Originally published in the Rocky Mount Telegram
Kenneth Mullen says his role as chairman of the Nash UNC Patient and Family Advisory Council came about because of two of his strongest character traits: His innate sense of curiosity and quest to find information and his firm belief in helping the community in which he lives.
Mullen, who retired as Rocky Mount fire chief in 2006, has served as co-chairman of the Patient and Family Advisory Council since the council’s genesis in 2013. The council partners with Nash UNC Health Care to evaluate hospital operations and service through the perspectives of patients and families.
Nash UNC Health Care patients and families are key stakeholders when it comes to decisions around quality and patient safety, patient and family experience, compliance, staffing, use of technology, ongoing needs for redesign and renovation. They also play a key role in educating the community about the hospital, which is why the council is so important.
The council consists of volunteers who are genuinely passionate about partnering with the hospital to improve both the patient and family experience at Nash UNC Health Care.
Mullen and the Patient and Family Advisory Council have worked to educate the public about important facets of Nash UNC Health Care, including the use of hospitalists for patient care, the restructuring of the emergency department and the comprehensive Danny Talbott Cancer Center.
“We also work with Nash UNC to get information out in terms regular people, like you and I, can understand,” Mullen said with a laugh.
One example Mullen shared of how the council works was its project to inform the community about hospitalists and their roles in patient care.
Mullen explained some patients and families may not understand who a hospitalist is or what they do.
Mullen and the council worked together to better understand the role of hospitalists - physicians whose primary focus is the medical care of hospitalized patients who can help to provide more efficient and specialized care to hospitalized patients.
The council also spent time with Nash UNC Health care staff, hospitalists, and patients to share ideas and find ways to enhance the patient-hospitalist relationship.
Once the council understood the role of hospitalists and their contributions to patient care, they felt obligated to help explain it to the community, so they partnered with the hospital to share this information.
“We created public speaking presentations and shared what we learned with others,” Mullen said. “And we also offered ideas for how the hospitalists might improve communication and build more trust with patients.”
The council frequently holds public information sessions and speaks at civic group meetings.
Mullen said he and the other six council members are a bridge between the hospital and the hospital’s customers, who are the patients and their families. He’s convinced the work the council has done has been beneficial to the community.
“I think some of the things this council has helped get done have an impact and will continue to impact the families that come to this hospital,” he said.
Amy Winham serves as Director of Service and Operational Excellence at Nash UNC and works with the advisory council. Winham said Mullen’s perspective on educational materials, processes and themes for projects has offered great insight to improve service, value and innovation at Nash UNC.
“Over the last several years, Mr. Mullen has partnered with local civic and church groups to educate people on our hospitalist program and our emergency department, and this resulted in hundreds of people in our community gaining greater insight about our hospital and strengthening Nash’s commitment to our community,” Winham said. “Mr. Mullen is authentic, kind, dedicated and compassionate. We cannot thank him enough for his service.”
Mullen said being on the advisory council has been a rewarding experience for him.
“The purpose of the council is to make a difference for our community. The more information someone has, the more opportunities they have. We are about providing good information about our local health care to our community,” Mullen said. “I’m telling you — as a regular person in the community — we’ve got a great hospital here. We’re so lucky to have all these resources right here.”
The Patient and Family Advisory Council is made up of volunteers. If you’re interested in becoming a council volunteer, contact Amy Winham at Amy.Winham@unchealth.unc.edu for more information.