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Patient liaison program making an impact

Being in the hospital can be hectic.

Blaring alarms. People everywhere. It can be overwhelming.

That’s where patient liaisons come in to help.

“The patient liaison is a middle-person who makes an effort to put out embers before they become fires,” said Craig Norris, patient experience director. “They may not always be the resource needed but they will know and facilitate getting the patient connected to the correct resource.”

The patient liaison works with patients and families to address concerns or special needs that may arise during their course of treatment within the hospital setting. The liaison works directly with various members of the healthcare team, hospital departments and leadership to solve problems that patients and families may have with the goal of facilitating a positive patient experience during their time in the facility.

“I have a passion for people,” Charlotte Hall, a Cookeville native and one of the two patient liaisons at Cookeville Regional Medical Center, said.

Katie Simpson, the second patient liaison, has been at Cookeville Regional for four years. She started out in housekeeping, then moved up the ranks.

“I see this as my ‘Hallmark moment’ job,” she said. “When I worked on the floors, I saw one side and now that I’m in this role, I see a different side of operations. That’s given me a perspective I never thought of.”

Both liaisons started in mid-September and spend the majority of time in the emergency department.

With a large team of people in different departments working together on a variety of patients, communication is a challenge, but essential.

“I love the aspect of educating patients to let them know there is a game plan,” Hall said. “We are here to serve the people and community, and we do have patients coming in from all over.”

Simpson said the problem solving aspect is the most effective part of the job.

“When you improve communication between everyone, it makes the experience for the patient better,” she said. “They’re more comfortable and then when they are discharged, they’ll give good recommendations and reviews, which will drive even more patients to us.”

Both liaisons have seen positive effects from both the staff and patients.

One recent experience Simpson helped with was a pediatric patient in the emergency department.

“This child was not able to calm down,” she said. “So I came in and got some distractors for the child. We made a stress ball out of gloves and danced around, which took the child’s mind off of the stress of being in the hospital.”

Norris said there have been minimal hiccups in getting this program started.

“I couldn’t be happier with the way it is working,” he said. “It’s been a smooth start.”

“We are the people who have the patients’ backs,” Hall said.

The patient liaisons can be reached by dialing 5900 on the hospital phone or 931-783-5900 from an outside line. When you hear the prompt, ask for “patient liaison.”