Two days before Christmas, I followed a gurney carrying my son into the Grays Harbor Community Hospital (GHCH) Emergency Department. A fall onto the hard floor at home had induced a grand mal seizure. As he slowly regained full consciousness, we anxiously waited to learn the extent of the damage.
Without exception, the staff we encountered at the hospital exuded professionalism and compassion, from nurses and physicians to techs and administrative personnel. After a timely but thorough assessment of the situation, including necessary scans, Emergency Department (ED) personnel ensured that we had all the information and resources we needed before discharge.
As I look back, I remember the comfort I felt knowing that professionals from my own community provided the care my family needed that evening. In the midst of a rather terrifying experience, a friendly, familiar face at my son’s bedside made all the difference.
“One of the reasons that I came to work here is that when I was interviewed, I realized the staff live in this community,” says Lora Moore, interim director for the ED. “They enjoy providing care to the community they live in.” That commitment to the Grays Harbor community shows not only in the care ED personnel provide on a daily basis, but also in their ongoing drive to improve that care. Since Moore took over as Interim Director in February, the ED has implemented several key changes designed to improve the patient experience.
Provider in Triage was an early initiative last spring. “Not every patient who comes into the ED needs a room and a bed,” explains Moore. “Perhaps they simply need a couple of stitches. In those cases, a provider will treat the patient up front in the triage area and discharge them.”
This change has proved helpful in making sure beds are available for patients who need isolation or who present a higher acuity or need for care. Other small but significant changes have also helped to decrease delays, and the work is just beginning.
“ED throughput is a hospital concern, not just an ED concern,” explains Melanie Brandt, chief nursing officer. “To that end, we formed the ED Joint Practice Council to work on the throughput issues.” Guided by a host of metrics that examine all aspects of emergency care, the Practice Council coordinates efforts among various groups in the hospital. For instance, the group has begun to tackle wait time issues by focusing on reducing the time a patient spends in the ED before they are either discharged, admitted to the floor or transferred to another facility.
“It’s not always a staffing issue that creates a wait time,” says Brandt. “Sometimes, events in the ED itself or delays on the inpatient floors keep us from moving patients through.”
A variety of factors affect the patient journey through the ED. Unlike a physician office, the ED is not appointment-based. Nor are patients necessarily seen strictly in the order of arrival. Instead, a triage system built on national standards ensures that patients are seen based on the symptoms they present.
Fortunately, GHCH is a Level III trauma center, meaning that the hospital can handle medically complicated cases. As the only trauma center of that level in Grays Harbor County, GHCH provides a critical service. “As a Level III trauma center, we provide 24/7 coverage for general and orthopedic surgery,” explains Brandt. “If a patient has a traumatic injury, they can most likely get treated here, or at least get stabilized before transfer.”
Since the next closest Level III hospital is in Olympia, that ability to treat trauma is critical when lives are on the line.
“This year we’ve had several codes come in from the beaches,” remembers Moore. “It’s almost an hour to get here from the beach and another hour to get to Olympia. I can’t imagine what would happen if this hospital weren’t here.”
The hospital staff is acutely aware of the vital role the hospital plays in the community, and they are working hard to continually improve the services provided. For instance, they have adjusted staffing to better correlate with peak usage times in the ED. This enables staff to provide more efficient and timely care.
“We are making changes, restructuring staff, and the ED is a big part of that,” explains Brandt. “But through all the changes, we remain committed to providing excellent care for our patients and their families.”
Hopefully, your own journeys will not include an unexpected trip to the ED. But if you or a loved one do find yourselves in need of emergency care, know that the team of professionals at the Grays Harbor Community Hospital are passionate about caring for the members of their community. You are in good hands.