Creating an Extraordinary Patient Experience in the Operating Room

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A plastic and reconstructive surgeon shares what he does to make surgical procedures the best possible experience for each patient in this Intermountain podcast.

What is it, exactly, that creates an extraordinary experience? Dr. Rob Ferguson, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon at Intermountain Medical Center, sat down with Dr. Shannon Phillips, Intermountain’s Chief Patient Experience Officer, to tell her how he creates an extraordinary experience—every single time.

“I think, as a physician, I am able to see the patient before the procedure, during the procedure, in the hospital, and back in the clinic. I get to see the outcome of the procedure, whereas so many others in the operating room don’t get to see those phases,” says Dr. Ferguson. “I get to see the bigger picture—this is someone who works at the local grocery store, a person from our community. When I share that information with the team, it helps them understand the larger role they play in the scenario, and it means more to them.”

What Dr. Ferguson is able to do is to create a human connection: it’s not just a person asleep in the operating room, but a member of the community with a family and a job. “I think that when you are making a difference in someone’s life, there is a bit more job satisfaction,” says Dr. Ferguson. “In addition, when they have a sense of ownership, caregivers are more likely to be mindful about what they are doing and feel safe in that environment.”

By creating a safe environment, Dr. Ferguson is also inviting caregivers on the team to speak up or ask questions about the procedure. This Zero Harm environment helps create a sense of community that gives people permission to ask questions or participate differently than they may otherwise. “The physician is like the captain of the ship, then,” says Dr. Phillips. “You, the physician, have the opportunity to set the tone and the connection we make with patients.”

“I try to be sure that, if I’m in a room where I haven’t worked with the caregivers before, I introduce myself and everyone else,” says Dr. Ferguson. “Then I talk about the patient—something that’s unique about them, and any unique health issues.” Dr. Ferguson also thinks it’s important to have a “checklist” of sorts, in that he takes a moment to clarify that everything is in place and that everyone is on board. “I do think that structure isn’t so rigid if we look at it as an opportunity to make sure we are catering to that specific patient and that what we are doing in that moment is for that individual.”

To go back to our initial question, then: What is it, exactly, that creates an extraordinary experience? “For me, the experience of extraordinary care for a patient is that, not only do they get excellent care, but they feel that the team members around them actually cared about them and have made a connection,” says Dr. Ferguson. “The other aspect is that caregivers see how they affected that patient, and I want them to, just like me, go home that day and say to themselves, “Yeah, that’s why I do what I do. That’s why I’m going to keep taking care of patients the way I did today.””