February 16, 2021

Turning a Challenging Experience Into a Positive New Initiative

Our purpose is caring for people, and while our mission is always top of mind, sometimes – despite our best efforts – patients leave our care with an experience below expectations. So, when Kiamesha Washington came to Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center for emergency care, we took the opportunity to work with her after a challenging experience to adopt a positive new initiative.

Kiamesha was visiting her mother’s home in New Jersey when she awoke one morning to find the machine that delivers her medication was beeping, signaling an error. She’s been on the same pulmonary hypertension medication for 26 years and knew one of the caveats of the medicine was its six-minute half-life, compared to standard medication’s 30-minute half-life. She knew she didn’t have much time to waste. So, after some initial troubleshooting, she decided to head to Mountainside Medical Center’s Emergency Department.

When she arrived she was greeted by nurses and informed them that her condition was urgent. After explaining her situation, medication and her need for an IV, nurses at Mountainside were left stumped, never having heard of that type of treatment for a pulmonary hypertension patient. Due to the confusion, nurses weren’t able to act as quickly as necessary.

After trying to provide the staff with contact information for her doctor and nurses in New York, where she receives the majority of her medical care, Kiamesha got her primary care provider on the phone. Her provider informed the staff that Kiamesha needed an IV and an emergency backup line right away. After 45 minutes of agony, Kiamesha finally received the IV line and was able to relax a little.

In situations like these, time matters, and it was evident to Kiamesha that a better solution was needed to identify urgent health conditions and treatment plans.

Once she was stable and discharged from Mountainside, Kiamesha reached out to the director of emergency services, Michelle Rombough, R.N., and explained what happened.

Michelle invited Kiamesha back to Mountainside to meet with her and the medical director of the emergency department, Arthur Calise, D.O., to discuss her experience in greater detail. In their meeting, Kiamesha presented a card with all of her medical information. She explained that she was too panicked to remember to present the card at the time, but that everything the staff needed to know was right there. This sparked an idea, and collectively they began brainstorming a way to implement this patient resource at Mountainside to avoid a repeat of Kiamesha’s experience in the future.

They came up with the concept of an orange card that has the patient's name, diagnosis, medications, urgent needs and primary physician contact information that would be physical, as well as digital. This will enable information sharing even if the patient doesn’t remember to present their card, or is unable to articulate the information. It’s Michelle and Dr. Calise’s hope that this will turn into a referral program so as many patients as possible will be able to enroll in the system.

“I feel much better now knowing that I have this card,” said Kiamesha. “Now I know that if I go into the hospital all they have to do is look up my name and they’ll have my doctor’s information, so I do feel a little better now that they’ll know who I am and who to contact. I hope this will help other patients in the future.”

Kiamesha’s experience reminds us how important it is to constantly review our services, offerings and our patients’ experiences, and make changes if there’s a better way to do something. In our mission to care for our patients, their families and others, we continue to add services, staff, programs and technology to benefit our communities every day.

For more information about Mountainside Medical Center’s Emergency Services, visit mountainsidehosp.com/services/emergency-services, or call (973) 429-6000. 


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