An Event to Remember: Patients of Today, Models of Tomorrow

| February 9, 2008

by Roseann DeLuca, BSN, RN

Roseann is the Bariatric Coordinator, Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, West Islip, New York.

THE BACKGROUND

I am the bariatric coordinator at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, New York. Every year, our bariatric center looks forward to holding its annual spring fashion show for bariatric patients. The event is held on the grounds of the medical center in the hospital’s conference center. This wonderful event celebrates the many accomplishments of our bariatric patients. Weight loss surgery is a gratifying, life-altering change, and we are pleased to recognize our patients’ successes.

Hosting a special event like a fashion show for patients is an important component of a successful bariatric program and helps to bring home the advantages of bariatric surgery for patients. There are many positive reasons to hold this event. Patients can celebrate their weight loss accomplishments, they can demonstrate how weight loss surgery has changed their lives, and the families can enjoy the event and share in their loved ones’ successes.

THE SUPPORT GROUP

One of the most gratifying aspects of being a coordinator at Good Samaritan is facilitating our support group for the preoperative and postoperative patients. Good Samaritan’s support group is facilitated by a registered nurse (bariatric coordinator), social workers, group liaisons, which may consist of former patients, and a dietitian who attends as needed. The bariatric support group is composed of individuals who, through shared experiences, strength, and hope, are dealing with a metabolic disorder. Everyone is welcomed in this process. There are no dues or fees to become a member as we are sponsored by Good Samaritan. The group meets on a regular basis every other Saturday at the hospital. It is unique from other support groups. Education and success are the common goals of the support group members and group leaders.

THE IDEA

As a community hospital, we wanted to find a way to celebrate not only the successes of surgical weight loss, but also the journey, the bumps in the road, the many paths the patients have had to travel to get to this point in their lives, and we also wanted to recognize the energy it takes every day to be able to get back up and start over again when we do fall off track.
One of the members of the support group is the manager of a dress store. She thought of the fashion show. From there, an event was born.

THE PLANNING

I presented the idea of hosting a patient fashion show to Good Samaritan’s Senior Vice President of Nursing, Patricia Hogan, RN, MA, CNAA, and Patricia Kurz, RN, MPS, CEN, CMSRN, CAN-BC, who both understood that education, support, and continued care of the postoperative patient is just as important as the preoperative care. The outcomes demonstrated in the fashion show by way of the patients modeling not only clothing, but their successes, can proudly display how weight loss surgery has changed their lives. Outcomes are measured with weight loss, improvement in comorbidities, and quality of life improvements. But success is what you see when these patients walk down the runway.
I invited and encouraged all of our bariatric patients to become involved. Having our patients heavily involved would give the event the necessary personal touch and serve to fulfill the event’s purpose of celebrating our patients’ successes! We wanted to create a positive culture for the weight loss patient with this event, and all aspects of planning fell in line with that goal. After initial planning, the fashion show soon began taking on a life of its own. Once we established support from the hospital, the next step was to ask for volunteers from the support group. We started by asking for postoperative models. We invited patients to model and encouraged them to have fun with it. This is their time to express themselves by wearing clothing that will enhance their new lives. We decided the models would wear three sets of clothing: sportswear, casual, and formal wear. This took time to select. The models would need help. Many of these patients have never shopped in a dress store before, and due to their change in lifestyle, they were now able to wear the clothing most other women do. But this process of selection and finding a comfort zone in shopping for such clothing can take time and effort, and we wanted it to be fun. We established a committee to assist the models; they helped with choosing outfits, getting ready, and also administrative tasks. After all clothing was chosen, the committee wrote out index cards describing the clothing the models would be wearing so that the Master of Ceremonies (MC), who happened to be me, could describe each outfit correctly during the fashion show.

Many hands make light work, and this event was no exception. Beyond the committee help, we received support and favors from many sources big and small. One of our patients volunteered her daughter to help the models with their hair and make-up. The excitement caught on, and she brought a friend to help as well, a trend that assisted us greatly on the day of the event.

The next step was deciding how to decorate. Runways, lights, and off we went!

Our dedicated volunteer social worker, Christina Ware, put together a Powerpoint presentation that consisted of pictures of preoperative and postoperative patients. The pictures coincided with the models walking down the runway, and I as the MC read a short biography for each model explaining the significant changes that the patient had undergone since surgery. This enhanced the mood and added that little extra spice of excitement that could not be obtained any other way and that established a celebratory mood for our models as they displayed pride and happiness with what they’ve done with their lives.

We invited preoperative and postoperative patients and their guests. The theme was “The New Me.”Over 200 family and friends attended this event and enjoyed watching 15 models walk down the runway. Of the many supporters at the show, I think the loudest applause came from the Social Workers who work very closely with the Bariatric patients and the Nursing Staff of the Bariatric unit at Good Samaritan Hospital.

REFLECTION
Is the success of a weight loss program measured in a graph, a chart, or a true-to-life patient fashion show, with all of the numbers and realities that go with it? Who has better outcomes than that? After the last model finished, we brought all of the models out one last time. There were pictures, smiles, tears of happiness, families clapping and cheering, nurses and staff standing in the background applauding. Who could ask for more…from our patients and from their surgeries?

Category: Patient Management Perspective

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