1493610540003 - Experiencing patients’ struggles all part of hospital empathy zone in Auckland

Experiencing patients’ struggles all part of hospital empathy zone in Auckland

Ensuring patients have a good experience in hospital not only helps them feel happier, it also helps them get better quicker.

This is one of the key reasons why Waitemata DHB, in north and west Auckland, has a policy to enhance patient experience.

The ordeals that patients go through was top of mind last week (April 24 to 28), the DHB’s annual Patient Experience Week.

The week was all about staff putting themselves in patients’ shoes and celebrating initiatives that staff have led to improve patients’ stay, patient experience director David Price said.

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“I’ve been quite humbled by the great work that all of our wards and services are doing for patient experience – not just for the week but all of the time.”

Improving patients’ stay is all about being flexible, and listening to what they say, Price said.

“No one wants to come to hospital, do they? It’s all about providing a welcoming and happy place where people can get better or get back into a more comfortable place,” he said.

“It’s important for patients to have a better patient experience because it leads to better outcomes for them.”

One of the key events of Patient Experience Week was an Empathy Zone, where staff and visitors could experience what some patients go through. While the zone has been used in previous years, this was the first time it was opened at North Shore Hospital for anyone interested.

The Empathy Zone was all about walking in patients’ shoes, Price said.

The zone included a chance to try thickened fluids, which are given to patients with swallowing difficulties to stop them from choking.

Trying to do a task like beading with gloves on simulated syndromes like carpal tunnel, arthritis and peripheral neuropathy – a side effect of chemotherapy.

Mental illnesses and the delirium experienced by many patients was simulated with a headset playing distracting voices.

Visual, auditory and physical impairments were also simulated.

About 50 to 60 people went through the zone while it was at North Shore Hospital on Friday and about the same at Waitakere Hospital, also last week.

Associate director of patient experience Ravina Patel said the Empathy Zone was a great learning experience.

“It’s been really good: I didn’t realise that people go through these things on a daily basis and it really makes you think about putting yourself in their shoes.”

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