February 14, 2018

Don’t Just Do the Job. Be Passionate About the Purpose.

I was sitting at a computer terminal writing admission orders for Mr. H, a sixty-year-old gentleman I’d just seen for complaints of chest pain. I had requested another EKG, so I popped my head back in his room to let him know someone would be repeating the procedure and why. A few minutes later, a young woman appeared with an EKG machine and knocked on his door. She introduced herself as “Christine, the CNA, or Certified Nursing Assistant” who would be taking care of him during the next shift. She told Mr. H that she would be obtaining an EKG, but first informed him that, “I’m writing my name on this whiteboard so you can remember who I am and ask for me if you need anything at all. I always write in big letters so you can read my name – how’s that?” she asked. “Perfect,” he said. “And thanks for taking the time to do that.” She then proceeded with the EKG, which showed resolution of some previously concerning changes. Mission accomplished. It may be a stretch to think that Christine’s thoughtful and informative communication resolved Mr. H’s EKG changes. There was no question, however, that her passion for communication and excellent care had an impact, as evidenced by his comment, “Thanks for taking the time to do that.”

Taking the time to communicate with patients

Christine could have walked to the whiteboard and just written down her name. She would have been doing her job. But she embraced the purpose of the board and the recording of her name and improved the quality of the patient experience by simply explaining that she was doing it to better serve the patient. I was appreciative of Christine’s communication and decided to tell her so. “That was great how you explained why you were putting your name down on the whiteboard. I appreciate you making that effort, and Mr. H certainly did, too.” Christine later approached me and thanked me for the feedback. She had been making a concerted effort to explain things to her patients in this fashion, and the few words of encouragement made it that much easier for her to remember. The following afternoon, Mr. H was ready for discharge. I explained the results of his tests, all of which were fortunately negative, and answered a couple of remaining questions. Mr. H then sheepishly asked me for a copy of his chart, not knowing if such a thing was possible to obtain.

Asking questions

After informing him that he would need to request a copy from medical records on Monday, I realized I wasn’t really embracing my purpose. “What did you want it for?” I asked, suggesting that there might be an easier way to get the information he was requesting. “I’ve got an appointment with my doctor on Monday – I just want her to know what happened here,” he replied. Because it was a Saturday, there was no way his physician would get a discharge summary by Monday for the appointment. In almost the amount of time it would have taken for someone to explain to him how to contact medical records to request his chart, I printed out the pertinent test results and typed up a quick discharge note. I put everything in a folder, stapled my card to the front and explained that his doctor should call me if she had questions. “Wow, I really appreciate you doing this for me.” I couldn’t help but wonder why everyone doesn’t walk out of the hospital with this sort of information, but that’s a topic for another post. Taking advantage of opportunities to exceed people’s expectations gets to the heart of improving the patient experience. And, when being passionate about the purpose makes someone’s day, you’ll usually find that it makes yours, too.

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