Spending three days a week, four hours a day at a dialysis unit is not the way most people desire to spend their time. Some dialysis patients skip treatments, shorten their treatments or generally have a negative attitude about being “stuck” on dialysis 12 hours a week. No one said that life-saving dialysis treatments were fun. Yet, is it possible to make the experience more pleasurable? What steps could staff take to improve the patient experience? What would that look like? How would patients respond?
Kimberly Carius, RN, is the new nurse manager at the DCI Eastgate clinic in Cincinnati, Ohio. Right after beginning her role with DCI, she noticed that the atmosphere in the dialysis unit needed improvement.
“It was a little bit different from other clinics I had worked at,” Kim said. “Patients were hesitant to open up.” They had ongoing, difficult patient and staff interactions.
Kim knew that steps needed to be taken to improve the environment and she decided to begin with the patient experience. Her team began to celebrate holidays and host parties for special events. Some days the staff would arrive in costumes and greet patients. Other days, patients were treated to movies during dialysis. Staff played bingo with the patients. On several occasions, they offered patients renal-friendly snacks.
“These small gestures showed patients that we actually care about them,” Kim said.
How did the patients respond to the steps taken to improve patient experience? One patient in particular had difficulty showing up for treatments and working with the clinic staff. This same patient really enjoyed playing Bingo. After Kim and her team engaged with him through Bingo games, he began actively communicating with the team. They learned the patient was attempting to work and make it to dialysis treatments. Now, when he is not able to make a treatment due to his work schedule, he calls and apologizes for missing a treatment. With a better understand of the patient’s situation, Kim has agreed to accommodate the patient’s work schedule. The patient’s improved communication has gotten the attention of many staff. The nephrologist even asked Kim what led to the patient’s positive attitude!
Not every patient was excited about the activities introduced at the clinic. One patient initially declined to participate in the activities. Yet, after spending some time with him and making him feel comfortable, he came around. He dressed up in a costume and had his pictures taken with everyone!
The DCI Eastgate clinic is on the right track. Patients are opening up and communicating with the staff. The staff is finding ways to make reasonable accommodations based on new insights. The atmosphere is much more pleasant. We appreciate Kim and her team finding ways to improve the patient experience. They are embodying the mission, “The care of the patient is our reason for existence,” by making the dialysis experience more comfortable and enjoyable for patients.