The Heart of Healthcare

14

By Rodney D. Reider

Making regular rounds to talk with hospital staff and patients is a regular practice of mine.  I so enjoy the candid conversations and impressions that this provides, that I’ve continued the practice of making rounds even when I’m interviewing for a position. 

When I’m considering a job, I arrive a few days early and round the hospital to get a feel for the culture, to see how friendly the staff are, and gain a sense of the community’s relationship with the hospital.  I am continually inspired and impressed by the people I meet as I make my way through the hospital.

Providing care. Building community.

At one hospital I visited, I stopped by the cafeteria, got some food, and sat with an elderly gentleman who was sitting alone.  I asked him how long he had been at the hospital, and how things are going for him.  He shared that his wife was in one of the hospital beds. He went on to tell me that he and his wife have been in this same city, going to this same hospital for their entire lives.  He told me stories about the time he had to go to the ER, his wife’s hip operation several years ago, and an entire lifetime of experiences at this hospital. What most impacted me was that he remembered the names of the doctors and nurses who had cared for him and his family.

I came in contact with someone who has delivered all three of her children at the same hospital.  One of her babies, born five weeks early, received care in the NICU for several weeks. When she had another premature baby a few years later, she was greeted by name by those same NICU nurses who asked about her other children.  She also was an antepartum patient for three weeks prior to the birth of one of her babies due to a serious pregnancy complication, and befriended many of the nurses, doctors, and support services staff who cared for her. Even though this hospital is not the one most conveniently located to her home, her family continues to choose this hospital for their care because of the relationships formed there.

As I make my rounds, patients’ family members will often tell me about how great the care has been. Sometimes, I hear stories about the care someone’s spouse or parent received at a hospital decades before.  The families, as well as the patients, make connections with the medical staff that last.  For this reason, the community sees their relationship to their hospitals as long-standing and long-serving.

At one hospital I served at, employees walking through one of the lobbies of the hospital were invited to sign their commitment to living out the hospital’s values as a way to build and reinforce the hospital’s culture. We were surprised to find that many people from the community who didn’t work at the hospital wanted to sign as well, because they saw it as their hospital.  

Community engagement and ownership like this is a reflection of the people working in the hospital.  They are dedicated to their community. They are an inspiration.

Compassion and dedication.

I consider it an honor to have the responsibility of caring for the healthcare professionals who care for our patients.  On my rounds, I like to ask how things are, how life is for them, what brought them into the industry in the first place.  Nearly every person—whether doctors, nurses, dietitians, support services staff, or administrators—say they had a desire to help people.

Many of the staff members I’ve met on my rounds have worked at the same hospital for most of their careers, like an engineer I spoke with who had been there for 40 years, and whose sister had been there even longer. I also hear stories from many employees who have been patients there themselves, or have had loved ones receive treatment, or have given birth to children there. 

Once I sat with a group of respiratory therapists, several of whom had been there for over 30 years.  They talked about how great their team is and how much they care about one another. Their families had grown up together.

When asked what could be done to improve the hospital, one respiratory therapist shared that she and some of the other therapists organize get-togethers once a month for people in the community who have trouble breathing and can’t get out much. They organize a craft or get a bus and take them out somewhere while the RTs push them around in their wheelchairs. This was done entirely on their own time with their own money, and she asked for help with the budget so that these people could continue to connect with each other.

The people I’ve worked alongside in the healthcare field go above and beyond to meet their patients’ needs. The physician leadership at one hospital I served set aside over two hours to sit with a grieving family, hear their concerns, and explain the measures they took to try to save their loved one’s life to help them process the death of their family member.  A nurse told me a story about a patient who came into the ER with old tattered shoes. She went out and purchased shoes for this man and gave them to him when he was discharged.  

The healthcare professionals whose stories I’ve shared are truly the heart of the healthcare industry. They believe they have a calling and want to provide the ultimate care for their patients and communities.  This “way of life” for them is noticed and appreciated by the patients they serve time and time again. They strive to be their best, not for themselves, but for others.  They raise everyone’s standards. For me to be a part of it is a humbling honor.

For more than 25 years, Rodney has been involved in the healthcare industry and has positioned organizations to adapt to the continuously and rapidly changing healthcare environment. An International Scholar twice-over, he has a thirst for knowledge and a drive to explore, create and support innovative solutions within the healthcare space that make a lasting impact. He writes about healthcare innovation and leadership at rodneyreider.com.

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