From The Patients Perspective

Sometimes being confronted with a failure can be viewed as a negative experience, and sometimes it is a blessing in disguise. Working in healthcare, I visit with patients daily to check in on their hospital experience. I ask them about the nurses, doctors, ancillary departments and performance, and I always include questions about cooking and cleaning since these are two areas I am responsible for.  Today I got more than I bargained for, and I feel so much better for it!

I visited with a patient who has been in our hospital for a few days, so she has had a first-hand look at how we operate. I introduced myself, explained that I was there to check in, see what we are doing well, and to get feedback from her on what we can do better. The discussion started out on a positive note; she loves the nursing staff, they have been very attentive and responsive to her needs. The physicians that she has been in contact with have spent the time to explain her plan of care with her. She had a minimally invasive procedure today, and provided great reviews about the Radiology staff.

With all these rave reviews, I assumed that she was perfectly happy, but I asked the question that most generates feedback, “What can we do better?” I had no idea what I was in for.

faceAn immediate scowl appeared, and she bluntly said, “The food here sucks!” I explained that Dietary is one of my areas of responsibility, and that I really wanted to get her feedback on her entire food experience. She was very forthcoming with detail, and was a surprisingly descriptive storyteller.  She was incredibly unhappy with the majority of the food she had been served; she doesn’t like cinnamon, so the French toast we provided her was not acceptable. She is not a fan of gravy or sauces, doesn’t like the way we cook our scrambled eggs, we provide some weird combinations of vegetables, and some of our desserts are too dry. Not every statement was negative, she had enjoyed her lunch today, and her dinner yesterday was really very tasty, even if it did have gravy on it. With all of the feedback, I asked her what she thought we could do to better satisfy her needs. As a lifelong “cook from scratch”, she was very articulate, and gave me a list of things she would like to see on the menu. She told me what she liked to have for breakfast, she would really like to have any sauces or gravy placed as a side instead of on her food, and she told me what her favorite types of desserts were. I told her I would have notations put on her menu choices so that her likes and dislikes are better identified, and I told her I would follow-up with her tomorrow to see if these little tweaks improve her experience.

I put the changes in place, and wrote down all of her comments so I can share them with my Dietary team tomorrow morning. I do have to say, my knee jerk response to her first statement was to defend our work. But instead I listened to everything she had to say, and apologized for disappointing her. As I left, I thanked her for her input, and told her that her feedback allows us to make changes and improve. It was a perfect lesson for me; every person has a different experience, but every experience is important.

Have you ever had a bad hospital experience? I would love to hear about it.

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2 thoughts on “From The Patients Perspective

  1. It’s interesting how easy it is to become a “defender” of how things are done, even though you’ve asked for feedback. I like the advice Marshall Goldsmith gives on receiving feedback that may be uncomfortable. Just say “Thank you.” Don’t defend. Don’t offer excuses. Just say thank you. Nice post.


    1. So true Wally! I am happy to report, we were able to turn this patients negative experience into a positive-by the end of her stay, she was raving about the food and our team. She was very impressed in our immediate service recovery. And my team was able to take a humbling experience and turn it into a successful process improvement. Thank you for the feedback, and the value that your input provides.


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