Saturday, May 11, 2013

An Open Letter to Patient Liaison - Salt Lake Veterans Health Care System

I had some terse words with a doctor yesterday. When he made rounds today, I was happy to be able offer feedback as to exactly why I was angry with him. No doubt, there was disappointment in not going home in the 48 hours I was initially promised, but at the heart of the matter, hearing without listening and simply spouting off medical protocols won't win the day with me. This same doctor did me a great favor my first week of treatment by insisting I get engaged, making this an interactive process. It shaped the way I interacted with everyone since. When I pointed that out and told him that was what I needed yesterday, I think I made my point and he thanked me as he left. And while I was genuinely angry, and honestly still feel a bit steamed about the whole thing, I consider that a success because at the end of it all, we're working together.
It's far too easy to complain and unfortunately, fixing even the appearance of a wrong too often eclipse the positive efforts that result in a stellar performance. Feedback for people who really do things that are genuinely praiseworthy seems to be glossed over - it may come across a bit to pat someone on the back than to solve a problem and far too often, the people that are going above and beyond the call of duty continue soldiering on without the recognition they deserve because that's just who they are.
When I've come across someone who is doing a great job, I do what I can to make sure they know it from me directly. Where possible, I've sought out their supervisor to make sure that person knows that they have a superstar working for them. It's how I roll! With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that I've been pretty vocal from the get-go about how impressed and humbled about how well I've been treated at the SLC VA Hospital, but to put the rubber to the road, I'm naming names and am hand-delivering the letter at the bottom of this post to Patient Liaison (with copies to the places where I hope those who have made such a notable difference will get the recognition they deserve from those in a position to do so within the VA system here in SLC).
The nursing staff is the impetus for my letter and I didn't work with some who may not be listed because of restrictions on who can administer or be near chemotherapy drugs and I don't have a list, but I want to give a special thanks to these awesome nurses:

- Ward 2 East (Acute Med): Carol, Hazen, “KJ," Marc, Stephanie, Tammy, and Tara
- Ward 2 West (AMU/Hematology-Oncology): Brenda, Carlyn, and Trevor (also in the ER); Nyna was the first person with whom I had any real contact after my diagnosis. She had the right amount of ‘bedside manner’ and the facts I needed. She has also been my point of contact for my bone marrow transplant and despite my being her first transplant case, been tireless on pushing the bureaucratic cogs in the machine.

- Blue Clinic: Kathy
Quite often, the health techs were the ones who found a way to keep me smiling when I just didn’t have it in me. The many, many details they take care of often were the ones that made me feel human. And let’s face it, it takes a special skill to do that when taking vitals in the wee hours of the morning. These folks are on their way toward their RN/LPN and I want to give them a special shout out as well:
- Ward 2 East (Acute Med): Dani, Greg, Lindsay, Lizzie, Nikki, Robert, “TJ”, and “TK”
I would be remiss if I didn't recognize other people who made my many days here a bit better:
Lab (Blood Draw)
- Rob, Roxanne, and Walt

Physical Therapy
- Charlie, Dayna, Dana, Pablo

Connie has helped me so much in navigating within the system and directing me where I should go when I just needed answers. Between paperwork and emotionally working through a life-changing diagnosis with a lot of open-ended possibilities, she has been the bridge to sanity on some days where I was just overwhelmed

Yeah, there will be many, many more thank yous in the days to come, but for today, I want to give my sincere heartfelt thanks to these people by name. Take the time to thank may just make their day!

Be well, stay strong, and much love to you all!
H. J. Harrer
Patient Liaison
Salt Lake Veterans Health Care System
500 Foothill Boulevard
Salt Lake City, Utah  84124

Dear Mr. Harrer:

I am writing to you directly rather than filling out a survey card because there have been many people who have made an incredibly positive impact and a card wouldn’t be adequate.  Having been an inpatient five times so far since February 21, I can tell you that the level of service has far exceeded anything I could have hoped for. Certainly the VA staff provides genuinely kind and compassionate care, but I also felt that there was a concerted effort to involve me in my own healing process rather than just a passive participant. Sure, I’d expect anyone who works in the medical field to have some degree of caring in their character, but after 40 inpatient days so far, I have come to know quite a few nurses, health tech, clinicians, phlebotomists, and therapists throughout the hospital and have been truly impressed.

When I received my cancer diagnosis, I was overwhelmed with information with less-than-pleasant sounding names and ferried off to endless tests, pokes, and procedures, some of which were downright unpleasant and painful. I may have an engaging if not offbeat sense of humor, but I was more than just a little scared underneath the repartée. Everyone with whom I met during those crucial first days in the Acute Care Ward answered the many questions my family and I had; and they treated me with such kindness that it brought me to tears. When that inevitable first meltdown happened, there was no shame imparted. I was comforted with a warmed blanket and my much needed dignity was very much intact. I went through a lot those first three weeks where a high degree of competence and professionalism would have sufficed, but the gentle hands and personal interaction from the staff here gave me solace and comfort when I needed it most.

I would appreciate the opportunity to tell you in-person and at any level of detail you would like specific instances of the staff going beyond routine. I’ve been vocal to everyone – both inside and outside the VA system – how pleased I am with the care I have received, but I want to ensure the people who have attended me and so many others get the proper recognition for what can only be described as love for their patients and their life’s calling in medicine.

Very Truly Yours,

Todd Park
SLCVHCS Patient, Ward 2 East
Former Lieutenant Commander, US Navy

cc: Human Resources | Acute Care | Ambulatory Medicine | Laboratory Services | Physical Therapy