Thrive by IU Health

January 13, 2023

Caring for the whole patient: This team has eyes and ears that are wide open

Caring for the whole patient: This team has eyes and ears that are wide open

Thanks to a team of astute professionals, patients at IU Health Coleman Center for Women receive a little something extra during their OB/GYN visits.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, TJ Banes,

It started with a single patient. She was pregnant and scheduled for a stress test. That single encounter opened eyes, ears, and hearts.

A stress test measures the fetal heart rate. It’s a test that makes sure the fetus is able to handle contractions during labor and has the right amount of oxygen. The best way to appropriately get that information is to have mom fully hydrated and nourished.

“This particular patient came in and we learned that she hadn’t eaten that day or even the day before,” said Dana Anderson, a Charge Nurse at Coleman Center for Women located at IU Health University Hospital. Patients come to Coleman for obstetrics, gynecology - including surgery and gender care - and also midwife appointments. In all, there are six nurses including a manager, charge nurse, and nurse navigator, and ten medical assistants.

“Our team members are very caring and always making sure patients’ needs are met,” said Anderson, who has been with Coleman for more than a year. In no time, team members began collecting gift cards to give to patients who came in with food insecurities. From there, the efforts grew. Now, the Coleman Center for Women maintains a food pantry. When patients come in showing signs of hunger, they are asked if they would like some food. Non-perishable items are then discreetly bagged for them to take home.

“The needs come in spurts. Sometimes we may go a month without anyone needing anything and then recently we had two different patients in a week who needed food, and two staff members who had house fires within 24 hours,” said Anderson. Team members also pulled resources to help the two staff members. Their storage space is limited but Anderson said they welcome donations of hygiene products, canned goods, and other non-perishable items.

But that’s not all - Coleman Center recently added another layer of patient assistance. They began offering Integrated Social Work and Integrated Behavioral Health.

“We have social work needs daily - whether it’s food, a bus pass, or other lifestyle challenges,” said Anderson. On the first day Coleman offered social work assistance a patient was identified as a victim of domestic violence.

The assistance is designed with the convenience, compassion, and confidentiality of the patient in mind.

“We do ask questions, but our staff members are very good at observations and they care enough to pay close attention to subtle things - like if a patient says she lives in a shelter, or doesn’t have transportation home,” aid Anderson.

If a patient expresses interest in receiving social services, a cart is wheeled into the room and they are connected with a specialist via video chat. The chat can last up to 40 minutes or longer, if necessary - similar to an in-person appointment. From there, the patient is connected with specialty services and can repeat the provider visits as often as necessary.

“I have always loved women’s health and this shows what a team that cares about patients can do,” said Anderson. “We serve a diverse patient population. We’ve tracked the social needs over a period of time, so we knew that these needs were not being met and now we can really make a difference.”