Attention to Detail
Changes big and small are unequivocally positive for patients, visitors,
and staff members.
If you've visited Overlook recently, you likely noticed that it has undergone some impressive changes. The top-quality care that has long been the hallmark of the hospital remains the same, but the patient experience—as well as visitor and staff experiences—is evolving.
The hospital recently underwent an intense period of self-study to identify areas where change could elevate experiences. Many of these improvements were small and subtle; others carried more impact— but the combined effect is unequivocally positive, culminating in the Overlook Experience. Explains Susan Thomas, Overlook's manager of Patient Experience and Volunteers, "It's the whole experience of being here—from patient-centered care, to comforts of home, to the way we treat our staff. And new improvements are constantly happening to make the Overlook Experience even better."
A large part of the transformation began with simple aesthetics. Most people are instantly put off by the typical sterile, clinical hospital environment. But at Overlook, a greeter meets guests on arrival to offer assistance and direction. "Our new light-filled, atrium-style lobby, with a completely glass façade, allows for great views of the sunset, and our volunteer pianists fill the lobby with music to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere," says Thomas. Lighting improvements throughout the hospital create a softer and warmer environment. The snack bar has been replaced by Donna's Café, a full-service bistro with a complete menu of freshly prepared foods, café tables, and waitress service.
Of course, not all changes are tangible. "We want to nurture the spirituality of our patients, visitors, and staff as well," says Thomas. "We are working to humanize every aspect of the patient experience at Overlook Hospital. For example, we train volunteers as bedside companions for elderly patients. We've found that simply having someone to talk to, to share a meal with, or to play cards with goes a long way in making older patients feel at home and easing their anxiety." Overlook also has an active pet-therapy program in partnership with St. Hubert's Animal Shelter. "This is a house-wide program designed to lift the spirits and ease stress for both patients and staff," says Thomas. "It's amazing to see how much more relaxed our busy nurses are after spending a minute or two petting a companion animal. And of course the pups are immensely popular with our patients!"
There is a host of new initiatives in the maternity ward too. During their stay, new parents are treated to a private gourmet meal in their room, aimed at enhancing relaxation and providing some quiet bonding time as a family. The hospital's Integrative Medicine department even offers new moms complimentary massages, great for minimizing postpartum discomfort and easing sore backs and shoulders.
Two of the hospital's most innovative new programs are the Thomas Glasser Caregivers Center, currently under construction (see "Family Matters" on page 20) and the RENEW program for staff members. "It became clear to us that we needed to take care of our employee caregivers," says Thomas, "which in turn will help them take better care of our patients." The RENEW program—which stands for Restore Energy and Nurture Employee Wellness—is designed to reward staff with random acts of kindness, including such services as hand massage, pet-therapy visits, surprise baskets of cookies and treats baked by volunteers and delivered to different departments around the hospital, and even spiritual visits from hospital chaplains to bless caregivers' hands. Says Thomas, "Blessing the hands of caregivers is a very popular and powerful experience that, like all of our other programs, has been very well received."