Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Surgical Liaison

February 17, 2006

HOUSTON - A warm, friendly face greets patients and family members in the Surgical Ambulatory Care Center (SACC) each morning at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (MEDVAMC).  Ron Walker, the MEDVAMC surgical liaison, is a direct link between family members and the operating room.

Staff members at the MEDVAMC believe collaboration and good communication enhance patient satisfaction and quality of care.  “Keeping family members informed about the status of their loved one while they are in surgery greatly relieves their anxiety,” said Beverly Green-Rashad, RN, Operative Care Line nurse executive.  “It is also comforting to the veteran to know that someone is taking care of their family member.”

Walker is the link between the family, surgeon and the recovery room.  He checks the Operating Room (OR) schedule each morning and proceeds to the SACC where he introduces himself and asks if those having surgery have a family member or significant other present.  Once he knows who has a loved one with them, he tells them how he can assist them throughout the surgical process.  Walker establishes a rapport with the family early on, so it is easier to interact with them at any point in the process.

Family members are very grateful to have someone personally escort them to the appropriate waiting room where the surgeon will meet with them following surgery.  Walker routinely checks on the status of the patient by calling directly into the OR and keeps the family informed about the length of surgery.  He also finds out if everything is going well and when the patient is expected to go to the recovery room.  “Just to know what’s going on and that their loved one is well is a great stress reducer for the family,” said Walker.

“The liaison has given me such a sense of relief just by keeping me informed throughout the day,” said one family member.

The caring doesn’t stop there.  Once the patient is settled in the recovery room, Walker accompanies the family member for a brief visit. Surgeons sometimes face situations where other patients require attention and do not have time to talk with families between cases, so the liaison provides that consistency.  “Having a surgical liaison has allowed the nursing staff to stay focused on patient care in this very busy area,” said Mary Chatman, RN, Post Anesthesia Care Unit nurse manager.  “Nurses now do not have to leave the clinical area to locate the family thus giving them more time for patients.  If the surgeon has not spoken with the family, the liaison informs the surgeon about the patient’s family.”

“This is definitely the best job I’ve ever had,” said Walker.  “It is very rewarding to be able to help veterans and their families during a stressful time.  I receive many hugs of appreciation from wives and mothers,” said Walker.  The feedback received from both staff and family members is very supportive and appreciative of the concept.

“At the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, we are constantly striving to improve patient satisfaction and communication among caregivers, family members and the patient,” said Green-Rashad.  “The surgical liaison is definitely a step in the right direction.”

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