Chief Nurse at Westchester Hospital Discusses the Power of Empowered Patients

Posted on: October 8, 2012

Empowered Patients and Staff = Positive Experiences

by Lauraine Szekely, RN, SVP Patient Care & Chief Nursing Officer

Empowered Patients and Staff = Positive ExperiencesWouldn’t it be nice to know that the hospital staff caring for you is among the best in the industry? You can find out: There are national organizations that recognize quality patient care and clinical expertise. One is the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which awards Magnet Recognition® status to medical centers for excellence in patient care as well as nursing excellence. Another is Planetree, an organization that surveys hospitals to ensure they meet rigorous criteria around patient-centered initiatives before granting Designation. A hospital’s program must fulfill ‘best-practice’ requirements to receive Planetree’s additional Distinction award.  Surveyors from both organizations expect hospitals to meet stringent criteria demonstrated through documentation, staff and patient interviews.

Seeking out an award-winning medical center will help ensure that your hospital stay is ‘top notch’ from both a clinical as well as humanistic perspective, says Lauraine Szekely, RN, MBA, Senior Vice-President of Patient Care and Chief Nursing Officer at NWH. “This isn’t only recognition that a nursing staff is up-to-date on the latest treatments and protocols, but that the patients have weighed in and said that their care was outstanding.” You can find hospitals that have received these awards by visiting the groups’ websites: American Nurses Credentialing Center and Planetree.

Szekely believes one key to a positive experience for patients is making sure there is good communication with the staff. “Patients can find a hospital dehumanizing, and they can feel like they’re losing control of decision making,” she says. “At Northern Westchester, we’ve made it possible for patients to get any information they want about their treatment at any time so that they can play a role in their care. In fact, we encourage their participation.” Setting up programs such as music and art therapy and providing a caregiver center also helps increase patient satisfaction, says Szekely.

Keeping nursing staff empowered to improve patient care every day is the other important part of the equation and is inherent in how we work at Northern Westchester Hospital.  We accomplish this by partnering with our staff utilizing a shared governance management philosophy which is a partnership between management and staff, says Szekely. Northern Westchester Hospital has accomplished this with a five-step clinical ladder in which nurses climb rungs by taking courses and gaining certification in specialties. “Here our staff are motivated to build a lifelong commitment to learning and increasing their knowledge,” says Szekely. The process begins by hiring nurses that will thrive in such an environment, she says. “When we recruit, we interview not only for clinical experience but for personality. We want to find nurses that embrace both the art (compassionate care) and the science (clinical expertise) of their craft.  We challenge candidates with different scenarios to get an idea of how they will react. We want to know what kind of person they are.”

As a result of these efforts, Northern Westchester Hospital has earned Magnet® Recognition and is a Designated Planetree Hospital with Distinction*—the only hospital in the country to receive both prestigious honors. In addition, NWH was the only hospital in Westchester County to be recognized by The Joint Commission as Top Performer on Key Quality Measures for 2011, and US News & World Report has ranked them as a Best Regional Hospital. While Szekely is justifiably proud of the honors, she stresses that the good news is really for the community: “This means our patients will be well taken care of by an excellent staff with top expertise. They don’t have to travel to get exceptional quality patient focused care. It’s right here in their backyard.”

*As a group, the Planetree Designated Patient-Centered Hospitals exceed the national averages in each publicly reported HCAHPS category.  Designated Hospitals outperform national benchmarks on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) process of care core measures and have lower readmission rates.