At Palmetto Health, volunteer patient advocates tell it like it is...
Chip Sharpe, a retired Department of Natural Resources officer and volunteer patient advocate for Palmetto Health, was visiting a family member at a Palmetto Health hospital when he noticed something that bothered him. Hospital employees were not washing their hands as often as he thought they should. Sharpe voiced his concern.
Rather than taking offense, Palmetto Health welcomed the honest feedback from Sharpe and other volunteers like Sandra Brannon, a retired nurse, who participate on Palmetto Health's Quality Steering Committee and "tell it like it is."
Joel Nesbitt, manager, Clinical Quality and Patient Safety at Palmetto Health, says volunteer patient advocates are playing an important role in making the health system safer. "We initiated a hand hygiene campaign in February 2008 to reduce hospital-acquired infections. Chip's observations in one of our care units identified a problem and later confirmed progress. Today I'm pleased to report that based on our most recent observations, our compliance with hand washing is an astounding 97 percent."
Nesbitt adds, "This improvement has played a role in our reduction of hospital-acquired infections and is a direct result of the input we received from our volunteer patient advocates."
The Palmetto Health volunteer patient advocates are never satisfied with the status quo and continually challenge the Quality Steering Committee to see things from the patient's perspective. Sharpe knows his input is taken to heart. "I have observed issues related to quality and patient safety being addressed openly and honestly. Where opportunities for change are presented, change occurs."
Nesbitt believes all hospitals would benefit from volunteer patient advocates. "They speak to where our hearts and minds are, they bring transparency to difficult issues, and their points are relevant and on target. Most of all, they are making a difference in the lives of our patients, families and employees," he says.