Memorial Day has just past and my thoughts keep going back to the long weekend spending much of it with family. It was raining most of the day and so I wasn’t able to put out our American flag as I typically do. I missed this simple ritual because as I’m placing the flag in its holder on the front of the house, I’m reflecting on the purpose for this holiday, connecting to the gratitude I feel (the sadness too) for those that have lost their lives in service to our country. While it’s a somber moment, I embrace the heaviness. It’s the least I can do.
That evening my husband and I ended our day watching the movie Saving Private Ryan. For those that don’t know the story, it takes place during the invasion of Normandy in WWII. Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) has orders to lead his team behind enemy lines to find Private James Ryan, whose three brothers have been killed in combat. Experiencing the brutal realties of war, as they search for Private Ryan, each solider set out on a personal journey and discovers their own strength to triumph over an uncertain future with honor, decency and courage. Near the end of the movie, Captain John Miller is fatally injured. His final words to Private Ryan are, “Earn this.”
Some might think as I did, that this is a huge burden to lay on someone. My husband however, shared that maybe it’s a gift rather than a burden. To quote him exactly, “A gift even more valuable than his life being saved because it gives his life a purpose, to make their sacrifice worth something.”
What are the lessons we can apply in our own lives? If we use Memorial Day not as a single day to honor or remember the fallen, but as a day to remind ourselves of our duty to honor them every day by our actions, we make the country stronger. Can we use these same lessons to make our healthcare systems stronger?
At the Institute, our purpose is Changing healthcare by advancing an unwavering commitment to the human experience. We do this with and alongside you, the patient experience community. Whether it’s through our On the Road experiences, collaborating with you on White Papers, gathering at our PX Pop Ups, engaging in conversations during our PX Body of Knowledge classes or hosting our monthly webinars, we see you doing it with honor. The many actions you take every day are making the experiences of those you serve better and our health systems stronger.
Having a clearly defined purpose can be a powerful guide to action and I don’t think we have to make it too difficult or overly complex. As leaders in healthcare, I also encourage you to find opportunities to share your own personal journey with those that depend on you. Share what patient experience means to you, why you think it’s important and what you believe your team does every day that positively impacts the experiences of others. These simple actions when done with courage, strength and humility honor your teams and opens the door for them to connect to their purpose and make greater meaning of their day to day actions.
Those that work in healthcare often witness the courage with which patients and families face the fear and the uncertainly that comes with a personal healthcare event or serious diagnosis such as cancer. This alone is a great reminder of the purpose for the work that we do in striving to make the experience more comforting, easier to navigate and to embrace the heaviness and fatigue that can come with this type of work. I hope you see it as a privilege to share their burden and fears with care, comfort and compassion.
Our purpose lives on because of you. It will be through our collective voice and the actions we take together that we celebrate this gift that is given to us. The gift of striving to make healthcare more accessible and the human experience better and doing it with honor and gratitude. It’s the least we can do.
Deanna Frings, MS Ed, CPXP
Vice President, Learning and Professional Development
The Beryl Institute