Patient-Centered Care: It is What NDs Do!

I was reminded when looking at the calendar that October is National Patient-Centered Care month. I was a registered nurse for 35 years and worked in multiple settings before my last nursing administration job in a medium sized healthcare system leading their patient-centered care initiatives.  As a former industry executive and naturopathic patient,  ND provide true patient-centered care.

It was at this last position that I was assigned to be the Patient-Centered Care Chairperson for the hospital.  It was my assignment to champion the movement within the outpatient and inpatient services.  Now I can tell you this was not my first assignment into culture change within a healthcare system, matter of fact, I’ve been involved in numerous campaigns to make the mainstream model of healthcare more patient friendly over my career.

For me it started soon after graduation from nursing school when the institution I was working at agreed to try Primary Care Nursing.  It was an attempt to connect the patients to one caregiver who would oversee their healthcare needs and advocate for them.  Years later this transformed into team nursing with the same goals.  And then nursing adopted the discharge planner and they were to help the patient navigate the system with the goal of discharge being the optimum goal for all.  

But in early 2013 when the healthcare system chose me to lead the Patient-Centered Care Committee it seemed like a new paint job on an old car.  However this new approach, still tried to make patient care friendly, now also included the physicians.  This had never been tried before and I was anxious to see how we would all work together.  

For the next three years my committee made some wonderful improvements into our health care system.  We were able to add some integrative care modalities into the outpatient setting such as acupuncture, massage therapy, health care coaches, nutrition and lifestyle classes, and yoga classes.  But for every success in new programs, we faced failure with changing the care delivery in the outpatient and inpatient setting.  

The goal was to provide the care that the patients wanted and needed by making same day access a reality, having every healthcare worker perform at their highest capacity, and ensuring that physicians had more time to spend with each patient.  This time could be used to learn what the patient’s goals for their healthcare were and help them to reach them.  But like the old saying goes, “We took one-step backwards for every two steps forward.” And some days it felt like two steps backwards.  We really made extraordinarily little progress in the primary care clinics and it became a source of frustration for many on the committee.

These memories lead me to the now… working at AANMC.   The one thing that stands out to me so far is that naturopathic medicine already has what we were striving for in our patient-centered care campaign.  This is the whole focus of ND training.  They come to this naturally and it seems effortless because that is who they are.  

Now do not get me wrong, there is a time and place for everything.  When I need emergent medical care for a specific problem, I know I may need an MD.  But when I want a primary care doctor that addresses mind, body, and spirit, listens to my needs, goals, and helps me to improve and heal my body, I will take an ND please!  

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