Park Ridge Health: Innovative Care, Uncommon Compassion

September 26, 2018

More than a century ago, when most physicians were prescribing leeches, the founders of Park Ridge Health, which will soon be AdventHealth, were recommending plant-based diets and better hydration. In fact, early Seventh-Day Adventist affiliate Dr. John Kellogg invented Corn Flakes for this very reason: to deliver patients the nutrients they needed to get healthy.

Now leagues away from leeches (and the like), Park Ridge Health has remained at the forefront of healthcare: tending to their patient’s body, mind, and spirit with a uniquely “wholistic” health model. And this innovation continues to develop with the patient’s experience in mind.

“To be healthy is to experience a level of joy in your existence,” said Park Ridge Health communications director Victoria Dunkle. “To be able to connect with care that will address your concerns whether they be physical, mental, or spiritual.”

“Whole person care allows us to do so much more than just check blood pressure. It allows us to care for our patients as whole people.”

Park Ridge Health is part of the Adventist Health System and sponsored by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. It has 45 locations across the country that comprise the largest, not-for-profit Protestant health care system in the nation. Due to this natural alignment, all hospitals within the Adventist Health System recently decided to unify their brand under the same name, AdventHealth. Their mission, countrywide, is to provide an environment of faith-based compassion and care for those in need of healing, health or hope.

Their pursuit of this mission begins in the initial assessment, where patients have the option to answer several basic questions to assess their spiritual wellness.

“We ask our patients: Do you have someone in your life that loves you? Do you have peace in your life?” Dunkle said.

“Based on those questions, our providers can help with that aspect of the patient’s life. This opens the door for people to stop and consider their spiritual wellness.”

Doctors also make sure they are connecting with their patients’ to track issues or situations that may impact the patient’s mental health, and if necessary, connect patients to mental health professionals, who work in conjunction with the primary care physicians.

While these are the nuts and bolts for patient care, Park Ridge Health, which will soon be AdventHealth doesn’t stop there. Nurses go above and beyond to tend to their patient’s spirit.

One example involves a nurse who gives patients struggling with anxiety or concern over their health small boxes to hold those worries written down on slips of paper. She encourages them and prays with them if they wish. There are also occasions like this: when a woman was struggling with the results of a mastectomy, a nurse decorated her bandages to look like a beautiful polka dot bra, because she knew it would make her feel more beautiful.

“Our care is compassionate, loving, focused on people…I see it being lived out everyday,” Dunkle said.  

Many employees, presently 165, also serve as spiritual ambassadors, meaning they train with the hospital chaplain and form an employee support system.

“Ambassadors will pray for people, bring them bouquets of flowers, and even help doctors with childcare. They give simple acts of compassion.”

It’s clear this model of care has allowed Park Ridge Health to thrive, as they’ve formed strong community partnerships with Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Duke University, and even Apple Health. Their orthopedics program has been named a Spine Center of Excellence and is a leader in nanomedicine and ultra-sonic tools. The program’s patient care uses technology unique to the region.

“We’ve got major entities wanting to partner with us and collaborate on research, outreach, and healthcare models.” Dunkle said.

“We are still looking at ways to build on the foundation of the exceptional, and in many cases, unique access to care that we provide, and take it to the next level. We like to change the way our world experiences health.”