Hospital to take apprehension out of operations

Posted: Friday, February 17, 2006

Hospital patients informed they require surgery can feel like they receive less than hospitable treatment. Stunned patients are kicked around like a soccer ball from one department to another as they receive tests, and sometimes leave the hospital with unanswered questions about a procedure that could permanently change their lives.

But at Central Peninsula General Hospital the director of perioperative services, Kim Vester, was determined to see CPGH offer patients expecting surgery an alternative to the cold indifference of hospital hallways and waiting rooms.

“You know, they’re probably very scared because they have just been told they are going to have surgery,” she said. “I want this hospital to be more personal. Everybody should be a VIP.”

In early January, these concerns resulted in the opening of the CPGH preoperative clinic, a snug little room tucked into one of the hospital’s hallways and marked only by a computer printout welcoming patients into the clinic. Walking into the clinic, a patient might wonder for a moment if they have accidentally walked into someone’s house. Instead of a cold, paper-covered examining table, there’s cherry wood furniture, plants and a green leather recliner that sits next to the clinic nurse’s silk flower-draped desk.

The preoperative clinic is a one-stop shop. Once patients find it they don’t have to worry about finding their way to any other department. With the exception of X-rays, all testing can be done there, and even when a patient requires X-rays, the clinic ensures they are personally escorted to where they need to go.

“There’s no more patient wandering around and not knowing where to go,” Vester said.

In addition, the clinic offers patients the chance to sit down with a trained surgical nurse, ask questions and express their concerns.

By taking the time to sit down and make sure all of the patient’s questions and concerns are addressed, the hospital can get to know the patient better and troubleshoot potential conflicts before they occur.

“We’re already reaping the awards,” Vester said. “There are fewer delays and cancellations.”

Since the clinic opened Jan. 13, there has been a 38 percent drop in cancellations and delays, she said.

“When you’re more comfortable being someplace, you don’t have much fear about what’s going to happen,” said Sandi Burger, a patient who visited the clinic Feb. 8.

Burger, who was due for a surgery to remove a cyst Feb. 9, said although she generally knows what to expect due to two previous surgeries, she still found the clinic’s services attractive.

“This is really new to me, but gee it’s nice,” Burger said as a water fountain on the windowsill behind her gurgled and a nurse completed a blood draw from her arm.

“It’s nicer than just sitting in the waiting room like cattle.”

Amy Parham, a CPGH nurse who works in the preoperative clinic, said many nervous patients leave the clinic feeling relieved because they learn about what is going to happen to them in a relaxed atmosphere, and without feeling rushed to come up with questions.

Taking the time to chitchat with patients can reveal concerns missed during a typical exam, she said.

“I run across a lot of things just casually talking to patients that I can relay to anesthesiologists,” she said.

When asked about whether she had any worries concerning her upcoming surgery, Burger said she dreaded waking up from the anesthesia because her body responds with intense dry heaves.

“I’m glad you mentioned that,” Parham said. “We have a lot of patients who wake up nauseated.”

Parham explained that Burger did not have to suffer from the severe sickness if she wore a scopolamine patch during her anesthesia.

“Oh, that would be wonderful,” Burger said.

The preoperative clinic is not required. If patients aren’t interested and do not want to add another appointment to their list, they are free to go ahead with their surgery without the counseling. Vester noted, however, that visiting the clinic is sometimes faster than going through the usual routine of hopping from one department to another to complete tests.

Most visits to the preoperative clinic last approximately 20 to 30 minutes.

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