Taking Time for Patient Care

Patient in hospital bed receives care and is comforted by her husband.

No one wants to stay in a hospital and definitely not stay for nearly a month. But if that’s what is needed for healing, the Smith County Memorial Hospital staff has committed to care for patient needs. “One of the things I enjoy the most about our team is everyone’s interest in patients’ health and well-being,” said Sarah Ragsdale, the hospital’s chief operating officer. “Each department makes a point to put patient care ahead of everything else.”

Erin Dykman can attest to the staff’s commitment to care through her experience as a patient. Dykman moved to the Downs area with her husband Tom to work at the Dispatch Christian Reformed Church last fall. Shortly after Thanksgiving, Dykman became ill. When she asked around in her new community, her neighbors recommended the providers at Smith County Family Practice.

After a brief visit, my situation worsened, necessitating a trip to the emergency room,” Dykman said. “I was immediately admitted.” Dykman notes in her experience that this is an extraordinary level of care. She has spent time in large hospital systems and never received the attention and support she did at SCMH.

”Everyone involved in my care was warm, friendly, encouraging and responded to my questions. They attended to my physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, no matter how busy they were, without giving any sense of being in a rush,” Erin Dykman, SCMH Patient. Unfortunately, Dykman’s diagnosis meant she needed nearly a month in the hospital over the course of two stays to fully heal. She saw Dr. Overmiller and Dr. Wiehl and enjoyed getting to know several staff members during her stay.

Dykman points to the tremendous support from the night shift nurses, the CNAs, the lab staff, and the food service staff as helping create an excellent patient environment. “I became especially close to two nurses from other countries,” Dykman said. “James from the lab was amazing. I felt we were friends and shared about our families, etc. And Chef Steve is in a class by himself! So attentive and caring plus able to provide meals as if on a cruise.”

While Dykman may have thought her experience was unusual compared to other facilities, Ragsdale and the rest of the hospital administration and medical staff hope Dykman’s experience is typical of what patients would find at Smith County Memorial Hospital. Department managers at SCMH take seriously their commitment to the mission of “setting the standard of excellence in healthcare” and encourage their employees to think first about the impact their actions have on patient care. “We’ve built a reputation for a positive patient experience,” said Leah Wiehl, a provider who cared for Dykman during her stay. “We want all our patients to leave saying we made their day better – whether in the emergency room, clinic, lab, imaging, the cafe, or wherever they receive care.”

Dykman noticed this too and attributed it to good hiring practices. This is music to Ragsdale’s ears. “Our managers spend a lot of time talking about teams and our hiring practices,” she said. “No position is unseen by the public. So it’s essential that our employees want to be part of our culture. That means positive patient care above all else.”

Ragsdale hopes that Dykman’s experience encourages the staff and reminds teams that their work is valued even when they don’t feel it. “This level of care isn’t easy and doesn’t come without personal sacrifice,” she said. “I think that’s especially true in a post-covid world where patients are even more scared of the unknown. But, we’re so proud of the teams that work at SCMH and all they give back to patients’ well-being.”

That translated to the best care Dykman has experienced in her lifetime. “I have experienced treatment and surgeries over the years in large medical centers,” Dykman said. “Everyone at Smith County Memorial Hospital was personable, kind, showed interest, and repeatedly asked what else they could do. I never want to be hospitalized anywhere else.”

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