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Patient and Family Voices: Empowering for Children

Patient and Family Voices: Empowering for Children

The Patient Family Voices Program at the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) engages patients and their families to talk about their hospital experience with our volunteers.

Meg Seely, a volunteer with the Voices Program, says it’s empowering for children to know their voice is not only being heard, but making a difference. A recent example of this would be the changes that resulted from numerous children asking why chicken fingers were no longer served at the hospital.

“We ask patients and their families open-ended questions, and unsolicited, a question about these chicken fingers kept coming up,” Seely says. “They would tell us, ‘I don’t feel good, and I know they may not be healthy, but it’s comfort food.’”

Seely says it was the feedback of these young patients that made a difference.

Deb Keane, director of Food Nutrition Services, says when the Fryalator broke in July 2009, it eliminated all fried foods at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) as part of an ongoing effort to create an environment which supports D-H’s commitment to improve the health and wellness of our patients, employees and community. When she heard the feedback about chicken fingers, she was receptive and decided to do something about it.

“When I heard what Meg shared, that chicken fingers were a particular item the kids missed, as well as patients with cystic fibrosis who needed them for extra calories, we bought them back,” Keane says.

Today, DHMC uses a brand, which contains no antibiotics, animal byproducts and hormones. The chickens are raised cage-free and on vegetarian diets. “We started serving baked chicken cutlets in the last couple of months to our pediatric patients, and they were a hit right away,” Keane says. “We serve about 20 orders for every lunch and dinner.”

The Voices Program, which has been active at Dartmouth-Hitchcock for more than 20 years and at CHaD for 13 years, continues to expand.  Volunteers visit patients on all inpatient units, in ICU waiting rooms, and in the Emergency dept. We also work with quality improvement initiatives to seek patient feedback and share that information with staff and leadership.

“There are 16 volunteers, who work through the Office of Patient Family Centered Care, which is part of the Office of Patient Experience. We enter the comments that we’ve heard into a data system, and quarterly we sit with unit leadership to look for themes of things patients and families share which give us the opportunity to share compliments and highlight areas we want to address to improve,” Seely says. Seely and Keane say patients are very satisfied with the change.

“It’s great for kids to know that they are advocating for not only themselves, but for their sick peers and that they made a difference,” Seely says.