Teamwork Proves the Difference

Schwartz Center Rounds is a monthly panel discussion at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics and many other institutions around the country, during which issues surrounding the delivery of compassionate care are addressed. It can be an important venue for providers to unburden themselves and to help one another hone their skills at making personal connections with their patients.

L to R: Judy Stark, MSW; Dan Chakos, MD; Nat Thompson, MD; Jenessa Franco, RN, BSN; Bobbi Fischels, RN, BSN; Jeni Beckman, NA

At the most recent Schwartz Center Rounds, coincidentally on Valentine’s Day, panelists related details surrounding a recent success, in a session that event organizer Jeff Vande Berg described as a “happy debrief.” The title of the session was “Breaking Down Silos” and, through the specific example of one patient story, the panelists demonstrated ways in which collaboration and open communication across disciplines can remove the barriers to efficient and even extraordinary care.

In order to protect patient confidentiality, this article cannot go into as much detail as was shared at the staff-only rounds. In brief, nursing staff became aware that the spouse of a patient in our hospital was suddenly and terminally ill at another regional hospital. Over the course of two brisk hours, the patient’s care team—from the charge nurse to the social worker to the residents and their attending—was successfully able to discharge the patient and have them transported by ambulance to be by that dying spouse’s side before their passing.

Phone calls were made, costs were borne by both our institution and the receiving one, and ultimately, this couple was reunited for one last moment. In telling each of their parts, the panelists were filled with praise for the other members of their team that helped make this possible. In addition, each of them knew the effort was worth it, never questioning the rightness of arranging the transfer. Jeni Beckman was the nursing assistant who first learned of the situation. “Something had to be done,” she said. (It is worth noting that Ms. Beckman recently won a Helping Hands award for a different incident in which she demonstrated outstanding effort. Details are available at The Loop.)

The other members of that care team were Internal Medicine residents Dr. Dan Chakos and Dr. Nat Thompson, social worker Judy Stark, RNs Bobbi Fischels and Jenessa Franco, Chaplain Mary Kay Kusner, and attending Dr. Laurie Lyckholm. Each of them cited still more members at UIHC who should also share in the praise for this above-and-beyond care.

They also all agreed that as stressful and difficult as it can be to work on an oncology floor, it was moments like this that they hang onto. Ms. Franco said, “We see so much and deliver so much bad news, we could not pass up an opportunity to do something this good. I still remember going home that night, being so happy.” Ms. Kusner sounded a similar note. “This was one of those special projects. We knew it would have lasting meaning to the family.” Lasting meaning not just to the family, but to their colleagues here as well.

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