A grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is helping St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial hospitals provide better care for discharged patients.
St. Joseph Health - Humboldt County recently received one of only 14 "Aligning Forces for Quality" grants given by the foundation nationwide for its Care Transitions program, which pairs nursing students from Humboldt State University with patients who need help transitioning from the hospital setting back home.
St. Joseph Hospital launched the program last fall in collaboration with HSU’s Department of Nursing after finding common ground. HSU was looking for clinical placements for its senior-level nursing students and the hospital needed highly educated students to serve as "coaches" for discharged patients.
A one-time grant from the California HealthCare Foundation made the partnership between St. Joseph Hospital and HSU a reality. Since its inception last fall, more than 75 clients have enrolled in the Care Transitions program.
Student-nurses make initial contact with patients identified as good candidates for the program, then follow up with them at home after they are discharged. Coaches help patients sort through their medication list, note any questions they may have, and help them contact their primary care physician to get answers.
Both students and patients benefit from the Care Transitions program: students work with qualified professionals and gain first-hand experience in their field while patients learn to take control of their medications and health care in general.
"It’s a great learning experience for students and provides great service for patients," said Tory Starr, regional director of performance improvement and quality management for St. Joseph Health - Humboldt County.
Starr launched the program at St. Joseph Hospital last fall with the help of HSU nursing faculty Michelle Kelly, who served as the program coordinator until recently when the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant enabled the health system to hire Sharon Hunter for the position. Also key to the program’s funding is the California HealthCare Foundation, which provided initial support for the collaboration between the health system and HSU.
Earlier this year, the program was expanded to Redwood Memorial Hospital as well.
Since her hire in July, Hunter has spent the better part of the past two months working on infrastructure development and tightening up referral resources. She hopes the program helps patients feel more empowered about their health care.
"We have to create ways for people to advocate for themselves," Hunter said. "The Care Transitions Program focuses on helping people help themselves."
For more information about the Care Transitions program at St. Joseph and Redwood Memorial Hospitals, phone Sharon Hunter at (707) 445-8121, ext. 5750.
Caption: Care Transitions program coordinator Sharon Hunter, far right, poses with Humboldt State University nursing students and St. Joseph Hospital nurse manager Judy Gallagher, far left.