Big Boards Making A Big Difference

Color-coded status update boards keep patients’ loved ones informed

“The waiting is the hardest part,” Tom Petty once sang. Though his song is probably not about waiting for a loved one’s surgical procedure to be done, its sentiment still holds true. Yet the real “hardest part” that family members of patients often face is not really the waiting itself but the uncertainty that comes with it. Families that were unaware of exactly where their loved one was in the surgical process had no frame of reference on which they could feel grounded.

“Not knowing is where much of the anxiety comes and it can make things actually seem longer than they are,” says Art Shumate, Director of Surgical Services for St. Joseph’s/Candler. “Knowing makes a big difference.”

In an effort to help family members feel more in the know with their loved one’s procedure, St. Joseph’s/Candler installed Status Update Boards in Day Surgery. They are known more simply as the big boards.

“The big boards provide a visual aid to families and loved ones to help track the patient through the process of surgery,” Shumate explains. “It updates a patient’s status from pre-surgery, surgery, into recovery, and through to when patients are either ready to go home or to their assigned floor.”

Patient privacy is always protected. Here’s how this confidential process works: When a patient enters the hospital, the family member or other designated person is assigned a code—a unique combination of letters and numbers—that will display on the board in the waiting area. Loved ones also receive a card that explains the meaning of each color on the big board.

Once a patient has completed surgery, the surgeon or a member of the surgical services staff will call family members to a conference room to provide a report on the patient’s condition.

Because unforeseen events can sometimes cause the start of surgery to be delayed, the start times given to patients are estimates. If a patient is in surgery longer than expected, a member of the surgical services staff will alert family members.

It all comes back to the importance of ongoing communication between physicians, hospital staff, patients, and family members.

“The big board is a great thing,” says general surgeon John W. Odom, MD. “Now family members can look up and know where their loved one is, moment by moment. It’s fabulous.”

“This service also helps physicians and nurses because it allows us to complete the surgery without interruption,” he adds.

Dr. Odom believes the big board will greatly assist the Day Surgery departments at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Candler Hospital in their ongoing mission to provide exceptional patient care to patients and compassionate service to family members and loved ones. In fact, Dr. Odom believes that goal is one that all caregivers must strive for from the beginning, whether or not tools such as the big board are available.

“I try to teach the medical students that when you see somebody who looks confused, or lost, or needs information, you stop,” Odom says. “You stop and say, ‘Can I help you?’”
  • St. Joseph's Hospital Campus: 11705 Mercy Blvd., Savannah, GA 31419, (p) 912-819-4100
  • Candler Hospital Campus: 5353 Reynolds St., Savannah, GA 31405, (p) 912-819-6000
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St.Joseph's Hospital Campus: 912-819-4100

Candler Hospital Campus: 912-819-6000