DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Finding ways to make connections

  • Wednesday, December 2, 2020 9:12am
  • Opinion
Patti Haught

Patti Haught

HAVING SPENT NIGHTS and days in hospitals with my family members, I figured I knew how things work in there. I also believed complaints get you nowhere, since the staff is stretched so thin.

Truth is I knew almost nothing. Last week, Patti Haught of Olympic Medical Center schooled me — gently. Head of the Patient Experience Department, she was patient enough to tell me all about her life.

The interview started out stilted, with a lot of general talk about how “engaged” the community is; in other words, OMC patients are vociferous in their feedback for their healthcare providers.

But then, as the conversation progressed, the “uh-oh, I’m talking to a reporter” shield melted away.

Haught was just 16 when she began her profession as a healer. Growing up in the Yakima Valley, she would become the first in her family to graduate high school. She worked as a certified nursing assistant in a nursing home.

“That is what ignited my passion for advocacy,” Haught told me. She later worked with people with developmental disabilities. Then came a job in home health at OMC and, 10 years ago this month, the position she holds today. While working, she earned a bachelor’s degree through Peninsula College and her certification as a patient experience professional.

Looking in from the outside, Haught’s job looks like one that would wear me down. Coordinating investigations of complaints; reporting on them to department heads and the hospital board of commissioners; absorbing all manner of problems befalling people in the hospital or in OMC’s many clinics. And now in the COVID era, the no-visitor policy is added to the stack.

Fortunately for us, Haught is made for this work. She considers it a gift to be able to make a difference in patients’ lives, to be there to support a fellow human in the midst of a terrible time.

Haught has also spoken up for the value of her profession. She’s brought on four more patient experience specialists, advocates there for patients and their families in the OMC emergency room, making rounds in the hospital, checking in with people to ask what they need.

Sometimes it’s another blanket or a pair of earplugs. Often it’s someone to talk to.

“One of our favorite things to do,” Haught said, “is make that in-person connection.”

These days, she and her team provide tablet computers so patients can have video calls or Zoom get-togethers with family who can’t visit.

“There are certain situations where being able to put your eyes on your loved one is really important,” Haught said.

For her, a complaint from a patient is another opportunity to stand up for that person, to be his or her voice in management’s ear.

Haught is no Pollyanna, I’m happy to report. The pandemic of 2020 “is a really challenging and frightening time for everyone,” she said.

“There are a lot of retired couples and people who retired to this area alone who can’t do the things they used to: breakfast with friends, going to senior centers.

“My heart goes out. And when you think about the financial insecurity, that makes us all really worried for our neighbors. There’s been no other period of time in my lifetime that has been this difficult.”

Haught’s ability to connect with people, to listen to and go to bat for them, is a powerful force in the relief of suffering. Hospitals and people are imperfect, yes. Haught focuses instead on the progress, the everyday conversations. She turns patients, providers and family members back into humans.

This, she said, is “a dream position.”

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz is a senior reporter in Jefferson County. Her column runs the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will appear Dec. 16. Reach her at [email protected].

More in Opinion

PAT NEAL: Yet another bad idea

THAT WAS YET another bad idea in last week’s column. When out… Continue reading

DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Epiphanies: They’re in there

TODAY IS EPIPHANY, aka Three Kings Day. On the Christian calendar, Jan.… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Steelhead season’s sinking feeling

EVEN WITH GLOBAL warming, January is the coldest month. When all the… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: New Year’s resolutions

OFTEN, NEW YEAR’S resolutions that seem like a good idea on New… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Christmas of yesteryear

IT WAS DAYLIGHT in the swamp on the shortest day of the… Continue reading

LETTER: Seek Peace

How sad to see the Dec. 14 letter about no unity, ever,… Continue reading

EDITOR’S VIEW: Outrageous Facebook claims include attacks on vaccine

EVER PLAY THE game of Telephone? I did when I was younger.… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: The fish and game commission is irrelevant

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news as the Washington Fish… Continue reading

The Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. (Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News)
DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: Trip of a lifetime traces family roots

TWO YEARS AGO this week, I had a few surprises. First, I… Continue reading

paul larsen
POINT OF VIEW: Working together means staying apart

2020 HAS BEEN an interesting year. I can’t think of anything I… Continue reading

PAT NEAL: Waiting for steelhead season

IT’S BEEN ANOTHER tough week in the news, as we wait for… Continue reading

Brian Smith, PAPD
POINT OF VIEW: Many suggested police reforms already adopted by WASPC

I READ WITH some interest the article by the Associated Press in… Continue reading