Healthwise: Planetree Care

By: Cheryn Stone Email
By: Cheryn Stone Email

January 27, 2010

The healing touch of a massage or a helping hand from the wheelchair to the car.

Two simple acts to show someone is thinking about these people.

"It's the way we deliver care," said Faye Satterly, director of Planetree.

For Satterly, the need for that care is never as clear as it is when she helps patients cope with cancer.

"When you give somebody a cancer diagnosis, you upset their entire world," she said. "You change everything, and it's not just for that patient but for the time they are getting treatment, perhaps they may not be feeling well, so it affects their family, their friends and everybody around them."

The care is not a cookie-cutter diagnosis to a disease.

"We always help them look at the entire picture for them -- for them as an individual, what could be right for one individual could not be right at all for the next," she said.

That philosophy of patient-focused care has a name -- Planetree. It's a vision seen years ago by a woman with a rare viral infection. She was a patient in the hospital who felt more like a diagnosis than a human being.

"She did not feel valued as a person, so she founded this in order to try to help people take care of other people in a much better way that really focused on that patient instead of what they were doing or what kind of treatments they were doing," Satterly said.

Martha Jefferson Hospital is looking for ways to expand it in the way they give care. It can be seen with the free valet parking, or with the therapy dogs that bring a smile to patients, or with the massage therapists on hand. Hospital staff is planning to incorporate Planetree at the new Martha Jefferson Hospital currently under construction.

"All of the rooms have big windows, lots of healing natural light -- the environment outdoors is beautiful," Satterly said.

There is a welcoming space and private rooms.

"We think that we have our caring tradition, and our culture of caring is really about looking at the patient as a whole."

This model of care is more than an institutional way of thinking about the room number, patient number and diagnosis. It's about all of that and more -- it's about treating the patients as well as the people who need care.

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