Facing surgery can be frightening. You might have a bunch of questions about what your experience will be like. How will I feel when I wake up from the procedure? Will I be in a great deal of
Facing surgery can be frightening. You might have a bunch of questions about what your experience will be like. How will I feel when I wake up from the procedure? Will I be in a great deal of pain? When will I be fully recovered to the point that I can do my daily activities once more?
To help answer questions and alleviate some anxiety about the patient experience through treatment, Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle launched its Peer Partner Volunteer program, which pairs patient volunteers who have undergone joint replacement surgery with those who are about to undergo surgery. While doctors can answer all the clinical questions, the peer partners can offer a first-hand account of what the experience will be like, and answer some personal questions about the process they may be uncomfortable asking their provider.
The program stemmed from an innovation session in the hospital’s orthopedic department, where there was a desire to give more resources to patients about the personal aspects of undergoing surgery, specifically when it came to joint replacement surgery. The department launched the program two years ago and now has 10 volunteers who come to the hospital each week to make rounds on the orthopedic floor to meet with patients and join the teaching team of professionals in the pre-surgical joint replacement class.
“It’s about making the human connection and decreasing people’s anxieties,” says Ann Hagensen, RN, Project Manager, Patient Relations at Virginia Mason Medical Center. “To have somebody visit with you who has already been through the entire process and gotten back to their new normal is encouraging and makes a big difference.”
The volunteers have kept coming back, she says, because it’s a service they would have found helpful prior to undergoing their own procedures. Virginia Mason is expanding the Peer Partner Program to other specialties, including ear, throat and nose for patients undergoing laryngectomies, as well as organ transplants, as these procedures can involve substantial life changes. There is also interest in expanding the model to those battling prostate and bladder cancer, Ann says.