Scaling new heights to provide an exceptional Patient Experience

Paula Calestagne

Paula Calestagne is the first in Quebec to be certified as a Patient Experience Professional (CPXP), but it is an achievement she shares freely with providers throughout our CIUSSS.

“I set on this journey myself, but whatever I learn, I bring back to everyone,” says Ms. Calestagne, a Patient Experience, Quality and Safety Advisor for CIUSSS West-Central Montreal.

“As a formal leader in patient experience, I strategize with internal quality advisors throughout the network, but meaningful improvements in the quality of patient, client and user experience can only come about if we’re all engaged.”

And engaged she has been, since long before Ms. Calestagne earned this international designation through the Patient Experience Institute*. As Patient Satisfaction Program Coordinator at the Jewish General Hospital since 2001, she says of the Quality team, “We’ve been helping people get feedback from patients for over 20 years. We assess their needs and experiences through patient surveys and other means, such as shadowing patients and involving former patients as advisors.”

“When we set about developing best practices, we begin by valuing the patient’s voice, because they help us understand what matters most to them and their families when they come through our doors. They are the best—and often the only—source of this information. And we return for a follow-up to make sure that the improvements we put in place meet—or hopefully even exceed—their expectations.”

Building partnerships with patients is only part of the equation, though, insists Ms. Calestagne. “Think of me as a resource, a coach, for clinical and non-clinical departments as well, for clerical and frontline staff, for housekeeping. We all belong to the improvement team, every staff member contributes to the overall patient experience.”

Ms. Calestagne points out that in commercial fields, staff are trained in customer service, and learn how to deescalate a situation. “How can we improve these interactions in a sector where people are often at their most vulnerable? At every opportunity, I encourage staff to consider the impact of their actions or policies on patient experience.”

“I can’t mandate you to be considerate, but it becomes a culture, one in which you realize that it’s not hard to go that extra step,” says Ms. Calestagne. “That’s how the message trickles down to all staff—keep an eye open, even if you’re not at the frontline delivering the care. Opportunities to help are all around us, each and every day”

Ms. Calestagne offers suggestions for ‘going that extra step’:

• consider the patient in meetings, or better yet, invite a patient partner
• when answering a request by a patient for information, instead of replying ‘I don’t know, I can’t help you’, find someone who can
• direct or accompany someone who’s lost
• consider that a patient or family member in distress may not retain information, reintroduce yourself when they are in a different setting, or more calm

The science of Patient Experience: measure not only against yourself, but against the world

Every thoughtful act by every devoted staff member has the power to help our clients feel calmer, more secure, in greater control. But while an exceptional patient experience is built on each interaction along the continuum of care, down to the smallest gesture, the study of patient experience is anything but trivial or subjective.

Just as there is science behind reducing fall-related injuries, or preventing hospital-acquired infections, so too is there a science behind improving the patient experience. The movement toward placing the client and their family at the centre of their care has grown the world over, says Ms. Calestagne. That has driven evidence-based research in the field, and created a community of international professionals like herself.

“The certification has given me invaluable access to this community,” attests Ms. Calestagne. “I’ve attended conferences on patient experience, presented our work and met with professionals that are committed, as we are, to continually improving patient care. We also communicate via listserv and online discussion groups to share a wealth of tools and resources, which we can adapt to refine our existing systems. For example, at the JGH, for years we’ve been using the same dashboards to share metrics on patient experience. Recently, we’ve modified our patient experience dashboards based on templates developed by others.”

“Rather than reinvent the wheel, we can go to the relevant discussion to obtain existing samples of manuals or forms. It’s very interactive, we learn from each other’s’ mistakes and have the opportunity to ask questions.”

Feedback from users and family comes in many forms

The CIUSSS Quality team’s advisors have launched new patient experience surveys, which are distributed to users in:

• Acute care
• GMFs
• Rehabilitation (in-patient)
• Mental Health

The plan is to ultimately conduct surveys CIUSSS wide, across all missions. Ms. Calestagne points out, however, that while surveys are a very useful tool for collecting patient experience feedback, other methods of gathering this information are also in place. These include reviewing grievances that are submitted to the CIUSSS ombudsman, Marisol Miro, as well as focus groups.

Recently, for example, 13 focus groups of residents and family members from long-term care sites Donald Berman Maimonides Geriatric Centre, Donald Berman Jewish Eldercare Centre, Mount Sinai Hospital, Henri-Bradet Residential Centre, Saint-Margaret Residential Centre and Saint Andrew Residential Centre were asked questions about all aspects of dietary services at their facilities, from menu options to their interaction with staff during meal time, with a view to improving their dining experience.

Everyone embarks on the patient experience journey—users, family and patient partners are front and centre, accompanied by staff from all professional quarters and corners of our CIUSSS. For her part, Ms. Calestagne credits Associate Director General Dr. Anne Lemay and Chantal Bellerose, the Coordinator of Quality, Risk Management, Accreditation and the Patient Experience, noting that during her rigorous CPXP training, “their encouragement was priceless.”

* in partnership with the Beryl Institute, which provides the general training and resource library.