It's hard to plan a home visit for a recently discharged patient if you don't know they've been in the hospital. Obtaining data on hospitalized patients is one of the challenges of administering a home visits program, notes Samantha Valcourt, MS, RN, CNS, a clinical nurse specialist for Stanford Coordinated Care (SCC), a part of Stanford Hospital and Clinics.
Some of the challenges I’ve experienced with our home visits program is first of all, knowing when our patients are actually in the hospital. It’s easy to know when they’re at SCC; I get an electronic communications or an EMR. However, if patients go outside our system, I may not know. Sometimes that discharge summary is not available when I’m ready to go see the patient the day after. Holidays and weekends always increase that 48- to 72-hour window and I really do try to get in there the following day if possible.
For patients that don’t see primary care doctors within our clinic, it can sometimes be a challenge getting hold of their primary care doctor outside of SCC, and then explaining my role and why I need them.
On the back of our patient ID card, we emphasize to our patients to please contact us if they’re even considering going to the emergency department so that perhaps we can avoid a hospital admission or a readmission. If they are being seen in the hospital, we want them to call us as soon as they’re there, as soon as they’re able to, or to have their family member call so we can make sure that we’re involved in that transition.
Another lesson learned is definitely to empower the patient. Again, as a nurse I try to do as much for the patient as I can. But I have to keep in mind that when I’m in the home, my goal is to make sure will be able to identify the red flags and symptoms that indicate things are not going well, and that they’ll be able to contact the doctor’s office with their needs. I make sure that both handoffs are very clear; I never want to leave a patient wondering, ‘Oh I had this nurse and she came into my home and then she called me every few days and then all of a sudden she was gone.’
I need to make sure that I have good communication with that next transition.
And then last, I always carry a set of gloves, because you never know what you’ll walk into. I was not a home health nurse before I did these types of home visits, so I was ill prepared on one of my first visits to a patient with a dialysis catheter that was oozing blood. My nursing instinct caused me to run in there and try to clean things up.
Now I carry a good stock of gloves and supplies, because you just never know.