Easing family worry during a long wait

March 2, 2023  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership

In the past, families at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center (CVC) often endured long waits for loved ones undergoing cardiac surgery, waiting several hours before receiving any word of their loved one’s condition or progress of the procedure.

Patients and families shared feedback with CVC faculty and staff that periodic updates during the surgery would have gone a long way toward easing their concerns.

A multidisciplinary team of CVC leadership, nurses, clerks, doctors, Office of Patient Experience staff and patient advisors came together to improve the experience for these patients and families. The process involved cardiac surgery, thoracic surgery, vascular surgery and radiology.

“Having been on the other end, I know how scary it is to be waiting with no word from the room”, said Shannon Nitchie, R.N. 

Previously, waiting family members received a pager after check-in. Automatic updates were sent to pagers at certain points during the surgery process. However, from the point of “procedure/incision start” to “procedure/dressing end”, five to eight hours could pass with no new information. See figure 1 for details about the notification process.

Figure 1 OR notification process

Now, with a new workflow implemented by this team, family members receive updates every two hours. A nurse in the OR tracks the progress on a white board and provides updates to the clerk who sends a notice via the pager to the family. The new workflow kicked off in June 2022.

“I’m really happy we’ve started this initiative. I think being health care professionals, we become desensitized to how scary it is to be in the waiting room while a loved one undergoes surgery for hours on end, with no idea what’s happening,” said Shayne Hearns, R.N. “It’s nice to be able to deliver some peace of mind, however small, to them.”