SIH creates new position to help hospitalized patients connect with loved ones

Updated: Jul. 8, 2020 at 6:38 PM CDT
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MURPHYSBORO, Ill. (KFVS) - Being in the hospital alone can be scary and isolating, whether you have COVID-19 or some other kind of medical issue.

Southern Illinois Healthcare created a new temporary position to help patients in their hospital rooms alone connect with their loved ones. It’s called the Family Connections Coordinator.

In the new role, the FCC provides hands-on assistance with facilitating phone calls and real-time visits using iPads and mobile technology.

Danielle Vortriede is a nurse manager at one of the SIH system hospitals, St. Joseph’s in Murphysboro. “Now more than ever, I feel like it’s the time we need to make sure we are making those connections,” Vortriede said.

If patients need help, then that’s where the family connections coordinator Diane Honn steps in. When someone is not able to next to their loved one’s bedside, she stands in the gap.

“Our patients seem really receptive and happy just to have a visitor, just to have somebody sit and talk with them,” Honn said.

She connects patients virtually with their families utilizing FaceTime or Google Duo.

Even though SIH relaxed some visitation restrictions, people under the age of 18 are still not allowed.

”There’s just nothing that really brings so much joy to peoples live like grandkids,” Honn said. “I know because I’m a grandmother. And so when the grandkids start to talking to the grandparents or the loved one in the hospital, you just see a change in the patients demeanor.”

The change in demeanor and the emotional connection could almost be like medicine itself.

Honn said it’s a bigger challenge than people think. ”Hospitalization and when you’re sick is a lonely experience anyway but to be a part from your loved ones and your family,” Honn said. “It’s a challenge.”

Vordtriede said this the hospital is aiming to solve this problem by keeping the patient their top priority. “I think it’s just reaching out and figuring out - what do our patients need, what do they expect and how can we help,” Vordtriede said.

The three hospitals in the SIH sysyem are all kicking off this virtual visitor program within different units.

The temporary, new position has been piloted on the medical-surgical unit at SIH St. Joseph Memorial Hospital and the medical stroke unit at SIH Herrin Hospital. The goal is to implement the process across all inpatient units not only at those two hospitals, but also at SIH Memorial Hospital of Carbondale shortly.

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