UW Hospital and Clinics Lauded for Exemplary Visitation Policies

Older couple in hospital room with nurse and doctorMadison, Wisconsin - Citing a "profound culture shift," the Institute for Patient-and Family-Centered Care (IPFCC) recognized University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics as one of only 12 hospitals in the country that "exemplify success in eliminating restrictive visiting policies" and embrace the idea that a patient's designated support people should have 24-hour access to the patient's bedside.


The IPFCC is launching the "Better Together" campaign, calling on hospitals to change their approach to care so that families and loved ones are included in care and decision-making according to patient preferences.


The organization says the 12 hospitals "understand how important it is to partner with patients' families instead of treating them as outsiders who are interfering in their loved one's care."


In 2007, UW Hospital and Clinics changed its visitation policy. Helena Scherer-Jones, director of patient relations and patient/family partnerships, says that over time, the philosophy around visitors and corresponding policies has evolved and changed.


The former policy was system-centered, and not designed around the needs of patients and families. The term "visitor" was universally applied, and family members and close friends the patient wanted present had to leave the hospital after visiting hours unless they received special approval from the nurse manager.


"Our philosophy started to shift," she said. "The patient and those who support him or her are key links in the circle of care. Now, the patient chooses ‘primary supports' – those people they want present during their hospitalization. Primary supports can be with that patient 24/7 – they are not subject to visiting hours."


"Evidence suggests that stress and anxiety may impede the healing process," said director of medical nursing Ann Malec. "When patients are admitted to the hospital, they are placed in a very vulnerable state. Therefore, enhancing processes that encourage primary supports to remain with the patient may improve the patient's ability to relax and return to a state of wellness. As the health care team works with patients and families to identify the patient's plan of care, we consider primary supports as an integral part of the process."


The change went more smoothly than anticipated, Scherer-Jones said, and the benefits go beyond mere emotional support for the patient. Often, "primary supports" will be involved in the patient's care after hospital discharge. Being present during the hospitalization helps attune them to issues and concerns that might arise when the patient goes home.


Both Scherer-Jones and vice president for Quality and Safety Sue Sanford-Ring credit hospital President and CEO Donna Katen-Bahensky with being a committed advocate for patient- and family-centered care. Katen-Bahensky supports strong partnerships between patients, families and their treatment providers.


The IPFCC said the 12 "exemplar" hospitals were chosen based on certain criteria, including making system-wide changes to accommodate family presence and participation. UW Hospital and Clinics has a robust patient and family advisory council system to advise hospital leaders on a broad range of topics. UW Hospital and Clinics is the only Wisconsin hospital on the list.

Date Published: 06/25/2014

News tag(s):  recognition

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