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Planetree Model Improves Patient Care in Greater Chicago

Monday November 3, 2008
<b>Marjie Schoolfield, RN, BSN, OCN, ONC, CNRN, team leader at Delnor-Community Hospital in Geneva, Ill., visits with patient Virginia Bruno.</b>
Marjie Schoolfield, RN, BSN, OCN, ONC, CNRN, team leader at Delnor-Community Hospital in Geneva, Ill., visits with patient Virginia Bruno.
(Photo by Andrew Campbell)
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On the oncology unit at Delnor-Community Hospital in Geneva, Ill., there was a patient everyone loved. "She was dying from a cancer-related illness and had been with us off and on," says Marjie Schoolfield, RN, BSN, OCN, ONC, CNRN, team leader for the 31-bed med-surg unit. "We sent our music therapist, Stephanie, in to see her several times, and she asked Stephanie to help her pick music for her funeral. The patient was back in the hospital a month later and asked Stephanie to come in and sing the music they had chosen. She also asked if she would play at her funeral."

When the patient passed away, Schoolfield received a note from her family saying the entire staff held special places in her heart. "Planetree has made this possible, allowing us to take patient care to a personal, different level," Schoolfield says.

That far-reaching devotion to patient care is why many hospitals — five in Illinois including Delnor and Swedish Covenant in Chicago — have chosen the Planetree Model, a patient-centric system of care that encourages employee involvement, alternative therapies, and open communication.

Pamela Forster, RNC, BSN, a full-time nurse who spends half of her time as an OB staff nurse and the other half as a coordinator for Delnor's New Life Maternity Center, has been involved in the hospital's transition to Planetree since the preliminary investigation in 2003. "We had been scoring very well in patient satisfaction, but we were looking for a way to revitalize the staff and maintain that excellence. When we started looking at patient-centered care, we knew we had found what we were looking for," says Forster.

Brooke Newton, Planetree coordinator at Swedish Covenant Hospital on Chicago's Northwest Side, describes the Planetree approach as a natural fit. "Planetree has provided us with a way to formalize the patient-centered philosophy that we have always had; it has given us a name for it and structure."

Everyone Is a Caregiver

At Planetree facilities, employees attend training sessions to learn how their role from nurse to handyman directly impacts patient care. The model also encourages treatments such as music and pet therapy, massage, open visiting hours, increased ethnic meal options, patient access to medical information, free Wi-Fi, and other comforts.

Since its implementation, Schoolfield says her entire team looks for ways to connect with patients to find out what's important to them in the healing process, whether it's a food service worker remembering a certain patient likes a cup of coffee with lunch or a repair person making sure the TV works properly.

Equally important, the model allows staff the freedom to help patients in new ways. "At Swedish Covenant, we have a diverse patient base and have created international menus to make people feel more at home and make eating more appealing so they can recover and get stronger," says Newton. For example, to better serve new Korean mothers, the staff answered requests for traditional post-delivery seaweed soup, bringing in a Korean employee and her mother to teach kitchen workers how to make an authentic recipe.

Freedom to Care

Schoolfield has been with Delnor for 12 years and has been using Planetree in her current role for the last two. "Most nurses at one point or another have brought in a pet to a patient or done something extra to support someone. But now, for example, we have pet therapy in the building. We've had doctors ask if we can get a patient down to an entrance so the patient can visit with his or her own animal. In the past, we would have had to sneak around to do something like that. This model gives us the freedom to make decisions that benefit the patient."

Newton describes Planetree as a nurse-driven program, especially in terms of the multidisciplinary care conferences designed to ensure nurse-identified patients who receive care from multiple people — physicians, dieticians, therapists, etc. — have a team whose members communicate with one another.

Mary Shehan, RN, MSN, senior vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer at Swedish Covenant, has been with the hospital for 16 years and sees Planetree as a great advancement for the hospital's patients and staff.

"It has truly allowed the patients to have more involvement in the way their care is delivered and given us freedom to make choices about the care we are giving," she says. "Perhaps our biggest success has been making family members and loved ones feel like part of the care team."


Libby Ellis is a freelance writer. To comment, e-mail editorIL@nursingspectrum.com.