Dr. Dong’s nurse urged me to use the hospital evaluation form (which has not arrived yet, by the way) and document my experiences. She said that too often people don’t think it will make a difference so they don’t take the time to fill out the form. She wanted me to know that the hospital takes feedback very seriously and there are daily meetings to address issues.
I believe her. I trust what she says is true.
But beyond that one nurse’s approach to supporting my recovery on that one afternoon, I don’t have anything specific to report.
People seem genuinely happy to work here. They enjoy each other’s company. That’s apparent walking down the halls.
People care. They want to do a good job. And I think people have done a good job.
It’s this very subtle pattern of communication gaps — assumptions about who patients are, what they are feeling, what they know… That’s something a daily meeting isn’t going to change. You need some major consulting and top down cultural reform. It’s structural.
But this experience is going to keep emotionally compromising me — in new and strange ways. I don’t know when I will be able to trust myself and when I won’t.
Communication gaps can’t be a regular part of the equation.
Seattle Cancer Care Alliance
I called a single toll-free number from a website and got a live person within three rings. This person answered the phone “Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.” This person asked me my diagnosis and within seconds, had me speaking to a person who specialized in that diagnosis.
The specialist told me her name is Krista. She told me what her job was and what she would be doing for me. She gave me a direct number with which to reach her. She told me how many people (three) she worked with and explained that any of them might answer the phone, but I could always ask for her.
She took down information about all of the clinics and hospitals I have been to and said she would immediately begin collecting the records from each of these places. She gave me a timeline of the process. She would collect the data. A team would review the data and treatment plan and then decide exactly how the transfer from Swedish Issaquah to SCCA should happen. She said this could take a while.
It might be a couple of days before she got back to me. (HEART HEART HEART!!)
Overlake did a good job as well. The Breast Center, at the time, was opaque and overwhelming. I never knew who was what (doctor? tech? warm towel lady?) or what the process was and the reasoning behind it. But Overlake Oncology was great.
A team of doctors met every week to discuss my case (SCCA does this as well). The staff at the front desk knew who I was immediately, the first day. They talked to me and interacted with me in a manner that indicated they saw me, Suzy. They knew everyone in that waiting room by name. They knew who they expected to see each day. They called and arranged for procedures requested and provided me with all kinds of context about where to go, who to see, where to park.
The nurses knew us all, too. Even the first day.
At Issaquah, in the Oncology waiting room, Francois and I watched one cancer patient after another, regulars, you could tell, try and start up a conversation with the staff at the front desk. The staff weren’t rude. But there was no delight or pleasure evident. Each patient was animated, outgoing, looking for connection, letting the brightness of their heart and soul shine through. The responses from staff were reserved, clinical, factual.
The only positive thing about that waiting room, said Francois, was the therapy dog that walked through.
So there really isn’t anything wrong to report.
It’s just not right.