Guest Columns

Patient advocacy is what drives us

Bob Van Dyk
Bob Van Dyk

If you meet anyone in our profession who doesn't consider themselves a patient advocate, then you just met someone who needs to consider a career change.

The simple truth is that we are all capable patient advocates. As owners and operators of care centers, we find unique ways to demonstrate our commitment to every patient.  But there is no better example of that commitment than our frontline caregivers.

Whether it's a licensed nurse or a loving family member or friend, caregivers are the true heroes of our industry. The most significant contribution we can make to patient advocacy is taking care of our caregivers.

I remember my 4-year-old son declaring, “When Mommy is happy, everyone is happy.” Out of the mouths of babes!

I have followed that wisdom throughout my career, firmly believing that when our staff is happy, our patients and families are happy.

Nobody does it better than Disneyland, “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Have you wondered what led to Disney's unparalleled success? A simple understanding that parents are happiest when their children are happy and safe.

So how does Disney create that experience over and over again? They focus on the Selection, Training and Caring of its employees. By recruiting the right people, giving them the best tools to succeed and reminding them that the company cares about them, Disney consistently creates a safe and happy experience for people of all ages.

If we are serious about our role as patient advocates, then we need to adopt this philosophy. It starts with our staff. We know what it takes to create a quality experience. Only the finest caregivers with all the right training and care from us will achieve this goal.

Take a moment to observe the family members of prospective patients and residents who are touring your care centers. What are they looking for?  As the child of a parent who presently requires long term care, I know that I'm happiest when my dad is safe and happy.

Sound familiar?

Our caregivers ultimately steer our reputation – for better or worse. They may not appear on a balance sheet, but they are our most valuable assets. Remember how important they are, remind them of their value, and take excellent care of them. That's the secret.

This month I received the American Health Care Association's Joe Warner Award for Patient Advocacy. I am honored. But I know that the real credit behind this award belongs to everyone with whom I work, day in and day out. I applaud them for making our patients and families truly happy. And I dedicate this award to them.

Robert Van Dyk is the president and CEO of Van Dyk Health Care and past chairman of the American Health Care Association.

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Guest Columns

Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.

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