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The Magic of Being Heard

By Donna Vicknair, LPN, Nurse Educator

In 1999, Ochsner expanded its Patient Advocacy Program to the Ochsner Clinic Dialysis Center in New Orleans after initiation of the program in our Houma and Thibodaux Dialysis Units. Our goal is to enhance patients' quality of life, using the Life Options "5 Es" approach to renal rehabilitation.

People on dialysis are the foundation of our Patient Advocacy Panel, with two representatives from each dialysis shift elected by their peers. The support team, headed by Jill Lindberg, MD, Medical Director, includes an RN Manager, Lead RN, LPN-Nurse Educator, Social Worker, Dietitian, and Patient Care Technicians. Voting privileges are reserved for patient members. Patients on the panel can arrange to have dialysis on meeting days (held once a month) to avoid an extra trip to the unit.

The program is based on education and team effort, reinforcing patients' cognitive control over their lives. We've covered educational topics such as:

  • Problem solving
  • Choosing a support system
  • Understanding the diversity of opinions/judgments from others
  • How to communicate effectively: "The magic of being heard"

With support and encouragement from staff, the Patient Advocacy Panel chose to work on these goals, among others:

  • Develop a patient-to-patient mentor program (focused on new and less vocal patients)
  • Plan an Annual Health Fair (a Christmas program with both educational and entertainment components)
  • Create an exercise program called "Pedaling to the New Millennium" (T-shirts are awarded for reaching mileage goals)
  • Contribute to problem solving (such as addressing complaints that the unit is too noisy and proposing solutions to lower the noise level)
  • New ideas for our unit (for example, consider the idea of initiating a pet therapy program)

Outcomes/Benefits

Ochsner's Patient Advocacy Panel is only a few months old, but it's already clear that it gives a stronger voice to patient perspectives. As a nurse educator, I have witnessed a positive change in the levels of panel members' self-esteem and independence. The Advocacy Panel adds clarity to questions, comments, and suggestions from patients. We expect that the creation of the panel will ultimately improve adherence as a direct result of ongoing reinforcement and increased number of interpersonal relationships.

Patients and staff have begun to process problems and solutions on a new level. I've seen patients educating their peers informally, and we hope to eventually have patients provide peer education on a more formal basis. Enthusiasm and motivation are running high as the Ochsner Dialysis Center enters the new millennium!

Name: Donna Vicknair, LPN
Title: LPN-Nurse Educator
Organization: Ochsner Dialysis Center
Address: 1319 Jefferson Highway
New Orleans, LA  70121
Phone: (504) 842-6068
E-mail: dvicknair@ochsner.org
Willing to reply to readers' questions? Yes
Date: November 1999

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