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Lismore Base Hospital patient experience officers, from left, Tracey Barker, Matt Wenban and Kyleen Collins. Image: contributed

A friendly face on the frontline

Enter the Emergency Department (ED) at Tweed Heads, Lismore, Ballina and Grafton and you will be greeted by the newest member of the ED Team, the ‘Patient Experience Officer’ (PEO).

The $8.6 million expansion of the NSW Government’s award-winning Patient Experience Program will see four hospitals in Northern NSW Local Health District welcome new Patient Experience Officers to their emergency departments.

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said an additional 86 staff will be recruited to 50 hospitals across NSW, with COVID-19 clinics a priority, as part of the Australian-first program.

“This valuable program has proven to be a huge help to patients and carers during what is often a very worrying time, ensuring they receive all the information and support they need from the minute they arrive in our care,” Mr Hazzard said.

“The additional full-time staff will welcome patients and their families and provide them with directions and information about what to expect at each stage of their care and treatment. The extra support will go a long way as we continue to combat COVID-19.”

The Lismore Base Hospital was part of the first NSW Health pilot project to improve the patient and carer experience in the ED, established in November 2018.

PEO at Lismore, Tracey Barker, has been at the forefront of the pilot program since it began.

“People are often at their most vulnerable when they present to hospital for help,” Ms Barker said.

“The hospital can be an unfamiliar place and it may be difficult to know where to go and who to get help from, but Patient Experience Officers are a friendly face, providing guidance and reassurance to our patients right from the moment they come in the door.”

The PEO concierge is a non-clinical role and making everyone feel welcome and listened to is a key component of improving the experience for people coming to hospital.

As part of the program patients receive:

❖ Access to free Wi-Fi, mobile phone charging stations, additional power points, water and other refreshments
❖ Information sent to their mobile device about what to expect during their stay
❖ Fact sheets on their particular condition/ treatment options
❖ Ongoing care instructions after discharge, available in multiple languages.

Since the four NSW pilot sites implemented the program, there have been increases in compliments to staff, with patient and carer feedback showing a 30 per cent improvement in overall emergency department satisfaction.

At Lismore Base Hospital, the patient feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, with many patients reporting they appreciate the great service in the Emergency Department.

Lismore ED Nursing Unit Manager, Ricky Brown, said that the role significantly reduces the workload of non-clinical related activity, allowing clinicians to focus on their speciality.

“The ED staff see great value in the role, both to staff as well as patients and carers,” Mr Brown said.

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