Sarah Roberts shares her experience as a Patient Experience supervisor at the OSUCCC – James during the COVID-19 pandemic.

May 22, 2020 – The image of “front-line health care workers” tends to be the people caring for patients. Yet, the Patient Experience teams are the first points of contact for every patient entering The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Our teams are on the front lines for patients arriving for their first visit—it might be after a three-hour drive or a 24-hour flight. A Patient Experience team member helps them begin their health-care journey.

Our teams are the very definition of “front-line health care workers.”

I work at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center—Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC—James). Many of our patients are facing the unknown. They are scared. Our first encounters often lead to long-term relationships that we deeply value. We learn their names, the names of their significant others and children. They share what cancer they are battling, how many treatments they have left and milestones completed.

Our staff, like those throughout the medical system, have been adjusting to changing schedules, shifts and responsibilities since COVID-19 came to the state. Some Patient Experience representatives have been tasked to staff the screening tables stationed throughout the medical center hospitals and outpatient areas. Others are staffing COVID-19 screening stations and temperature checkpoints. Patient advocates who used to make in-person patient rounds are now leading and staffing screening stations, delivering food to front line workers and handling questions about the visitor policy under COVID-19.

Many things have changed; but as the medical center reopens, many remain the same.

We are still the first point of contact for patients. We are the ones who ask screening questions regarding a patient’s personal health and asking them what appointment they have. At the same time, we let patients and visitors know we are in this with them. We joke with them, ask them about their day. We make them feel welcome.

Clinical and non-clinical teams at The James look to the Patient Experience team for answers to a range of questions. Do we offer laundry service? What time is valet parking available? Is there anything we can do for my patient who has a birthday or anniversary today? My patient is upset; would an advocate please come talk to them?

COVID-19 causes tremendous anxiety for family members who must leave their loved one behind in the hospital. Now, we are answering much different questions. Are you sure they’ll take care of him? Will they call me if they need me? Will they call me once the doctor is in the room? My wife and I haven’t spent a night apart in 50 years; may I call the nurse and check on her? How long is this going to last? Will it be forever?

Through all the challenges, the Patient Experience team continues to honor and display the values of inclusiveness, determination, empathy and sincerity. I’m proud to be a member of the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center and its Patient Experience teams.

Sarah Roberts
Patient Experience Supervisor
The James Patient Experience Department

Sarah Roberts

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