By COLIN M. STEWART
Tribune-Herald staff writer
When it comes to making their patients feel comfortable and well-cared for, few health care workers on the Big Island can hold a candle to Chad Shibuya.
The 41-year-old Kurtistown resident has worked as a floor nurse at Hilo Medical Center since 2003, and in that time has earned a stellar reputation, both among his co-workers and his patients.
Recently, Shibuya was honored as the top employee in HMC’s 100 Club, which seeks to recognize all staffers who have received more than 100 positive comments submitted by their patients in a year. This year’s 100 Club included nine members, with Shibuya taking the top billing. He almost doubled the club minimum by earning a total of 196 positive comments.
In their comments, patients have singled out Shibuya’s unwavering smile as one of the secrets to his success in comforting the ill and injured.
“To me, although the job is extremely difficult, it’s also very gratifying, at the same time,” he said in explaining his positive attitude. “I find it to be a lot of fun. I enjoy coming to work and doing this … despite how difficult it can be. You need to enjoy your job.”
He admits that his work, by its very nature, can sometimes be sad and difficult, but ultimately, it’s all about making people better, and that gives him the encouragement he needs to put on a happy face and see his way through the tough times.
Shibuya also says a good nurse must be patient and understanding. He takes extra time out of his day to make sure his patients understand everything they need to know about their treatment and their medications.
“It makes things so it’s less scary for them. They know what’s going on,” he said.
Workers like Shibuya are helping to change the direction that Hilo Medical Center’s care is going, said Regional Chief Nurse Dan Brinkman. Recently, the results of regular patient satisfaction surveys showed that HMC’s scores are growing by leaps and bounds.
For decades, the health care profession has been so tightly focused on treating specific ailments that little attention has been paid to customer service, he said.
“It’s been tricky that way,” he said. “In the past, we were more focused on just getting you better. … But now there’s a move toward taking an interest in your perception of the care you’re getting.”
Studies have shown conclusively that a happier patient is a healthier patient, he said. And now, with hospitals’ Medicare reimbursements set to be tied to outcomes, including patient satisfaction, as a result of Obamcare, health care providers have a monetary, as well as scientific, reason to change the way they do business.
“It means re-educating hospital staff and physicians, and better communication with patients,” Brinkman said.
That re-education process includes recognizing employees who go the extra mile.
“We’re trying to encourage that behavior, to reinforce that behavior,” he said.
To that end, HMC has kept track of patient comments about specific nurses for the last several years, and regularly rewards them for a “job well done.”
Each day, patient satisfaction representatives wheel portable computer stations from room to room checking in on patients and asking them about their experience, and how it can be made better. When a patient mentions a specific nurse or other health care worker by name, that is also logged.
Those who are mentioned positively receive a coupon in their mailbox recognizing their efforts and giving them $1 toward any item in the hospital’s cafeteria.
It may not be a particularly big reward, but the size isn’t really the point, Brinkman said. It’s all about giving employees positive feedback when they’ve done a good job.
“It’s just a way to say thank you, and to pass on a compliment about a caregiver,” he said.
While Shibuya is relatively shy and humble about his accomplishments, a bit of his competitive nature comes out when he talks about the 100 Club.
“If I could have just gotten four more compliments, I could have gotten 200 last year,” he said with a smile. “Well, there’s always next year.”
Other doctors, nurses and nurse aides recognized as part of Hilo Medical Center’s 100 Club include:
• Genie Nagata
• Maraia Misech
• Martin Bordner
• Kalana Uweko‘olani
• Dr. Mouhamed Kannass
• Pina Andres
• Gloria Bala
• Casey Remmers
• Roseanne Calumag
• Kelli Moniz
Email Colin M. Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.