Every patient in every hospital is in a rather strange position. They need the services that the hospital and healthcare providers are giving; but they do not want to be in a situation where they need healthcare in the first place. For the most part, people don’t "enjoy” getting sick or injured, but they do. And since this is inevitable, patients reluctantly find themselves fully dependent on people (who they usually don’t know). Every patient is saying, "I need you.” It is critical for every healthcare professional, from physicians to nurses to ER registration clerks, to fully understand the moral and emotional responsibility of their work.
My family and I live in the Washington, D.C. metro area, and love it. Before moving there in 2004, I never experienced any asthma problems in my life. Since the move, however, I’ve developed asthma-like symptoms every year during allergy season. After a few years, it got really bad, so I found a pulmonologist, who diagnosed me with asthmatic bronchitis. He prescribed the appropriate medications to get rid of the ailment. Over the next few years, the same cycle ensued:
allergy season begins…I get sick…I go to the doctor…the doctor prescribes medication…I feel better…repeat same sequence the following year
Then one year my wife said to me, "Why don’t you just go see the pulmonologist at the very beginning of allergy season to get the medication? Then you can take the medication every day, as a prophylaxis, until the season ends.” Ok, sounds logical, but I immediately thought, "Obviously if that were the case, the doctor would have told me that years ago…right?” So I went to see the doctor and mentioned my wife’s suggestion. To my surprise and disappointment, he said, "Well, yes, taking the medications pre-emptively is the best route for you to take.” What?! Why didn’t he tell me that before?
As a patient, I need you to:
- Know that I am a whole person, and not just another transaction.
- Make me feel like you are prepared, and looking forward to seeing me.
- Tell me what I don’t even know I need to know…after all, you are the subject matter expert.
- Don’t just comply with my requests, but rather look for suggestions to improve my life.
- Encourage me to follow through on your prescribed actions (medications, etc).
Most of all, I need you to care about me, and not just my ability to pay or your ability to cure. I need you to care about my well-being and genuinely want me to be healthy overall.
As I’ve written previously, it takes a special person to serve others, and it takes an extra special person to serve in healthcare. Healthcare professionals are, in fact, special people. Besides skills, they have the responsibility and privilege to literally improve the life of someone else. Those who fully embrace that responsibility serve with their hearts, and it’s a beautiful sight to see. They let love pervade everything they do and say with their patients.
Your ability to connect, sympathize and empathize makes you far more valuable than any check that could ever be written. I need you. Inpatients need you. Outpatients need you. Families need you. Communities need you. Serve with your heart and know that your healthcare job is one of THE most relevant ones the world has ever seen.
Dr. Bryan Williams is a service consultant, trainer and author. He has travelled worldwide to work with more than 100 companies in various industries, and is very passionate about helping companies reach high levels of service and organizational excellence.