Better Together: Adult Cystic Fibrosis Clinic
At Michigan Medicine, exceptional patient care, education and research is only possible thanks to the contributions of thousands of employees in dozens of different roles.
Whether it’s a doctor, nurse, therapist, administrative staff member — and everyone in between — team members bring unique strengths to the table and improve the work that is carried out daily.
In its latest series, “Better Together,” Headlines will highlight some of the multidisciplinary teams who understand that Michigan Medicine is enhanced by leaning on everyone’s expertise and abilities. Teams like the faculty and staff in the Adult Cystic Fibrosis Clinic.
Hearing everyone’s voice
The outpatient Adult Cystic Fibrosis Clinic makes its home in Taubman Health Center and is composed of physicians, nurses, social workers, physical therapists, respiratory therapists, a pharmacist, clinical researchers and a registered dietitian nutritionist. They all work together to serve patients with CF, a genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs, but also the pancreas, liver, kidneys and intestines.
“We see most of our patients every three months, so we all know our patients really well,” said Katie Hall, clinical social worker and the CF center coordinator. “And as we treat them, it’s quite clear how important each staff member is when it comes to a patient’s quality of life and continuum of care.”
With that in mind, clinic staff come together once a week to discuss patients — both from a medical perspective and from a psychosocial perspective.
“At these meetings, everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s clinical opinions are taken into account,” Hall said. “A physician may turn to our pharmacist for advice, or our dietitian may ask the social worker what they think.”
Hall said this helps in a number of ways. First, they can bounce ideas off of each other to find the best solution. Next, whenever meeting with a patient, coworkers may be able to gain valuable information for one another.
“Just recently, I knew our dietitian wouldn’t be able to see a certain patient that day as she would be in with another patient, but I knew what she had been hoping to learn,” Hall said. “So I asked the patient myself, and relayed the answer to the dietitian so updates could be made to the patient’s care plan.”
Sharing knowledge, fostering trust
Clinic director Richard Simon, M.D., said CF clinic employees have a well-established culture of respect.
“We work hard to foster a trusting relationship among staff members,” Simon said. “We do that by allowing our teams to share their expertise and knowledge in both informal and formal ways.”
For instance, once a month, a different discipline will present to the entire team new findings, updates about CF or just some of the important work they are carrying out.
“This helps keep all of us up-to-date, and it helps us all realize how impressive our colleagues are,” Simon said. “It becomes quite apparent that it’s important that we lean on one another to provide our patients with a level of care that goes above and beyond what many of them expect.”
It’s not just patients and their own team members that the CF outpatient staff have gotten to know well — they’re also in constant communication with other Michigan Medicine employees.
“We’re in a unique position in that all of our patients are admitted to the same unit whenever they are admitted to the hospital,” Hall said. “So we are always reaching out to the care team on 6C to ensure that every vital piece of information is shared effectively.”
In fact, the inpatient and outpatient teams also come together weekly to talk about patients.
“Because we work so closely with their outpatient providers, our patients are given peace of mind at what is often a time of anxiety,” said Vikas Sood, nurse practitioner on the inpatient pulmonary team. “Communication is the easiest way to ensure nothing is being overlooked and we’re doing all we can to help people.”
The adult CF clinic also works closely together with the pediatric CF clinic so that patients have a seamless transition into their care.
Celebrating and grieving — together
The nature of the CF clinic’s work — and its close-knit sense of community — means the team often shares in successes with one another.
“If one of our patient’s undergoes treatment which improves their lung function, or receives a double lung transplant — those are victories for all of us, on both the inpatient and outpatient teams,” Hall said.
In much the same way, if one of their patients reaches the end of their life, the team will come together to grieve.
“We lean on one another — not just in terms of work and clinical support, but for emotional support, as well,” Hall said. “Because we realize that we’re stronger as a unit. We’re not just individuals who happen to be experts in our fields. By coming together, we help our patients, families and each other as well as we possibly can.”