When I was growing up, I wanted to be a scientist because I just knew that I was going to find a cure for cancer. But then my grandma, Catherine Crowther, influenced me to become a nurse.
My family lived in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was an only child, and I spent every summer with my grandmother in Brooklyn, New York. She would take me to work with her.
My grandmother was a nurse advocate. She advocated for the rights of people with disabilities and their access to healthcare in the state of New York. While every nurse is a patient advocate, nursing advocacy is a profession in which the nurse is dedicated to working on behalf of patients to maintain quality of care and protect patients’ rights. My grandmother drove meaningful legislative change through her activism.
Consider an MRI machine in a hospital. Can someone with a disability access that machine? My grandmother made sure that type of question was always asked and worked to make sure an accessible machine would be made available. As another example, women with disabilities have gone undiagnosed with breast cancer because they couldn’t access a mammography machine. My grandmother worked to be sure they could.
When I was 18 and planning to go to college, I found myself wavering from my goal of becoming a research scientist and considering nursing as a career. I talked about it with my grandmother. She said, “You don’t have to put the research aside. There are nursing researchers.”
I told myself that whether I was at the bedside or not, I wanted to be an advocate for the patient.
I decided I would like nursing better. I liked the idea of engaging with people, advocating for them, and seeing them get better. I told myself that whether I was at the bedside or not, I wanted to be an advocate for the patient.
In my role today with Vocera, I engage frequently with hospital leaders, managers, providers, and nurses about how to make their communication more efficient and more effective. When we’re designing and building communication systems, I always make it a point to talk to them about what the patient experiences and how to make the patient’s engagement and the coordination of care even better with Vocera. I make sure we’re keeping the patient at the center.
An example that stands out for me happened while I was working with a hospital in Brooklyn.
I learned that a lot of the hospital’s patients were not coming back for their follow-up physician visit after discharge. An appointment would be scheduled for them, but they wouldn’t show up.
The hospital ran a patient survey and learned that patients felt that the appointments were being scheduled without including them in the conversation. No one was engaging with them to ask something as simple as, “What day and time work for you?” or, “Do you have transportation?”
We helped the hospital to change the patient follow up visit scheduling workflow. In the new workflow, a nurse wearing the Vocera Badge contacts central scheduling directly from a patient’s bedside. The nurse just presses a button on the Badge and says, “Call Central Scheduling.” The nurse can then include the patient in scheduling the appointment, and in coordinating transportation if needed.
The hospital’s analyst told me that patient attendance at physician follow-up visits increased by 40% after implementing this workflow.
Usually when we think of Vocera we think about throughput or emergent workflows like Code Blue or Code STEMI. We forget about the simple things that are meaningful for patients, like making sure they have a visit scheduled that works for them so they can come back and see their doctor.
This is an example of how watching my grandmother advocate for people with disabilities to make sure they had access to health care impacted me. I keep her lessons at the forefront of my mind as I advocate for patients in the way I think about communication.