The patient’s needs come first — every time.
It’s a philosophy that was instilled at North Valley Hospital 10 years ago when it first became a member of the Planetree network of hospitals. Next month NVH will celebrate their 10th year of following the beliefs set forth by Planetree with a community festival planned for Sept. 12.
“At its core, Planetree is our empowerment to make the patient the center of what we do,” says Mary Sterhan, Senior Director of Planetree Quality. “From top to bottom, on every level of leadership and staff, we put the patient at the center.”
As Sterhan walks the halls of NVH, it’s easy for her to point out evidence of the Planetree philosophy at work. Patient rooms have comfortable furniture for guests and windows that look out toward Glacier Park. Nurse stations are strategically situated to enhance nurse-patient interaction. A library offers of coffee-house type atmosphere with wi-fi and reliable resources to help patients research their health questions. Programs like patient massages and therapeutic pet visits are mainstays due to Planetree.
Even the cafeteria is known community-wide as a great place to eat, Sterhan said, with wholesome and fresh options.
“Which other hospitals serve sushi for lunch?” she noted on a recent tour.
Sterhan has been with the hospital since the new facility opened five years ago. From her post, she’s seen first-hand the positive effects of the Planetree philosophy.
“Patients say [their visit at NVH] felt like home and that they felt like they were paid attention to,” Sterhan said. “When I hear that, I hear Planetree. It isn’t that we sent them home with a gift basket at the birth center, those are important, but it’s really more about the culture we are creating.”
That culture goes beyond the facility and special offerings. Staff and administration have embraced Planetree as well.
“I see that Planetree has a tremendous impact on our patients, but it also has tremendous impact on our staff,” Sterhan said.
“Folks get into health care to help patients. What we do under the Planetree philosophy is put the patient at the beginning of the discussion. We’ve taken what nurses and doctors wanted to do all along and empowered them to actually do it.”
Staff goes through six hours of training on Planetree every other month and are encouraged to share new ideas for better patient care.
“It makes this hospital a dynamic place to work,” Sterhan said. “You feel like you can have an effect, it’s not a top-down management driven system.”
Doctors and nurses seek out Planetree hospitals as places to build their careers, Sterhan said.
“They’ve either worked at Planetree hospital before or have heard about it and want to come here,” she said.
It’s also a smart marketing tool for the hospital.
“But as much as we have patients who come here for Planetree, just as many recognize it when they leave,” Sterhan said. “I hear from patients that this place felt different and that they didn’t feel like a number.”
Planetree tactics are constantly evolving and in motion. Member hospitals from across the globe often exchange ideas, whether it’s a 200-bed facility or 25-bed like NVH.
“We are always looking at how something that succeeds in one hospital will work in ours,” Sterhan said.
NVH also has regular focus groups where patients are invited to give feedback about their experience and offer suggestions for improvement.
“Sometimes we think we’ve got it all figured out,” Sterhan said. “Then they tell us, ‘Maybe not so much.’”
New Planetree-inspired offerings at NVH include a spiritual care program and to-go meals for same-day surgery patients. Going forward they are planning a fitness path on the hospital campus that will be open to the public.
“Planetree is in everything we do, from the most simple things up to the bigger items,” Sterhan said. “It’s in how we staff and how we budget. It’s a huge part of our strategic plan.”
The Planetree Festival planned for Sept. 12 will be comfortable, interactive, informative and fun, Sterhan said. Food and music is planned and informational booths will be set up. The event starts at 3 p.m. on the hospital’s campus.