Making A Difference One Clinician At A Time

Post Written By Guest Blogger, Renee Herman 

Editors Note: All references to "You" are to Dr. Victor Montori and his work with Minimally Disruptive Medicine

I wanted to start my day by sending you a “thank you!” for your work.  I have no awards to give you, live applause from the audience, or notations that reference your terrific work in journals. Today, from me, I can only give you the experiential, warm hearted “thank you!”

Almost two years ago now, I accepted a position here in the heart of Kansas City (literally a bi-state city) at Saint Luke’s Hospital ‘on the Plaza”.  We are a part of a larger health care system, but this hospital is the heart of the system, in the heart of the city. My ‘title’ has changed several times, which tells you the changing dynamic of what I do.  Most recently, I wear the title of “High Risk Transitional Care Coordinator” which in its simplest description is a role whereby I identify or get referrals for those high risk, complex care, often chronically ill patients who are underinsured and under resourced. From May to December 2014, I received over 150 referrals, and this past year, had over 200.  These referrals came from all over the acute care setting, but also extended into the post acute care setting including several Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH) and Saint Luke’s Home Health Care and Hospice team.  In the acute care setting, I have had referrals from the Emergency Department where our high risk patients are some times first identified, to all inpatient units, including transplant units for heart, kidney and liver. Most often, the referrals come from frustrated staffs who just ‘don’t know what to do with this one’. So, they call me.  There are plans to expand this role into a ‘department’, but in this every changing healthcare environment, new programs like this one that was funded as a ‘pilot’ by a grant, often have as the number one question, “Where do we go from here?.”  So, for now, I am the “department” though I have  found great support by working with area ‘safety net clinics’, other community services, and terrific Community Healthcare Workers who often assist me.

In the midst of gearing up with information for this role, trying to understand my patient population so that I could give them the care and service my patients really needed, I found about your work at Mayo Clinic.  I’m a Minnesotan by birth and have visited Rochester since I was young (side note: it’s where I first learned about the power of illegal drugs from a video I saw at a Mayo learning center. It greatly impacted my life as a grade school child.). I watched Mayo Clinic grow from a ‘hospital/clinic’, to now a ‘health care system’ occupying city blocks! The strong feelings I have about Mayo’s reputation for quality and patient centered care set the stage favorably for you, even before I listened to you on an IHI radiocast.  Again, Mayo Clinic lived up to its reputation in my life and when I heard you talk about your work, it literally made me cry with excitement.  Finally, someone within the medical profession ‘gets it!’  I was seeing what your were describing in my patient population and right then, could name many of my patients who were really trying, but not succeeding, and suddenly it all made sense as to ‘why.’

Now, in working with my patients, I try to really hear them as they set out for me in their own words, what they can and cannot do to manage their own health care. Sometimes, they show me by what they are, or are not doing, what ‘really matters to them’.  It makes sense to me now and I can better explore with them their feelings of ‘never quite feeling like they are ‘measuring up to what they’ve been asked to do by their Doctor or health care team.  Some have even said to me, “It’s impossible!” and now, I can agree. When I ask patients “What Matters to You”, they often look at me and say, “No one has asked me that before”, and they go on to tell me. Interestingly, what seemed “impossible” for them, when broken down into ways that are manageable and meaningful to them, seem more “possible”.  I have story upon story of patients whom I have helped in the “transition” between the hospital and home, the “transition” off of home care and into the PCMH, and from ‘managed health care’ that was put upon them, to ‘self management’ of care that fits with their healthcare priorities.  From the End Stage Renal Disease patient who rides an electric wheelchair daily for 45 minutes to dialysis by bus because she wants to live independently in the only subsidized apartment she could find (we were able to get her a bed, which was what ‘mattered to her’ in her health care plan), to the Heart Failure patient who was illiterate and labeled ‘non-compliant’ (we helped him to log his weight daily because he could read numbers and his ‘self management ’ confidence rose significantly because he now had something he could do to show he was trying to follow his treatment plan, and that was what ‘mattered’ to him),  my ‘tool box’ of ‘helps’ and understanding, has been significantly aided by your work. We have long way to go to actually ‘do’ what your work has shown would actually transform the care of our complex care, chronically ill patients, but even in the basic ways I’ve applied your studies, I’m finding increased satisfaction in my work, less ‘burnout’ from ‘trying to make patients do it our way’, and positive outcomes in the lives of the patients I’m asked to help.

So, from the heart of a very grateful nurse (one who has been in the profession for greater than 35 years and is still learning!), I say “thank you.”  It’s cold here…and I know even colder there, but hopefully today, your heart will be warmed knowing you are making a profound ‘experiential’ difference in the lives of caregivers and patients. Thank you. Thank you.  Keep on!

Renee Herman

Renee’ Herman, RN, BSN, MHSA
High Risk Transitional Care Coordinator
Saint Luke’s Hospital

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