Discharge planning is an essential procedure to ensure that hospitalised patients are given access to any health services that are required for their care outside the hospital. This ensures that the same quality and frequency of medical care is provided, in order to speed up their care and minimise re-hospitalisation. Discharge planning is a process which requires a health-care individual who is highly trained and skilled in performing accurate evaluations of a patient's health.
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Discharge planners identify clients who require discharge planning, enable the problem-free transfer of patients from one facility to another (e.g. community care centres, aged-care facilities, hospices) and constantly review and determine the use of resources such as staff and medical facilities which are required to maintain the quality of care for the patient outside the hospital.
The individual must liaise between the patient and various health-care providers in the community, establish referral health services, and check daily patient admissions and discharges to determine which ones will require care outside the hospital so they can initiate discharge planning procedures. The discharge planner also coordinates and maintains links with care professionals, facilities and resources (e.g. wheelchair providers) which might be necessary for the patient's recovery.
Discharge planners establish programs if they do not exist, or alter programs if they are deficient in meeting the needs of patients requiring post-hospitalisation care. They will review and continually update hospital policies, and they also will participate in hospital, public-health or community organisation committees to ensure that post-hospitalisation care is consistent and of a high quality.
Ideal Discharge Planner
The best suited nurse for a discharge planner position is someone who is extremely skilled in evaluating the patient's needs for recovery outside the hospital and has excellent communication skills, since she will need to deal with the patient as well the patient's family or caregiver. Discharge planners can be social workers, health administrators, or any other health-care professional who has experience in dealing with resources outside the hospital.
Nurses as Discharge Planners
Registered nurses are ideal discharge planners as they are in the best position to assess and evaluate patients. They can collect and use a patient's current vital statistics to determine if a patient will potentially have problems once they are discharged. In addition, the nurse can initiate care plans with the patient's family, such as teaching specific nursing care procedures, or assisting them with other factors such as nutrition or physiotherapy. They will work with many other health care professionals to ensure that the patient's well-being and health are addressed.
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- Nurseweek: "A Simple Plan: Discharge Planning Improves The Odds;" Jane Erwin, 1999
- RN Central: "Discharge Care Plan;" March 2007
- National Alliance for Caregiving: "A Family Caregiver's Guide to Hospital Discharge Planning"
- "Job Definition Of A Discharge Planning Coordinator;" N.B. Fredericton; 2002
- "Discharge Planning: An Interdisciplinary Method;" Harper E.A.; 1998