December 22, 2004
If her home was on fire, Levohn Snyder said one of the things she’d try to save is a one-page synopsis of her husband’s life from Banner Baywood Heart Hospital.
The framed story was given to the couple during Charles Snyder’s stay at the Mesa hospital, where patients are asked if they would like to share highlights of their life as part of the hospital’s Life Stories program.
"It gives you such a feeling of unbelievability that somebody would do something like this," said Levohn Snyder, 78, of Mesa. "This was completely out of the realm of a hospital experience."
Hospital volunteers interview patients, then put their life story in the patient’s medical chart for health care workers to see. A sign on the door alerts workers that the patient has contributed a life story.
"This allows us to personalize the care experience," said Cassandra Crowe, the hospital’s director of service excellence. "If you try to care for everyone the same way, you’re not going to meet their needs. This allows us to care for people the way they want to be treated."
Instead of focusing solely on curing a patient’s symptoms, doctors, nurses and other medical personnel can read the life story and talk about things that are important to that patient: Their family, job, interests and experiences, said Crowe. The personalized interaction helps build rapport, which can improve services to patients and their medical outcomes.
"Sometimes you see these patients and they’re 82 years old and headed downhill, but you can see they’ve lived a phenomenal life," she said. "This gives us another way to look at it."
The stories help staff know about patients’ birthdays or anniversaries. They can also help tailor hospital services to a patient’s interests, Crowe said. Pet therapy might be good for a patient with pets, for example, or a visit from clergy could help someone who is strongly religious.
Chest pains brought Charles Snyder, 81, to Banner Baywood Heart Hospital this month. Although a stroke has made it difficult for him to communicate, Levohn helped him talk with a volunteer about being one of eight children, serving Army tours in Europe, getting married in 1945, and raising two children of his own. He now has three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
"When asked the things he loves most in life, Charles said, ‘My family, children, grandchildren, and greatgrandchildren,’ ’’ the last line of his life story reads.
Although short, the life story is a powerful summary of their 59 years together, Levohn said. She sent copies of the story to her family for Christmas.
"It just leaves you with such a warm feeling to walk out (of the hospital) with one of those in your hands," she said.