Improving Quality of Care for Patients Spurs Performance Improvement Specialist Onward
Hospice care is known for navigating endings, and offers surprising beginnings as well.
These include the connections clinicians make with patients’ loved ones that may continue for years. The bonds formed during a vulnerable season strengthen through mutual support and appreciation.
“You get so close to [family members] and form a sense of intimacy. Many of them are forever grateful,” says Sierra Evans, a VITAS performance improvement specialist. “I’ve made connections with a patient’s mom or dad or child. Following the patient’s death, they add me on social media, say ‘Happy Birthday,’ and ask how I am.”
This is the type of connection that fuels the passion of a healthcare professional like Sierra. “If I can help you have a better day, that is where I find my fulfillment.”
Caring Better: How Performance Improvement Specialists Influence Quality of Care
As a performance improvement specialist, Sierra considers all of the VITAS patients and families she has served when she thinks of improving care.
Being able to affect people in such a positive way is the most rewarding thing.
This patient- and family-focused approach enables her to sustain her drive whether she is in the office compiling data or meeting with patients.
“The performance improvement specialist role embodies many things,” Sierra says. “Patient safety policies and procedures, infection control, key performance indicators, and disaster preparedness are all part of what I do.
“I work on the patient and caregiver experience and monitor hospice visits in the last days of life. I am also a registered nurse. I help anyone who needs help. Yesterday, I put scrubs on and went into the field to see a patient before I came into my office. “
Though collecting data is a primary function of the role, Sierra engages her compassion to connect the data to those VITAS serves.
“Most of what I do is support and facilitate quality assessment and performance improvement activities. Yet compassion is what makes me open to everyone who has questions, concerns, and suggestions,” she says. “Quality is of the utmost importance to me.”
The Challenge of Continually Improving Quality of Care
Making the connection between the patient and the quality of care the data represents helps keep her focus on improvement.
“The way to improve is to continually ask patients and families about the quality of care we provided. We take the feedback, analyze it, and relay it back to our staff. Then we educate [team members] on how to make it better,” Sierra says. “It's a never-ending cycle to improve the care we're giving, each and every day, with every patient, every caregiver, all the time.”
Yet, knowing the faces and stories of those who will benefit motivates her and spurs her on.
The Path from RN to Advanced Opportunities
Sierra began working at VITAS in 2016, which was an unexpected development in her career.
“When I was in nursing school, I never thought I would work in geriatrics, much less hospice,” she says.
After a friend tipped her to the opportunity with VITAS, she became an RN case manager. “I was in the field for 18 months when the quality assurance and performance improvement specialist for the program reached out. She was promoted and asked if I would be interested in filling her position,” Sierra explains.
With that, Sierra took on her current specialty.
“I never thought quality would be where I would land. It was by the hand of God that I ended up with VITAS,” she says. “Being able to affect people in such a positive way is the most rewarding thing.”
Sierra’s passion for excellence in healthcare has enabled her to rise within the organization and expand her possibilities. As of this writing, Sierra was promoted once again, to team manager.
The VITAS Difference: Committed to Care
Delivering high-quality healthcare is a team effort at VITAS. “Being part of the VITAS team is where your support lies.” Sierra says.
As a team member, Sierra shows her commitment by being thorough and communicating fully.
“Commitment in my role as performance improvement specialist means I take every piece of data, whether numbers or comments or CAHPS scores, and I drill it down to the nurse, the aide, and other team members,” Sierra says. “Whatever opportunities exist I can fix. Whatever we did right, I can let everyone know they did a good job.”
Making these connections—with patients, families, team members—continues to energize Sierra as she pursues best practices in patient care.
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