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Search Spring 2014

Pardon Our Dust but Not Our History

Date: June 13, 2014

Campaign highlights historic Johns Hopkins patient accommodations


After Johns Hopkins’ new clinical buildings opened in 2012, everyone was happy…except for patients assigned to rooms in the older historic buildings. Nine medicine units comprising 177 beds will remain in the Meyer, Osler and Halsted buildings until new space becomes available in the renovated Nelson Building in October. Most are shared rooms, and one unit has just one shower for 17 patients.

Many patients with chronic illness seen on these units over the past year and a half spent time in the newer private rooms and started asking why they were back in older rooms, says Karen Davis, director of nursing for the Department of Medicine. Approximately 70 percent are admitted from the Emergency Department, where they may have to wait several hours for a placement and often arrive disgruntled.

“The staff was getting worn down apologizing,” Davis says. “I decided we could continue to complain and be negative, or we could spin it in a new way.”

Thus began a “History in the Making” campaign to turn around patient complaints. Davis had brochures made up that highlight Johns Hopkins’ medical firsts and discuss the institution’s long history of revolutionizing medicine. Nurses and other staff ask patients to partner with them during this time. Davis says she likens it to being at a bed-and-breakfast.

“If you stay in a 200-year-old house, they don’t apologize for having to share a bathroom or hearing the pipes squeak,” she says. “That’s quaint—it’s what you pay for.”

In addition, Davis and colleagues are trying to mimic the new settings. Patients are offered complimentary telephone and television service, and given a laminated card listing the channels. They also are given a welcome bag including a pill organizer, a deck of cards, a sleep mask, ear plugs (to drown out the sounds of nearby jackhammers), lip balm, and a pen and paper to record doctors’ instructions. Recliners and cots are available for relatives to spend the night if space permits. Environmental services staff leave a daily card telling patients their rooms and bathrooms have been cleaned. At discharge, nurses give patients a bright red envelope containing necessary paperwork.

In addition, Davis and colleagues round with patients to assess their satisfaction. And a clinical customer service coordinator will visit patients waiting in the ED for room assignment to assess their needs. “It’s all been positive,” Davis says. “We’re excited the hospital is supporting us.”

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