Providing Patient and Family Centered Care

‘They Lead With Their Hearts’

Discharge Care Call Center nurses never rest. Angel Burgess, BSN, MJ, RN, phoned to check on a fall-risk patient who reported ongoing fatigue and pain. Burgess learned the elderly woman did not have a bed in her home. Instead, she was sleeping on storage bins draped with a blanket. “I told her that I might be able to do something about that, if she didn’t mind,” said Burgess. “I try to be respectful of boundaries.”

With the help of her colleagues, Burgess was able to secure a bed for the patient. Donna Morrone, BSN, RN, donated a bed frame and mattress set; Barbara Engel, BSN, RN, and Lynn Nitz, BSN, RN, bought pillows and bedding, and Burgess arranged for her husband and daughter to deliver the bed. The heartfelt mission came to light when Sunitha Sastry, MPH, a director in the Patient Experience and Engagement Program, asked her team why bags of pillows were in the office. “It’s really telling about who we have here,” Sastry said. “They lead with their hearts.”

Sunitha Sastry, MPH, at the podium, celebrates the Discharge Care Call Center team at a recent Making A Difference Every Day Best Practices Forum honoring their exemplary patient and family centered care. From left: Lynn Nitz, BSN, RN, Angell Burgess, BSN, MJ, RN, Barbara Engel, BSN, RN, and Donna Morrone, BSN, RN.

Committed to Improving the Patient Experience

The University of Chicago Medicine is consistently recognized for patient satisfaction and care in part because nurses are driven by a desire to create positive experiences for patients and their families. Because it’s a focus of the institution, UChicago Medicine nurses are provided the additional tools to make a difference in patients’ lives.

  • Through Leading hArtfully, a program that encourages nurses and other providers to recognize an individual’s ability to positively influence each patient encounter, nursing leaders are empowered to build up members of their teams. They shine a light on the strengths-based approach to what nurses do beautifully today and enable them with communications tools they can use to enhance the care experience for patients and their families.
  • UChicago Medicine’s most recent biannual nursing retreat was dedicated to the hArt of Medicine program, focusing on how nursing leadership and the Nurse Practice Council can most effectively share the value of nursing efforts and create opportunities to share best practices. Nursing leaders set the stage to encourage their staffs to share their experiences and share what their colleagues are doing well to facilitate discussions and draw attention to the skills and techniques that create an exemplary patient experience.
  • To encourage and reward caregivers and staff for going above and beyond to create exceptional patient experiences, UChicago Medicine created the Making a Difference Every Day program. Through this program nurses, physicians, staff and patients nominate their peers for instances of exemplary work that goes above and beyond their regular jobs to bring care, comfort and improved patient and family outcomes. This institution-wide employee recognition initiative also recognizes care givers that improve their workplace for their colleagues and teammates.

“I receive about two nominations each day for the Making a Difference program, which is a testament to the incredible work of our nurses who exemplify our values and pride in our commitment to our patients across every unit, every day,” said Steve Perkins, manager of the Guest Services Program and Patient & Family Insights Department.

Healing Garden

In early August, the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital opened the Healing Garden, a space designed to promote peaceful recuperation based on ideas put forth by patients, families, nurses and staff.

Families expressed interest in the creation of a space where children receiving care at Comer Children’s could access a calming area that promoted healing through play and nature. The Healing Garden has musical instruments, art easels, ball rolls and a path through nature that is wide enough for patients who are in bed to be wheeled through with IV poles and any other equipment they need.

Nurses provided key input on the design of the Healing Garden, along with staff and the Comer Family and Teen Advisory Boards, to ensure the Healing Garden is accessible to all patients. In addition to wide walkways, there are power outlets throughout the garden, so children whose treatment requires additional equipment can enjoy the garden.

Nurses throughout Comer Children’s bring patients outside so they can get fresh air, and the Healing Garden provides them a peaceful space around flowers, trees and other plants they would find in their backyard or in parks around their home.

“We all wanted to create a play space that would be accessible to all children,” said Jennie Ott, MS, CCLS, director of Child Life and Family Education. “Our nurses often bring children outside so they can get fresh air and are the caregivers who are oftentimes the closest with families, so their input was incredibly valuable as we developed the Healing Garden.”

Remoc greets a Comer patient at the Healing Garden

Remoc cuts the ribbon at the grand opening of the Healing Garden with Comer patients, Emily Lowder, PhD, RN, NE-BC, FACHE, vice president of Comer Children’s Hospital and Advanced Practice Nursing Services


Comer patients enjoy playing in the Healing Garden

Comer Family Advisory Board

The Comer Family Advisory Board was created in 1996 so patient families could share their valuable feedback and ideas of how UChicago Medicine can create and expand services that best meet patients and families’ evolving needs.

The board typically consists of seven or eight families, plus four to six UChicago Medicine staff and meets roughly eight times a year. The Teen Advisory Board has a similar composition, with about six to eight teens aged 11 to 18 years old meeting with UChicago Medicine staff about eight times a year.

“The Comer Family Advisory Board has worked with our nurses to provide the patient and family perspective on nurse-led efforts, such as our parent oncology education tool, and to ensure that we’re providing the care that families need,” said Jennie Ott, MS, CCLS, director of Child Life and Family Education.

The Comer Family Advisory Board plays a key role in planning at Comer Children’s. The Healing Garden, larger patient rooms and common spaces with sleeping areas to accommodate family members, among other recent initiatives, were ideas that began with the Comer Family Advisory Board. Nursing leaders, patient families and staff are on the board to ensure that there is meaningful two-way communication between families and Comer Children’s.

“The board has made so many impactful contributions,” said Ott, “and as we look at how we can evolve the board, we are working on expanding the nursing perspective that is represented through staff nurse membership.”

Patient, Family Education Key Contributor to Positive Outcomes

Knowing that strong patient and family education positively influences patient outcomes, nurses on the sixth floor of the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital drove the creation of resources for parents whose children have received their first cancer diagnosis.

“We realized there is a real lack of education for patients and families, and that we didn’t have enough standardized content to guide patients on their journey,” said Suja Stanly, MSN, RN, patient care manager on Comer 6. “We were fortunate to have the ability to assemble a committee that could do a deep dive on the areas of opportunity and build a plan to develop a helpful resource to families.”

The resulting Gold Packet of educational materials was completed in October 2017. It was reviewed by the UChicago Medicine’s health literacy team and incorporated feedback from the Comer Family Advisory Board. The GOLD Packet went live on both Comer 6 and the cancer clinic on May 25, 2018.


The packet includes:

  • Information to support parent and caregiver training sessions to help them understand the medical care their child will receive and how to support their treatment.
  • What to expect at home, including instructions on how to take care of a central line, how to access emergency care, infection precautions and how to identify adverse side effects and medical emergencies.

“When families are presented with a diagnosis of cancer it is devastating. The amount of information presented can be mind boggling,” said staff nurse Michael Manion, MSN, RN, CPHON, CPNP. “The Gold Packets help to introduce a considerable amount of material and present it in a systematic way that helps guide the families, while keeping them invested in the process. Participating in this way helps empower them on this journey toward caring for their child.”

An interdisciplinary group of providers, clinic and inpatient managers, the unit educator and staff nurses from both the Comer pediatric cancer center and inpatient units conducted literature reviews, surveys and bench markings. They studied the state of patient and family education practices at UChicago Medicine and recognized the value to the patient and their families of high-quality education materials.

“We’ve already seen how much it helps parents as they embark on a tough journey,” Stanley said.

Nurses across the care continuum within our pediatric hematology/oncology service line partnered to create patient and family friendly education that helps parents and patients navigate difficult times. From left: Colleen McIntyre, MSN, RN, Michael Manion, MSN, CPNP, CPHON, Sujay Stanly, MSN, RN, Natalie Velazquez, BSN, RN, CPN, CPHON, Kelly Kramer, APN, Emily Matchett, BSN, RN, CPN, CPHON, Maggie Rudersdorf, MSN, RN, CNE.

Best Practices Forum

The video below shows a recap of a typical Making a Difference Every Day Best Practices Forum, an innovative learning lab featuring a patient/care team panel discussing positive health care experiences.

Our guest for this forum was Maggie Murphy. In late December 2015, Maggie was brought to UChicago Medicine by helicopter fighting for her life. Though a generally healthy, 28 year-old music therapist, she had been spiraling downhill for a week. This video of her care highlights the important partnership between patients, their families and caregivers at UChicago Medicine. Though she has fully recovered, her father Rich, mother Donna and Maggie have been back at UChicago Medicine many times and continue to partner with us, most recently by sharing their story to newly accepted medical student at UChicago Pritzker School of Medicine.