Monday, November 19, 2007
If you are interested in volunteering for the STAR program, contact Mindy Fontaine at 870-1146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
I have a friend who asks lots of questions. We make fun of her for it, too. But when it comes to health care, which is no laughing matter, I admire my friend's persistent curiosity.
Health care is a team effort. Nurses, physicians, lab and radiology techs, pharmacists, respiratory therapists - all of these and many more play a role in hospital care. As the patient, you are at the center of the team.
Earlier this year, Yampa Valley Medical Center launched a new program - called Safety Teaching using Auxiliary Resources, or STAR - to educate patients about how important it is to be active participants in their health care. Volunteers from the hospital's auxiliary sit down with patients and encourage them to be educated, involved and curious.
"Most patients are pleasantly surprised to be visited by a volunteer who takes the time to communicate this information," said Mindy Fontaine, volunteer services coordinator for the hospital. "It's a way for patients to feel more in control in a place where they may feel vulnerable."
A brief conversation at the beginning of a patient's stay, along with an information packet, educates patients to the ways in which they can be active during their stay at the hospital.
"We hope to break down the barriers between patients and nurses," said Linda Casner, chief nursing officer, safety officer and founder of the STAR program. "It's one effort, among others, we are working on, to help empower patients to speak up about their feelings and concerns."
Casner added that most patients feel intimidated in the hospital environment, especially when they are sick or injured, because it is such a complex and highly technological place. Yet, national studies show that patients who take part in their health care decisions can reduce errors and create better outcomes.
If you tend to be intimidated in a medical setting, consider this: While health care providers may be "the experts" in their field, you are the expert for your body.
The STAR program emphasizes to patients that "it's OK to ask" and "it's OK to speak up." In other words, let caregivers know if you have questions, don't understand why something is happening or you simply need help. Here are just a few examples of how you can take part in your health care:
- Provide your full health information including medications and allergies
- Ask about every medication: its purpose and side effects
- Remind care givers to wash their hands and equipment
- Ask for the results of a test, then ask what they mean
- Ask for help getting out of bed
YVMC provides a notepad and clipboard next to every bed for the nurse and physician to see. Patients are urged by STAR volunteers and nurses to write down any questions they think of during their stay. It helps patients to remember their questions when providers return to the room.
Some patients, due to their medical condition or other factors, may not be able to express themselves clearly. That is when friends or family members are encouraged to act as advocates, using the same STAR techniques while interacting with caregivers.
There are no "stupid questions" or insignificant requests regarding your health. Yampa Valley Medical Center would like you to partner with us to fulfill our mission, "to provide excellent health care to our communities though safe, personalized and quality services."
Riley Polumbus is communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center.