MHSC: Our patients are our top priority


By Cindy Nelson

Patient Experience Coordinator & Executive Assistant

Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County

Imagine putting on a blindfold. Someone touches your arm and prompts you to stand. Then, with only touch, you are led without words along a path you can’t see. All the while, no one is speaking to you with any explanation of what is happening.

This exercise is “The Trust Walk” – part of the Planetree Person-Centered Care “Experiential” Workshop. It’s a requirement for all staff, providers, contractors, volunteers, board members, and basically anyone interacting with patients, families, and staff at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County. The blindfolded person represents the patient; workshop leaders explain how communicating lifts the blindfold. A follow-up workshop, Communicating With Empathy, continues building skills to use an evidence-based heart-head-heart method to help people feel the care.

The workshops are initiatives in support of the Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County mission to provide compassionate care for every life we touch, and the vision, to be our community’s trusted healthcare leader. Patient experience, workplace experience, and person-centered care are priorities. Our overall goal is to have happier, healthier patients and staff, improved patient satisfaction results, and a reputation for excellence.

A Person-Centered Care Committee was formed in 2019. Membership is from all levels of staff from different departments in the hospital and clinics. The purpose of the Committee is to foster a culture of person-centered care at Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County where patients, families, and staff consistently experience quality, compassion, and partnership by:

  • Promoting organization-wide engagement in person-centered care initiatives
  • Supporting participation from all key stakeholder groups, including patients and families
  • Setting priorities over time in collaboration with leadership through integration of strategic priorities
  • Facilitating communication and integration with other organizational priorities
  • Spreading and scaling person-centered care initiatives throughout the organization

A Patient and Family Advisory Council was formed because MHSC recognizes the power of partnership and believes the voice of the patients and family members must be included in decisions and plans that affect them. The goal of the Patient and Family Advisory Council is a commitment to advancing person-centered care and to work together to resolve challenges around access, communication, and service, with the aim of improving and enhancing the care provided to all patients and their families. MHSC is dedicated to improving the patient and family experience of care.

The first MHSC Patient and Family Advisory Council met May 9, 2019. The group of dedicated, kind, amazing, honest, local community members continues to add to their group and meets regularly to discuss areas of improvement, interact with staff and providers, and learn about services offered. MHSC Chief Executive Officer Irene Richardson is the driving force behind person-centered care and leads each council meeting. She said the council celebrates four years together this year and personally thanks each member for their assistance in helping us focus on making a difference for every person, every time. MHSC is grateful for each council member’s gift of time and information.

Each month’s meeting includes a discussion question. Here are some examples:

  • What are the most important questions you want to ask your primary care provider?
  • What services, information or resources do you wish the hospital offered to help you with your health and wellness?
  • What is the best way to let people know about the new Cerner HealtheLife patient portal and encourage them to sign up?
  • What would you like the hospital staff to know about you?

The council has visited with Dr. Jacques Denker, Dr. Melinda Poyer, Dr. Alicia Gray, Dr. Cielette Karn, Dr. Banu Symington, and many hospital department leaders. Feedback from the group has led to more comfortable chairs for family members sitting beside their loved ones, improved communication and updates from staff, the addition of hospitality areas, and better access to physician and provider contact information.

MHSC is continually looking for council members to join the current “PFAC Superstars” who are:

  • Committed, reliable, and trustworthy, and believe the investment of time can make a difference
  • Willing to share their healthcare stories and think beyond their own personal experiences
  • Comfortable partnering with many types of healthcare professionals and other patients
  • Good listeners who respect other opinions and perspectives
  • Positive, with solution-oriented attitudes in discussions
  • Respectful of information heard as private and confidential

Please let us know if you are interested in joining us on this important journey.

We are here to provide an extraordinary healthcare experience to patients and families, as well as for physicians, staff, volunteers, and guests. We measure the impact of our initiatives by analyzing the feedback received from employees, patients, and our community. We welcome feedback because it is our opportunity to continually improve.  

Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

At MHSC, we are working to do everything we can do to “lift the blindfolds” and help our patients and our community feel our care.

For more on the Patient and Family Advisory Council, contact Cindy Nelson at [email protected]. For more all Memorial Hospital of Sweetwater County and its Specialty Clinics have to offer, go to

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