Can you tell us about your most memorable experience as a patient?
I was admitted to the hospital to have my gall bladder removed as an emergency. It was meant to be a day case, but when I woke up, I was in intensive care. I had to stay in the hospital for almost a week.
The diagnosis had been wrong and I had an intestinal torsion, failed anaesthetic and major aspiration pneumonia. The experience was not only very disorienting, but also caused extreme disruptions to all my patients who were expecting care at the time.
How did this experience change your perspective on patient experience?
As unpleasant as it was at the time, in the end it proved very useful to have these insights. My memory of being in intensive care is it being impossible to sleep because of the bright lights and all the disconcerting disruptions. Another patient died in front of me! I came out of the hospital feeling physically and emotionally exhausted.
I had had many of my own patients in intensive care over the years, and it never struck me how tired they probably were. I had never thought about how this affects their recovery. It certainly helped me understand what my patients go through while under my care.
I also realised how the unexpected can happen very quickly and become very serious. It dawned on me how profoundly our patients are affected when things go wrong. And sometimes things go not-so-well, but sometimes they go disastrously badly. The way that you deal with and care for the patient affects how they see themselves. It is important to be attuned to them and help them make decisions about their future carefully. Sometimes, as a medical practitioner, it’s easy to forget about the future of our patients once they walk out the door.
How can O&Gs make sure they are providing a positive patient experience?
It’s important that you understand how medical conditions affect the patient, not only in clinical terms but in their ability to live their life fully. Make sure you don’t just give tally options and say ‘do whatever you like’. Have a nuanced discussion. Explain all the effects involved: How much does each option cost? What impact would it have on their life? On their relationships?
In Maternity Care we get to build close relationships with our patients and get to know their family. We need to take advantage of that to improve their patient experience.
Thank you, Steve.