Memorial Health has refined its approach to patient-centered care based on feedback from Sweeney's patient empathy project. For example:
• Memorial volunteers have been recruited to bake cookies near the elevators during the day so the smell fills the building. Staff is then allowed to offer patients cookies.
• A dog has been known to greet patients upon arrival. It helps many patients relax. Even patients who do not care for dogs may benefit; the dog offers a distraction from distress about the visit, Sweeney says.
• Staff no longer assumes that a patient wants a private room. Instead, patients are asked if they would like a private or shared room. Having a roommate can help with patient fear #11: loneliness.
• The practice of saying "good luck" to patients upon admittance is banned at Memorial.
Not all clinical staff is happy about Sweeney's system of addressing patient fear. Eye-rolling nurses and complaints are not uncommon, she says. Most staff complaints center on the time factor –asking about and addressing fear adds a step to a busy nurse's day.
She argues, however, that addressing fear will actually save nurse's time. And if the staff is unwilling, they will not last at Memorial, Sweeney says. "If they don't really care about the patients then they will not last."