Derby’s community hospital among best, Newsweek says

DERBY — Ashley D’Agostino, a longtime registered nurse, calls Griffin Hospital “her family.”

She said she loves the bonds she has formed so much she happily drives past two hospitals on her way from her home to Griffin’s Division Street location in Derby — to a place with a patient-first approach, she says, focuses on a person’s physical and emotional well-being.

“I grew up with a tight, close family, and I feel like that is what Griffin offers here,” said D’Agostino, the hospital’s clinical nurse educator and nursing professional development specialist. “It’s a loving environment.”

This patient-first approach has not only been praised by staff and patients but also recognized yet again on a national level.

Griffin Hospital was recently recognized by Newsweek — for the fourth consecutive year — as one of the World’s Best Hospitals. The rankings listed 2,200 hospitals in 27 countries, according to the publication. Hospitals were ranked based on responses to an online survey sent to nearly 80,000 medical experts in 27 countries, recommendations from medical experts, hospital performance data and patient satisfaction.

Griffin was one of just four Connecticut hospitals to be included in the 2022 World’s Best lists, landing at #201 on the United States portion of the rankings, in between Southcoast Hospitals Group of Fall River, Mass., and Holland Hospital in Holland, Mich.

Yale-New Haven Hospital came in at #35 in the U.S. rankings and was listed in the 151-250 section in the world rankings. Saint Francis Hospital & Medical Center of Hartford (158 in the U.S.) and Farmington’s John Dempsey Hospital (400) were the other state facilities to be ranked.

“These achievements are a tribute to Griffin’s dedication to delivering on our Planetree person-centered care promise and exceeding patient expectations for service, quality, and safety even when faced with overwhelming challenges,” said Griffin Health President and CEO Patrick Charmel.

Griffin also posted the highest scores in Connecticut for patient satisfaction in the latest Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey results published by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (July 2020 – March 2021).

“This is my family, the community included, and I want to treat everyone coming in these doors like part of our family here,” said Kelly Egan, Griffin Hospital inpatient services administrator. “It makes me proud and honored (about this recognition) especially during such difficult times that we were able to maintain such a high standard of care.”

The honors come as the country moves out of a pandemic that left thousands dead in Connecticut alone. Egan and D’Agostino are just two of a staff of nurses and doctors at Griffin Hospital on the front lines, having to not only watch patients die but also see them alone because of COVID restrictions.

“We are focused on providing an environment that caters to the patients, family and the community at large,” Egan said, “So when COVID hit, we had to find different ways to deliver care.”

Egan said when the pandemic hit the area in March 2020, the hospital was forced into shut-down mode, placing restrictions on who entered the building. What that meant was keeping family away from patients, many of whom were on their death bed.

Nurses were able to allow patients to see family via Facetime, but Egan said staff realized quickly this impersonal approach was emotionally distressing for the patient and their loved ones.

D’Agostino said glass doors were installed in the ICU to allow patients and their loved ones to see each other and interact. She said at times, patient’s families were allowed to don PPE and enter the room and be bedside and hold their loved one’s hand in their final moments.

This care philosophy has helped Griffin maintain consistently high patient satisfaction scores as the hospital set the standard for a healing healthcare environment and a care delivery model that welcomes the involvement of patients and families as members of the care team,” he said.

At the start of the pandemic, Griffin renovated a section of its ER and adapted a hospital wing into a dedicated COVID-19 unit to meet the surge of infected patients and for the optimal safety of its caregivers and other patients.

Charmel said these COVID-19 areas were designed to provide patients with greater privacy and were staffed by highly skilled physicians, nurses, and support staff.

While some hospitals maintained rigid no-visitor policies well into the pandemic, Charmel said Griffin preserved visitor presence for the benefit of patients’ physical, emotional and psychological health.

“Health care organizations were obviously focused on the risk if families come in to meet with loved ones, but in the process, less attention paid to what is risk if we separate family,” said Sara Guastello, senior VP of person-centered care standards with Planetree International.

“Griffin recognized that family is so important. Having that family presence was just an extra set of eyes and ears, to be in the room when staff is stretched so thin,” she said. “We all recognize the need to keep everyone safe. But here that was done while at the same time essential family and caregivers were kept near.”

Subsequently, when the COVID-19 vaccines were introduced, Griffin partnered with local health departments, community-based organizations and the Connecticut Department of Public Health to organize accessible vaccination clinics in the state’s major cities and in communities across Connecticut with high vaccine hesitancy and socially vulnerable populations. Charmel credits Griffin’s caregivers for rising to the occasion and for caring for the community in ways never considered.

For staff, Egan said all necessary PPE was readily available, safety measures instituted, and the pastoral care department was regularly checking in with medical staff to see if they needed any support.

“Everyone is a caregiver here. They share in that opportunity and responsibility to care for community, for patients,” Guastello said. “This is a strong team, united around a shared sense of purpose. That’s what really drives the excellence of this hospital.”

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