“Going from the ICU to the ward is frightening”

2012-06-04 ICU to Ward BB featured
Heather Thiessen has lots of experience receiving care in the ICU. She shared this sentiment with a team from Saskatoon Health Region last week as part of  an exercise to “mistake proof” the transfer of patients from intensive care or progressive care units (ICU/PCU) to a ward at St. Paul’s Hospital.  (I was participating on the team, as part of Lean certification training.) Heather’s comment brought home for me that improving care processes is about so much more than just reducing waits and eliminating waste.
Heather Thiessen (seated, left) and other members of the Mistake Proofing team: Patti Simonar, Janice Walker, Cherryl Walter, and Lisa White.

If we hadn’t taken the time to chat with Heather, and hear first-hand what a patient experiences when she is about to be transferred to a different care setting, I know I would have gotten caught up in the mechanics of watching the process, timing it with a stopwatch, and furiously scribbling notes and drawing pictures and maps of what I saw.  All of the providers we met patiently answered our questions about what they do when a patient moves from the ICU or PCU to a ward. And they appeared genuinely interested in and supportive of mistake proofing this process. But without Heather’s powerful words about the worry that she and other patients like her face at this point in their care journey, we would have overlooked this critical aspect of a process we were trying to improve.

Even when our customer is right in front of us (as they are in health care), it can be very easy to not see them or hear them.  We get busy. We get focused on the task at hand.  And we fool ourselves into thinking that we know everything, including what patients need and want.  Ensuring defect-free or safe care for every patient, every time, is essential. Heather’s words reminded me that we must also reach out and learn from our customers what we can do to makes their care experience exceptional. Thanks Heather.


Photo credit for IV image: timsamoff

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2 Responses to ““Going from the ICU to the ward is frightening””

  1. Heather Thiessen
    June 4, 2012 at 11:50 pm #

    Thank you Bonnie! That was an exciting day for me as well. As being the” frequent flyer in the ICU”, it was nice for a change to be asked what I thought.

    Changes in the health care system is exciting to see and especially changes within the ICU. Including patients and families in rounding and really engaging them in the care process makes for a happier experience all around. Being asked about the move from ICU to the ward may seem like a easy task but to a patient used to 24 hour constant care from nurses and other ICU staff, back to the ward where a nurse may have 7 or more patients to care for is frightening. The ICU patient gets used to having someone available to help them at a moment notice, where on the ward they may feel they are interupting and keeping the nurse they have away from something more important.

    Seeing that steps were looked at to try and make this transition easier for me the patient and my family helps me to know the next time I maybe in the ICU, my family and I won’t have to feel uneasy.

    • Bonnie Brossart
      Bonnie Brossart
      June 5, 2012 at 6:23 am #

      Heather – Observing and walking the handover process from ICU/PCU to ward last week was an incredibly informative and humbling experience. While I thought at times how intruding it must feel to both providers and patients to have someone with a stopwatch and clipboard close by – I really appreciated how graciously and thoughtfully you and the other patients and their families shared with me your concerns and great ideas for future improvements.

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