By Cindy Herman
For The Daily Item
LEWISBURG —– “You’re Lynn, 102,” an intensive care patient at Evangelical Community Hospital told Lynn Yannes, a registered nurse, after she’d introduced herself before tending to him. The patient explained he’d been there two days, and she was the 102nd person to assist in his care.
The seemingly high number, however, includes only the people he saw, not the others working behind the scenes — from maintaining the parking areas to cooking, processing data and overseeing daily routines — who together provide a patient experience that has earned Evangelical the Healthgrades Outstanding Patient Experience Award.
What makes it even sweeter: Evangelical has won it five years in a row.
“I give credit to our human resources folks,” said Michael N. O’Keefe, president and CEO of Evangelical. “They find that something special in the folks they recruit and hire who have a caring aspect for what they do.”
From the clinicians who help the patients to the support staff that helps the clinicians, he stressed, “There are no unimportant roles here.”
The award places Evangelical in the top 15 percent of hospitals nationwide for a consistent positive patient experience and only one of two in the state.
Paul E. Tarves, vice president of nursing administration, said Evangelical is a true prototype of a community hospital: Staff members and patients know each other through neighbors, friends or family.
“For the patients who are here, it’s almost impossible to avoid a connection somewhere,” he said, adding that creates an almost built-in system of checks and balances for patient care. “It’s priceless. That aspect is so striking to me.”
The men’s enthusiasm for their hospital showed as they pointed out its winning combination of compassion and expertise. The hospital is on track to perform 500 cardiac catheterizations in its new Cardiac Center this year, O’Keefe said, and as impressive as that number is, even more impressive are the outcomes, which are “nothing short of phenomenal.”
“The staff cares about what they do,” O’Keefe said, “and they are very technically proficient.”
Originally from the Philadelphia area, Tarves finds Evangelical’s number of board-certified physicians — well over 100 — incredible for a 130-bed hospital, and he compared its new surgical suite to “Star Trek,” saying, “Our capabilities are clearly second to none.”
Still, it comes back to the human touch.
“Patients expect that we have the technology,” Tarves said, “but what they’re really expecting is, ‘Is someone going to hold my hand when I’m scared during a procedure?’”
Greeting people with a smile. Maintaining clean facilities. Offering to walk patients to their destinations rather than just giving directions. And yes, comforting them through painful or scary procedures. These are the things patients in post-treatment surveys say they appreciate.
Both men cited Dr. J. Lawrence Ginsburg for his commitment to addressing patient care.
“He has set the standard so much, not just for the patients but also for the employees,” O’Keefe said. “He has led the charge.”
Tarves recalled an Evangelical employee who told him of the great experience she had as a patient and how proud she was of her co-workers. O’Keefe noted the care his own mother-in-law received, even before staffers realized they were tending to the CEO’s relative.
Evangelical respects the individual, O’Keefe said. At employee orientations, he shares such examples. “This is how we do it here. The Evangelical way, or the Evangelical culture.”
In addition to the Patient Experience honor, Healthgrades also recognized Evangelical with these awards: Five-Star Recipient for Treatment of Heart Attack, two years in a row (2012-13), Five-Star Recipient for Total Hip Replacement (2013), Five-Star Recipient for Gastrointestinal Procedures and Surgery, two years in a row (2012-13), and Five-Star Recipient for Treatment of Sepsis, six years in a row (2008-13).
“We try to have people who are empathetic to patients’ pain and anxiety,” O’Keefe said. “Regardless of an employee’s position, Evangelical prepares them to help.”