Patient experience is Look’s calling

As Medical Center Hospital’s Associate Chief Experience Officer, Courtney Look handles more than just complaints and grievances.

Look and her team, which includes two other staff members, also work to find ways to improve practices and problem solve.

An Odessa native and Permian High School graduate, earned a degree in healthcare administration from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., and completed a master’s certification in long-term care dementia and aging studies at Texas State University in San Marcos. She is enrolled in a master’s program in health care administration at Texas Tech University.

Look knew she wanted to be in healthcare. She saw a cadaver once and realized the medical aspect wasn’t for her. But she really loved the business side of healthcare and became passionate about healthcare administration.

During her graduate school studies in long-term care and dementia and aging studies, she found a passion for patients, people, processes and the care that affects them.

Look worked in long-term care in Houston before returning to Odessa. Her job at Medical Center is similar to what she did in long-term care. She has been at the hospital for three years.

She added that she really loved being on the long-term care side, but also loved the hospital side.

For me, it’s a new role,” Look said. “It entails patient experience, performance improvement and infection prevention and quality. We do take complaints in our department, and of course, we try to be proactive.”

If something comes up while a patient is at MCH, they want to resolve it before the patient goes home.

Asked if her department, which has four people total, is extra busy right now, Look said they continue to stay busy.

When someone has an issue, if a patient is in the health facility their process is to respond immediately and figure out if it was a miscommunication, whether something happened, and how to get the right people to resolve it immediately, Look said.

Then if a patient calls after discharge, what we do is we intake their concern. Then we have a meeting and investigate with the team and area involved and then we follow up by letter with the patient. So that’s really our process for any kind of concern that comes through the health system,” Look said.

She added that the patient experience process has stayed the same despite the pandemic. The calls are a little bit different.

Sometimes they are called for general questions.

Sometimes we get calls, can we send you pictures? Should we send something to our loved one? Can you get it to their room. I have their cell phone, or I have a blanket that they would really like to have. So I would say it looks a little bit different. We’re not always getting concerns and complaints. We’ll even get some praise and calls just saying I know this is hard for you guys on the inside as hard as it is for us on the outside and it’s hard not to be there with our loved ones, but we know you’re protecting us and we’re grateful,” Look said.

Although you’d expect her department to get more of the negative calls, but that hasn’t been the case lately.

“… We have received more positive words than we normally do during any time, even outside of the pandemic. It’s definitely a win when you get some of those coming in. It’s so easy to sympathize with families because in our department, even more than complaints and grievances, everything that we do revolves around patient experience,” Look said.

We’re out there on the floor observing best practices. We’re implementing skills labs. We coach our teams at the bedside, really making sure we’re catching every process and experience that a patient goes through; looking at what does it look like, what does it sound like, what does it feel like for patients coming through,” she added.

They consider how to talk to the patients’ family and let them know their loved one is safe and OK and not to panic. They tell the team not to call with wording that makes the family panic.

“… We look out outside of our complaints and grievances to make sure that our teams are providing the best care, making sure that we’re always communicating to patients and families because for us right now communication is so much more important than it ever was. But we’re so used to having families at the bedside where we do a bedside shift report. That’s where teams go in and they talk with the patients at the bedside and they update them on the plan of care. Usually, there’s a family member there with most patients and so when the nurse leaves and the patient says, ‘I forget. What time did they say I was having surgery today?’ and the family may say, ‘Oh remember they did that … report this morning and you’re going to have surgery at noon today.’ …”

Look said families help reinforce what the healthcare providers are saying, which helps.

“… I think even more than that, we know families are so much a part of the healing process so for them to not be at the bedside regularly we know that that’s a challenge and we certainly sympathize with that,” Look said.

Her department also offers input to other departments and administration based on what they have seen and heard.

We do we analyze all the data that we have around experience. Then oftentimes we’ll create data, so if we look at patient feedback we trend what are they saying; how many times are they saying it; and then we prioritize things. We also create data by observing patients and patient flow. For example, we may watch a patient come into the ED (emergency department) and identify the time that they come in, what the process is and we follow it all the way along to their discharge. Then we’re able to identify what patient experience touch points do they have; what is the verbiage … we’re using. What policies and processes are touching the patient? Do they make sense? Do they cause a bottleneck or a hiccup? How do we make it a smooth transition and a win for not only our team, but every patient we serve that comes through …”

Data from the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems, or HCAPS survey, sent out to patients after coming to the hospital, is also considered.

We definitely look at that data. We trend that data and that’s how we create a lot of our action plans and improvement opportunities,” Look said.

Look is married to Andrew Davis, who also is from Odessa. She added that he is very supportive.

It’s not every day that somebody at my age wakes up every day excited to go to work and really passionate about the work that they do and so they found their calling. But that is how I feel about this work and I’m so grateful for it …,” Look said.

MCH Chief Nursing Officer Christin Timmons also is glad to have Look on board.

Courtney has been a leader in our organization since starting. Courtney will lead our organization into great things and we are excited to have her expertise,” Timmons said.

What makes Look stand out, Timmons said, is her “calm presence and firm commitment to patient satisfaction.”