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Behind the scenes of myVCH Projects: improving communication between orthopaedic residents and nurses


Photo caption: Orthopaedic and Trauma Unit (T7) Patient Services Manager Caleigh Sullivan-Ashe

Ever wonder how our staff are making Vancouver Coastal Health a better place?

What gave you the idea for this project?

I work in the Orthopaedic and Trauma Unit (T7), and we identified a problem between the staff on the unit and orthopaedic residents. The challenge was that residents aren't on surgical units that much – they're often in clinics or the OR. They have pagers, but the system wasn't working well: there were long waits, missed calls, and incidences of paging the wrong person. We wanted to find a better tool for staff on the unit to communicate with residents when we had concerns, or needed things done for patients. 

How did your team work to improve communication between the orthopaedic residents and nurses?

The project was very interesting: at first we thought the best solution was to give the residents cells phones, which would be more efficient than the pager system. But then I spoke with a senior medical resident who was using the cell phone system, and he told me that while there were some benefits, most of his team disliked the phones. They felt an expectation to respond immediately, which was disruptive. Our orthopaedic residents agreed, and were quite adamant they would not be having their phone on when they're in with patients, which I felt was fair.

So I went back to my team of nurses with this, and they brought forward the idea of developing a problem list. We could have a notepad on the unit hung in a certain spot where nurses could record low-priority patient problems, and the residents would decide who was responsible to address the challenges on the list. For high-priority items we would still use the pagers, and in the end this is the system we went with.

How did using the new myVCH Projects pathway affect your project outcome?

If I'm being totally honest, I think my project was a bit too small to truly benefit from it. However I'm glad that I know the process of how it works, because I have bigger project ideas I'm sure would be great for this system. The main benefit of the approach is that if your project hits a roadblock a Senior Executive Team member or director can help move things along for you.

How did it feel when your project was implemented?

It felt good to implement this: my staff thought it was a great idea, and they were thrilled to be trying it. When my staff are happy with things, it makes me happy. They felt people were listening to what they had to say, which was very positive.

Our notepad system has been working well, but I wouldn't say it's been the amazing fixer of all things. To some extent that's just the nature of our jobs – people get busy – but this has helped to improve things. The system is working, and the patients are getting what they need faster than before, so I think it's been an overall good outcome for sure.

Project Name: Introduce cellular phones for T7 physician team

Initiative Owner: Patient Services Manager Caleigh Sullivan-Ashe

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