JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. --
Trusted Care is a concept used in Air Force medical centers to encapsulate the kind of care every patient deserves. It means taking the time to listen and form bonds with patients, and doing research before every visit so the doctor isn’t scrambling to remember who the patient is and what they might need while they sit in the office.
It’s making sure each patient has a team they can trust to take care of them, and restore them to health. That trust was crucial to the progress and recovery of one patient at the Langley Medical Center this summer.
This patient in particular had a tough time getting the care she needed. She was prescribed medications but never told exactly what for or how to take them, so she didn’t take them correctly. She was seen by her doctors but never felt heard. Until Capt. Craig Jenkins, 633rd Medical Operations Squadron Internal Medicine provider, and his team of Trusted Care providers got her case.
“When this patient was transferred to me, her blood pressure was out of control, her hemoglobin A1c was off the chart; literally we couldn’t even read it on the lab report,” said Jenkins. “She was prescribed all the right medications but she wasn’t taking them all, and it turned out she had a lot of concerns about the medications.”
She slowly started to trust the team, opened up to their advice and expertise and established the kind of relationships she needed to encourage her to become an active participant in her own health.
“Every patient wants to be heard and be able to express their concerns, limitations, and fears, but we as healthcare professionals are charged with listening, understanding and responding with empathy, as well as ensuring the patient understands the prescribed medical care,” said Thomas Resseger, 633rd MDOS registered nurse and disease manager for this case. “I had to peel away the barriers and listen to the patient as she told her story from her perspective. Once you establish trust with the patient and get them to understand that their well-being is the main priority then they become more willing to accept your interventions.”
After being treated with compassion and dignity, the patient finally felt comfortable with the solutions being suggested and made a rapid and remarkable recovery.
“We work hard to make sure our patients get what they need, and this was really awesome because we literally gave her her life back,” said Senior Airman Mariah Menefee, 633rd MDOS medical technician.
This patient was so grateful, that she gave the team a very meaningful token of her appreciation.
“She explained that her husband was actually in the Navy, and she brought a flag in and told us about what happened – they actually flew this flag over the carrier that her husband retired from, and she ended up giving that flag to Dr. Jenkins,” said Menefee. “It is a big deal to have a flag that was flown like that.”
Gestures like this from patients are rare and meaningful to the team.
“When she gave us the flag she was tearful and just expressing her gratitude,” Jenkins said. “We do this stuff all of the time, but most of the time you get the negative feedback, not the positive feedback – that’s just the way the field is, so it’s a nice thing once in a while when you work hard and it pays off.”
While the flag was a meaningful gesture, the team would have been just as happy simply knowing the patient had gotten better.
“We were just happy her A1c came down!” said Charlotte Hammock, RN. “If that was just it, that would have been all the thanks we needed. Many of us in the medical field come with the understanding that this can be a thankless job, so its rare if you get recognized even with something as little as a box of candy or as big as a flag.”
Trusted Care allows medical professionals to get closer and dive deeper with their patients to learn their needs and fears, and sometimes allows them to come up with unorthodox approaches to healthcare.
“This type of care is what every doctor and medical facility should be going after, especially since most of our patients are older folks and veterans,” said Jenkins. “Something patient-centered and multi-focal, with nurses calling and techs interacting. We put a name to it, but all we’re doing with Trusted Care is providing the healthcare they deserve.”