What I’ve Learned About Care as a CF Patient and Hospital Administrator

As a hospital administrator, I try to apply what I've learned from receiving care as a person with CF to provide better health care for my patients.

June 2, 2016 | 4 min read
John Sackett

On my journey with cystic fibrosis, I've been admitted to the hospital 10 times or so. And I'm lucky. Many of you with CF have been inpatients even more often.

As a hospital executive, it's always educational to be on the other side of health care, experiencing what you and other patients do. Hospitals are where we go to heal, and yet they often provide us with little chance for uninterrupted, peaceful rest. This is especially true for those of us with CF in the hospital. The battle against lung infections leaves us exhausted as we go through multiple respiratory treatments a day, battle the anxiety of having a PICC line inserted and fight the side effects of steroids.

When I have to go into the hospital, all I want to know is what I need to do to get better and go home. But often, getting to that golden nugget of information requires me to do some long, hard and repetitive mining -- while I am sick! First, I have to recount my medical and physical history, which is massive when you have CF. Also, I have to list the endless medications I take. I've started carrying a printout with me, just in case. Soon the parade of caregivers begins, with each person asking me to brief him or her from the beginning. Have you ever had so many providers come in and out of your room that you start wondering, “Who are these people?”

Well, I have. And as a hospital president, I'm blessed to be in the position to do something about the way we deliver care to patients. I know both firsthand and from many of you that the little things are important. I know that I feel more human, less vulnerable and more motivated to heal faster when I can wear regular clothes as long as possible, instead of being sentenced to days in PJs or a hospital gown. I know that I prefer private rooms and bathrooms, and I want to eat comfort food instead of something institutional. I know that once my IVs are in and oxygen is flowing, I want to walk and see beautiful colors, art and nature instead of lying in a bed or pacing endless hallways of beige.


At my hospital, Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Md., I share with my staff the importance of addressing these quality of life issues to create a more healing climate for our patients. But it's not just aesthetics, is it? More important, both when we are inpatients and every day in our disease management, we want and need to be on the care delivery team.

When I'm in the hospital because of CF, I want my night nurse to come visit before I go to sleep and make a plan with me. Will we leave the lights on? When will we set lines for blood draws?

While I am not the one doing the work, I am the one being worked upon. It is a sacred two-way relationship, and I am a crucial half.

It is important for our caregivers to understand that patients must feel valued. But the burden is not only on the caregivers. As we manage our CF, we must have the courage to ask our care teams to include us, nurture us and value us when it seems that they are not. 

Help me be a better administrator. Have you learned that you are a valued part of your CF care team? I want to hear from you. What do you want to see from hospitals and health care? What's important to you?

This site contains general information about cystic fibrosis, as well as personal insight from the CF community. Opinions and experiences shared by members of our community, including but not limited to people with CF and their families, belong solely to the blog post author and do not represent those of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, unless explicitly stated. In addition, the site is not intended as a substitute for treatment advice from a medical professional. Consult your doctor before making any changes to your treatment.

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John has refused to allow CF to stand in the way of his successful career as a health care executive. John is President of Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Center in Rockville, Md., a 290-bed acute care hospital located just outside the nation's capital. He also serves as Chief Operating Officer for its parent company, Adventist HealthCare. John is passionate about working with his community, physicians and his hospital staff to create a world-class patient experience.

Before moving to Maryland, John served 24 years as President and Chief Executive Officer of Avista Adventist Hospital in Louisville, Colo. He holds a bachelor's degree in Business Administration from Walla Walla College and a master's degree in Health Administration from Loma Linda University. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

John lives life to the fullest and especially enjoys playing the cello for his church, running each morning, and spending time with his wife, Sue, and their two adult children, Greg and Rena.

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