New Resource Center will Help Patients, Caregivers Better Understand Healthcare
Early in her professional career, Joyce Hendershott learned that “patients can sometimes feel like they’ve landed in a foreign country when they enter the healthcare system.”
In other words: Healthcare professionals have their own, sometimes complicated, language that can be confusing to patients.
For example, Hendershott was in the room with a patient years ago. The doctor came in and told the woman that her tests were negative, there was nothing else to be done and she could go home. The doctor left and the woman “had pools of tears in her eyes,” said Hendershott, who then explained to the patient that she’d just received the best-possible news, and that in the medical world, “negative” was a good thing.
“That still resonates with me today,” Hendershott said.
Now, Hendershott is the Director of the Patient Education Department at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute. She and her team work hard to make sure patients, their family and their friends understand basic health information and services. This is crucial in order for patients to make informed decisions and be full participants in their healthcare.
A new Patient and Family Resource Center at the OSUCCC – James, set to open December 5, will help staff better meet the educational and information needs of the hospital’s many and diverse patients and their caregivers. The OSUCCC – James patients have a wide range of cancer types, come from all over Ohio and beyond, and speak a variety of languages.
The Center is 2,760 square feet, about the size of a tennis court, and will be located in the lobby of the hospital, near the grand staircase.
“The mission of the Center is three-fold: To provide support, education and comfort to patients and their caregivers,” Hendershott said, adding a section of the Center will be devoted to each of these areas.
The Center will have comfortable chairs and an informational digital screen. It will also include cell phone and tablet recharging stations. In addition, the Center will provide:
- Trained staff and volunteers to assist families and patients with health information requests
- Print and digital educational materials on specific types of cancer and treatments
- Information on supportive services and community resources
- Computer terminals with Internet access
- Quiet rooms for patients and family members to relax and rest
If you’re an OSUCCC – James patient or have perused the James Patient Education website, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with the work of the Patient Education Department.
“We have put together about 1,000 oncology-specific and printable handouts on the website,” Hendershott said, adding her team also produces the education books that many OSUCCC – James patients receive. And, everything they produce is done with input from the healthcare professionals at the OSUCCC – James to ensure the materials are evidence-based and accurate.
Another goal is to help patients understand all the information and instruction they receive upon discharge, so they can be proactive and remain as healthy as possible.
“We’ve found that even people with a college education prefer their healthcare information at the seventh-grade reading level,” Hendershott said. “We modify information into simple, everyday language, and incorporate bullet points to make it easier to read and understand at a glance.”
The Interpreter Services Office provides onsite interpreters to help educate and aid staff-patient communication when possible. When onsite interpreters aren’t available, a video conferencing system is available 24 hours a day in 150 languages that connects patients in real time to an interpreter.
The most common non-English languages of James patients are: Spanish (31 percent), Nepali (17 percent), Arabic (13 percent), Somali (11 percent), Chinese Mandarin (5 percent) Russian (5 percent) and American Sign Language (5 percent). “Last year our Interpreter Services Office provided translation for a total of 133 languages,” Hendershott said.
The James Patient and Family Resource Center will help make the James Patient Education Department more visible, placing them front and center in the lobby of the OSUCCC – James.
“We are often a behind-the-scenes department,” Hendershott said, adding that she’s excited the Center will provide the opportunity for her team to interact more frequently with patients and family members.
A manager, a full-time and a part-time Program Coordinator will staff the Center. There are plans for small, educational sessions in the Center that will feature OSUCCCC – James experts on topics important to patients and their caregivers.
“We’ll learn a lot in the first year or so and make any necessary adjustments,” Hendershott said. “The needs of our patients and the feedback we get from them will direct everything we do.”
The James Patient and family Resource Center will be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday following its open on December 5.
Patients and caregivers unable to visit the Center may call (614-366-0602) or e-mail a request for information to firstname.lastname@example.org. The information will be delivered to the patient’s hospital room or mailed to their home address at no charge.
Patients and caregivers interested in using one of the respite rooms may stop in or call the Center at 614-366-0602 to reserve a time. The rooms have a recliner, and if desired, visitors can turn on the screen in the room to see visual images set to soothing music.