October 21, 2022

Drawing in Experience

How can the patient experience be enhanced during sampling procedures?

An interview with Sandra Merkel, Julie Piazza, and Michele Mitchell.

Sandra Merkel: I have been a nurse for over 50 years. During that time, a colleague and I developed the FLACC (face, legs, activity, cry, consolability) behavioral pain scale, which is now used worldwide to assess pain in nonverbal children. I became certified in Pain Management Nursing and was also an adjunct instructor at the University of Michigan School of Nursing.  The interdisciplinary team that I co-led with Julie Piazza focused on making needlesticks and other procedures more comfortable for children. Interestingly, our results found that the discomfort, experiences, and solutions were similar for adults.

Julie Piazza: I have been a Certified Child Life Specialist for over 30 years now – serving pediatric inpatients, outpatients, and their families in large academic medical centers. Since moving from a front-line clinical child life role to a project management role with the Office of Patient Experience 10+ years ago, many of the projects I’ve been involved with have focused on reducing patient pain and anxiety; the partnership with Sandra on individualized comfort initiatives for pediatric patients has expanded our reach to adult care areas. I also served as primary investigator for an observational study on comfort measures used by phlebotomists performing pediatric blood draws to fully understand their role and the patient experience.

Michele Mitchell: I enjoyed a 25-year career at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, where I held various Information System Division positions and ran large healthcare-related projects. After I retired, my passion and desire to give back led me down a new path – patient advocacy. I am a breast cancer survivor and my care at the University of Michigan has been outstanding; naturally, my volunteer work led me straight back to the University’s healthcare system.

I have also been volunteering with the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP) since 2016 and my current passion involves the concept of patients meeting with their pathologist to understand more about their disease. As an ASCP Patient Champion and a member of the society’s Patient Champion Steering committee, it is a great honor to educate and empower patients, move the needle on important issues, and make a real difference in healthcare policy, quality, and safety.