VA Palo Alto Health Care System
Partnering with Patients for Patients
As an anesthesiologist, I am a physician who cares for patients when they are most vulnerable. Under anesthesia, no one is able to call for help. Every day patients have surgery in operating rooms all over the world, and it is the job of the physician anesthesiologist to watch over them, monitor their bodies’ responses to stress, breathe for them, provide them with pain relief, and fight for them when unexpected crises occur. It is my job to calm the fears of my patients and families, listen to their requests, manage their expectations, and develop a plan that will provide them with the best outcome after surgery.
My belief in this connection between physicians, patients, and families as an anesthesiologist stretches into my administrative roles as well. As Chief of the Anesthesiology and Perioperative Care Service and Associate Chief of Staff for Inpatient Surgical Services at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS), I am grateful for the opportunity to work with an incredible multidisciplinary team that includes administrative staff members that are focused on our mission to provide the highest quality Veteran-centered care.
In order to accomplish this mission, we need the best information available to guide our decisions along with a diversity of perspectives to enhance our ability to train new clinicians and explore relevant research questions. We have been fortunate to do this by partnering with the Veteran and Family Advisory Council (VFAC) on a number of exciting projects.
The first was in the simulation center, managed by Anesthesiology service, where we coordinate simulation-based training for all clinicians. Members of VFAC have been directly involved in simulation activities, even taking on active roles as the patient or family member in standardized training scenarios. Debriefing after these simulation exercises gives our clinical trainees and practicing clinicians the unique perspective of real patients and family members which is essential to their professional development.
The next was our annual faculty retreat during which we reassess our priorities and work on one or two big ideas for the year. In 2015, we invited VFAC to join us at our annual retreat to brainstorm improvement ideas related to patient-centered care in the perioperative environment, intensive care unit, and pain management. Having members of VFAC present at the retreat inspired a few subsequent improvement projects to enhance the range of services that we provide to our patients and their families.
Finally, during the revision of our preoperative patient educational materials that is available on our website, VFAC helped to improve the accessibility and readability of this content to ensure it was more useful in preparing patients for surgery.
Not many hospitals enjoy this level of access to a group of engaged patients and families like we do at VAPAHCS. We are very grateful to VFAC for its priceless contributions and look forward to continued collaboration on future projects!