A New Role in the ED: Patient Experience Coordinator

A patient’s visit to the emergency department is often the worst day of their life.

Patients are often in pain, exhausted, and anxious while they wait. Their stress levels might rise when another patient who arrives later is escorted into a treatment room earlier. They might worry about their own or a loved one’s health, fret about test results, or struggle with a no-signal cell phone.

ApolloMD has created the position of Patient Experience (PX) Coordinator in select partner hospital EDs to turn those stressful, difficult ED patient experiences into tolerable, manageable. and even pleasant encounters.

Easing ED Strains, Addressing Challenges

ApolloMD created the PX Coordinator position to help client hospitals cope with lingering ED challenges in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, including nursing and staff shortages, long wait times, overcrowding, ongoing community health outbreaks and more.

In a typical day, the PX Coordinator might start by checking the charts at the nurse’s station and then making visits to patients in the treatment cubicles and waiting room.

With an eye on patient satisfaction, the PX Coordinator will thank patients for choosing this particular local hospital, followed by personal reassurance that the coordinator’s sole role is to help each patient and/or the family members or friends who accompany them during their time in the ED.

Common questions will keep the PX Coordinator busy throughout an entire shift:

  • “Have you been waiting long?”
  • “Do you know the name of the staff member who’s treating you?”
  • “Has your provider kept you informed about why you’re here and what’s happening?”
  • “Do you know why you’re waiting? Do you understand why you’re being admitted and not sent home?”
  • “Do you need anything to feel more comfortable while you wait for your test or results? A pillow? A blanket? Phone charger? Something to nibble on or drink if your provider said it’s OK? Directions to the restroom?”
  • “How can I help?”

A Results-Producing New Role in the ED

LaDawn Bradley, RN, ApolloMD’s National Director of Patient Experience, says this new role is ideal for the right person.

“Patients just want to be communicated with,” she explains. “Patients want someone to treat them with courtesy and respect. Asking  if they’re comfortable or if they need anything while they wait can make a huge difference. The PX Coordinator is a friendly face who comes in and checks on you.”

At one hospital where the new role was implemented, positive results emerged based on 452 patients who responded to a survey over a six-month period from June-October 2022:

  • 99% described the ED team members as professional and courteous
  • 93% knew their ED caregiver
  • 92% felt the ED team was addressing their concerns
  • 81% said the ED communicated well and kept them informed about their wait

Additionally, the ED’s percentile ranking for the likelihood of patients recommending care to others rose from 21% to 71% from April-November, 2022, compared to similarly sized hospitals.

For the ED: A New Health Care Role

Potential candidates for the PX Coordinator role might include current hospital employees who have gained experience in other departments or specialties, perhaps as technicians or support staff. They might be retired health care professionals looking for new opportunities. Some might be graduate students who are studying health care or business administration, a specific medical specialty, or exploring health care career options and experiences.

“There’s something about being able to take care of people and do something for them on what they often think is the worst day of their life,” Bradley says. “Patients in the ED often appreciate that someone is there to check on their care and ensure that they’re comfortable and well-taken care of.”

Anyone in this position faces common challenges, of course, including patients who arrive with unrealistic expectations, one of which is the mistaken belief that the ED is a first-come, first-served kind of place. To those patients, a coordinator might calmly explain that patients with higher-level symptoms or emergencies receive care first.

The coordinator might encounter patients who are angry, loud, and disrespectful — situations that require interpersonal communication skills, a calm demeanor and health care training in order to focus on patience, problem-solving, satisfaction and understanding.

A New Health Care Role…for the Right Person

The ideal Patient Experience Coordinator, Bradley says, brings key skills and traits to the role.

  • Excellent people skills and an ability to stay calm in a busy environment
  • Knowledgeable about how the ED works, and confident about his/her ability to interact with physicians, physician assistants, nurses, nurse practitioners and other medical professionals
  • Excellent listening and communication skills
  • Empathy and the ability acknowledge what patients and fellow staff members are experiencing
  • Personally outgoing with a calming personality

“The main thing is that Patient Experience Coordinator must be a kind soul, because it’s a very rewarding position,” she explains. “When you can go and talk to patients and make a really bad situation better, that’s rewarding.”

Interested in becoming a PX Coordinator? Contact LaDawn Bradley at ApolloMD at lbradley@apollomd.com.
Interested in partnering with ApolloMD to place a PX Coordinator in your ED? Contact Bobby Ryan at bryan@apollomd.com.

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