the hospital. For the last 16 years, nursing has held the highest position on Gallup’s annual survey of the public’s trust in occupation—high above positions such as doctors, lawyers, pharmacists and bankers. And that trust is well-deserved: nurses tend to patients’ wounds, administer medications, educate patients about medical tests and treatments, celebrate births and remarkable recoveries, and provide comfort for those facing disappointing news or hard decisions.
Hospitals nationwide are working hard to change this perception by improving not only the quality of care and safety for patients but also their experience. Research we conducted for our Ebook, Your Toughest Customers, revealed that while many hospitals are making strides at improving patient experiences, there is still much work to be done. We pored through feedback from an online focus group of patients and caregivers to uncover the top five pet peeves that affect patient satisfaction and how hospitals can best address these.
1. Lack of consistency.
Inconsistencies in the quality of the care provided between nurses, shifts or departments can be extremely frustrating for patients, particularly for elderly patients who are often accustomed to routines. “One night, my nurse came in every hour to give me fresh water and change my bedding,” said Timothy, a patient from Oregon. “The next day, I had an accident, and it took them over an hour to help me.” This is even more irritating when the quality of care seems to decline over the length of the hospital stay. On her first night in the hospital, Lisa, a patient from California, describes having a wonderful nurse who “went out of her way to make sure I was comfortable.” But her experience changed over the next few days. “The next day, the nurse was okay. He did his job, but wasn’t very personable,” Lisa said. “The second night, the nurse neglected me, and I had to call the hospital operator to get her back so I could use the bathroom. On my last day, I had no water, and my nurse just disappeared.” Patients appreciate nursing teams who not only set a standard for excellence, but strive to keep it up and are consistent in their response.
2. Slow responses to call buttons.
When an alarm is going off or patients need pain medication, water or assistance going to the bathroom, they expect nurses to respond quickly if they use the call button, but many are forced to wait for a while or push the call button multiple times to get a response. The average wait time for patients in our focus group ranged from 15 minutes at best to an hour-and-a half at worst. Some patients recounted having to call the hospital operator to connect them to the nursing station on their floor or sending family members outside the room to flag someone down for help. Other patients had accidents in bed while waiting for someone to help or were scolded by nurses for trying to get out of bed and take matters into their own hands. Michael, a caregiver from California, revealed how dangerous slow responses to call buttons can be. “My dad needed help going to the bathroom and pushed the button,” he said. “He waited a while and decided to get up and go by himself. He fell and broke his hip.” Patients appreciate nurses who check in regularly or ask someone else on the care team to stop by the room to check in if they are tied up at the moment.
3. Failing to follow up on requests or share information.
Patients and loved ones who are helping care for them want to know that their requests and concerns are being heard. If they have a question or a request for food, fluids, pain medication or a visit from the doctor, they want to know nurses are listening and making every attempt to get them what they need. Several patients and caregivers reported making requests that were never fulfilled or got lost in staff and shift changes. Some patients said they felt like they had to repeat themselves every time a new nurse came on duty because of the lack of communication from one shift to the next. What family caregivers found most disheartening was hunting down a nurse only to be denied help because the patient wasn’t theirs. “The nursing staff on the floor should be a team, helping out each other out with patients when necessary and not sitting at the desk chatting,” said Suzanne, a family caregiver from Texas. It also helps when nurses take time to explain what they are doing to patients and make sure patients and their caregivers understand instructions for taking medication, getting out of bed and moving around, etc. Patients appreciate being kept in the loop about what to expect, and knowing why, for example, a nurse may not be able to fulfill a certain request or why it may take more time
4. Lack of empathy.
Being in the hospital is stressful and leaves many people feeling incredibly vulnerable. If nurses are unpleasant or condescending, it adds to the anxiety patients are already feeling. Though panelists in our focus group acknowledged that some patients can be demanding and unreasonable, they pointed out that most have realistic expectations and just want to be treated with kindness and respect. “I felt like I was a burden,” one patient said. Other panelists said they wished nurses would be more cognizant of their feelings and focus not only on providing excellent medical care, but also reassuring them. Those who do respond with empathy stand out. “Upon my arrival in the ER, there was one nurse whose name I do not recall who made me feel like I was the only patient in the hospital,” said Lloyd, a patient from California. Patients also appreciate nurses who tend not only to their needs but also to their loved ones in the room. When Deborah, a patient from Missouri, was hospitalized during the blizzard, she recalled how her nurses took it upon themselves to bring a recliner, blankets and pillows into the room for her husband, so he could stay with her. “Another night when I was very sick, a night nurse came in and just chatted with me when I could not fall asleep and was feeling very miserable,” she said. Bottom line: Patients wish hospital staff would treat them how they would want their own loved ones treated.
5. Being seen as a patient, not a person.
Every patient is different, but being lumped into a category or viewed through the same lens can be disconcerting and dangerous for patients.”Get to know your patient and find out what else you need to know to improve their chances of recovery,” said Jane, who has been both a nurse and a patient. If a patient is diabetic, that may mean taking extra steps to ensure they get their blood sugar checked regularly. If a patient isn’t responding to pain medicine, it may mean reaching out to the attending physician for other options. Patients appreciate nurses who pay attention not just to the written notes, but to what is really going on with them and are willing to advocate for them. Our panelists praised nurses who went above and beyond to make them feel comfortable—from a nurse who raided the doctor’s lounge for half-and-half so her patient wouldn’t have to drink powdered creamer to a male nurse who always found a female assistant to help his female patient go to the bathroom.
At Amplion, we are dedicated to building a better future for patient care. Our next-generation nurse call system optimizes clinical workflow, improves patient communications and provides analytics to help hospitals make data-driven decisions and raise accountability. Learn how our technology can help you close care loops and improve the patient experience at your hospital by scheduling a free consultation with us. And be on the lookout for more patient experience posts on our blog as we get ready to celebrate Patient Experience Week April 24–28!
Nurses who are willing to lead and risk being vulnerable are vital to hospitals striving to meet the challenges of healthcare today. That was the underlying message shared at the 50th annual American Organization of Nurse Executives (AONE) conference held last week in Baltimore. Amplion was thrilled to to showcase our next-generation nurse call system for 3,400 nurses attending this year’s conference, which celebrated a half-century of providing leadership training and professional development to help nurses excel.