Improving the emergency department experience - and being recognized four years in a row

Improving the emergency department experience - and being recognized four years in a row

By Gordy Fields, RN, BSN, CEN
Clinical Supervisor, Issaquah Emergency Department & Eastside Ambulatory Care Centers

When you think of emergency rooms or emergency departments, “patient satisfaction” probably isn’t the first phrase that comes to mind. As an Emergency Medicine nurse, and having travel-nursed throughout the United States for the past 20 years, I’ve come to the realization that the traditional way of doing things is broken. In fact, about eight years ago, I was so disillusioned with my career that I decided to leave nursing.

But then, an amazing new opportunity came my way.

The nurse recruiter for the local agency I had been working with knew I was planning to leave the field, but informed me of an opportunity being developed at Swedish Medical Center in Issaquah. In short, Swedish was building a new freestanding Emergency Department (ED) that would offer something to patients that — at the time — was unheard of: an experience solely dedicated to patient satisfaction and respecting the patients’ time. This new way of thinking and new opportunity with Swedish re-energized my desire to stay in the field, and I accepted the challenge this job offered.

Fast-forward eight years and we’ve succeeded in our goal to make our Emergency Department experience second to none, and one that others try to emulate.

It’s not your typical ED.

Patients in the area know that when they come to the Swedish/Issaquah Emergency Department (and other Swedish Emergency Departments like Mill Creek and Redmond), they will experience a “no-wait” philosophy. You won’t sit around in a waiting room; rather, you’ll be taken directly to an exam room with your care started immediately. And, now we’re being nationally recognized for our achievements.

The Issaquah ED was recently named a 2012 Summit Award Winner by Press Ganey Associates. Staff received this award by achieving and maintaining patient-satisfaction scores in the 95th percentile or above for three consecutive years. The Issaquah team won this popular award in 2009, 2010 and 2011, and is the winner once again. It is highly unusual to receive the Press Ganey Award four times in a row. In total, winning this award for the fourth time represents six full years of maintaining the standard of excellence Press Ganey acknowledges.

Also, receiving this award is a culmination of eight years of hard work, process-design, evaluation, re-evaluation, re-design, and implementation of a care process that is not traditional. We did away with the traditional way of doing things, and it has required a new mindset and culture developed by the entire ED staff.

I am often asked, “How do you make your ED experience so different?”

Here’s a look at some of the ways we create an award-winning experience:

  • No waiting: After registration, a patient goes directly to their exam room where triage and treatment are initiated right away.
  • Facility design and flow: Vital departments and services are located near the ED, rather than being separated by floor or great distance. For example, radiology is right next to us, making it a quick trip for the patient who needs a scan or exam.
  • Specialty-care access: Through the use of specialty carts that roll to the patient, patients don’t have to move throughout the ED or hospital to receive the services they need.
  • Focus on culture: Staff are trained and consistently immersed with the tools to maintain the philosophy of care.

I am proud to have been part of this ED Team from the beginning, and am honored we’re providing the kind of care experience receiving national recognition. I am thankful that Swedish and this “new way” of doing things resurrected my career in health care.

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