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5 Simple Strategies for Nurses to Improve the Patient Experience

Nurses have an immense opportunity to impact the patient experience. Being in contact with the patient more than any other caregiver gives nurses the unique advantage to impact a patient's hospital experience. As hospital administrators and nurse leaders we have the responsibility to outfit our front-line staff with the tools to provide excellent service, empathetic connection, and high quality care. 

At any given time organizations may be working on a handful of initiatives and pilots of different processes to help front-line staff deliver more efficient patient care. And we must do this to innovate in our organizations. Even with new innovative processes and technology nurse hourly rounding continues to be an evidence based best practice that is a proactive solution to delivering an exceptional patient experience. Being proactive in healthcare is key. When hourly rounding is done with purpose and on a consistent schedule we see our clients reducing patient falls, decreasing call lights, improving nurse communication HCAHPS scores, and even saving hundreds of hours in nursing time.

But what happens when we fail to meet our patients needs or their experience isn't going how they expected in the hospital? Proactive rounding combined with service recovery by the nurse or nurse leader can quickly impact the overall patient's experience. Sometimes service recovery is complicated and can involve many departments to understand the root cause of the issue. Often times service recovery is simple and we can provide simple tokens of our appreciation and an apology to improve an patient's satisfaction with their hospital stay. 

We wanted to provide five easy ways that have proven to provide immediate service recovery and impact the patient's perception of their care. These are strategies that can be implemented rapidly on a unit basis. When measures like these are combined with purposeful patient rounds, staff are supported to proactively build trust when challenges like high census or construction occur.  

1.  Unit-Level Service Recovery Kits

Even with a coordinated effort between the inpatient unit and the ED, patients' belongings can become misplaced in the rush of a traumatic event. Maintaining a small supply of gift cards, meal tickets, parking passes and population-specific rewards make it easy for staff to show appreciation for patients and to make things right. 

2.  Volunteer Services Snack and Beverage Carts

Asking hospital volunteers to break out a snack and beverage cart in a busy ED or clinic waiting are can help alleviate the frustrations of a long delay. Delta Airlines does the same thing when flights are delayed at the gate.

3.  Quiet Kits & Electric Fans

Providing items to promote sleep – earplugs, eye masks, or aromatherapy – have become typical in many facilities. But providing white noise, electric fans or noise-canceling headphones to patients during daylight hours can help buffer construction and other noise. Ensure staff are providing these options during hourly rounding and that leaders are making these solutions available during their unit rounds too.

4.  Blanket Warmers

Every surgery patient can share a story about the snuggly warm blankets provide pre- and post-operatively. Adding a blanket warmer to all inpatient areas provides instant access to this comfort measure.

5.  Night-Time Meals

It is common practice to close cafeterias to reduce dietary services expenses. But 50% of clinical staff are working all night and patients and visitors are also often awake and hungry. Planning night-time hot food menus that are quick, wholesome and easily prepared by a core staff can add value and satisfaction for all involved. Consider stocking snacks for worried family members in the evening. 

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