Patients silenced by COVID-19 now have a voice thanks to a new initiative at Stony Brook University Hospital (SBUH). In April, hospital staff began reaching out to loved ones of patients, many of whom are intubated and unable to speak, to learn more about each patient’s personal story in order to enhance meaningful interactions with patients during their hospitalization. Details about their favorite music, TV shows and other interests are gathered and organized in a “My Story” document with pictures of each respective patient. These are then posted inside and outside the patient room to help caregivers get to know the patients they are treating, and who cannot communicate for themselves.
In just one week, all families with loved ones in the ICU were called to participate and all agreed.
A nursing team including Carolyn Santora, MS, RN, Chief of Regulatory Affairs; Susan Robbins, MS, RN, CPPS, Assistant Director of Nursing; Grace Propper, MS, RN, CPNP, NNP-BC, Director of Quality Improvement; Lisa Reagan, MS, Patient Coordinator; and Nurse Practitioner April Plank, drew inspiration for the idea from the “My Story” program originally created for patients with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia by Carolyn O’Neill, Elder Life Coordinator at Stony Brook Medicine.
“It’s such an unprecedented time with no visitors. ‘My Story’ is giving families an opportunity to tell us about their loved one that we are caring for,” said April Plank. “We have had nothing but great feedback from both families and patients.”
In early April, Plank also helped bring to fruition the “Face Behind the Mask.” Frontline workers at SBUH began wearing staff ID pictures on their gowns while interacting with patients so they can see the full face of the staff member caring for them. The program helps patients, many of whom are battling COVID-19, get to know their caregivers by sight. The Face Behind the Mask has since been deployed throughout the hospital.