One of the questions we ask on many of our courses is "who is in your team?"
It is always fascinating to see how long it is before someone mentions the patient or service user in amongst all the doctors, nurses, porters, ODP's, managers, HCA's, therapists, allied healthcare professionals etc.
On one memorable occasion with a roomful of a particular group of specialist surgeons (no clues) the mere suggestion that the patient could be part of the 'team' was like a grenade going off. "They are the task, how can they be part of the team?"
My next question was "Could the patient save you making a mistake?"
"Yes of course" came the reply.
It is obvious. If you treat people like a task, you might inhibit them speaking up and potentially stopping calamity happening – wrong leg etc (there's a clue!). Compassion, empathy and demonstrating a genuine interest of the patients main concerns will reduce stress and empower your patients to have their voices heard.
During our time working with the Medical Protection Society we learned that there is compelling evidence that the initial interaction between medical professional and patient affects the willingness to complain and sue if things subsequently go wrong. If they feel valued and listened to, they are more likely too forgive, and vice versa.
"Empowered patients can communicate changes and observations that can make a real difference in their medical care…many times patients are intimidated, or sometimes bewildered, by the medical world around them. Also, it can be hard to speak up if the doctor or nurse is perceived to be rushed and ready to move on to the next patient." - Elizabeth Cohen, CNN senior medical correspondent and author of The Empowered Patient
The book 'If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 1/2 Things You Would Do Differently' by Fred Lee also makes interesting reading. Describing staff at Disney theme parks as 'actors' is in fact exactly what we would expect a 'professional' healthcare worker to do. We all adopt a cloak of professionalism at work don't we? Well, clearly some do better than others, judging by the evidence about abusive and inappropriate behaviour we hear about."Patients judge their experience by the way they are treated as a person, not by the way they are treated for their disease."
It's also well acknowledged that patients recover quicker if they feel cared about. If bed blocking is as much of a problem as it is reported; then anything that can be done which helps patients to recover, have a positive experience and get home again fast, has got to be worked on.
Treating patients like numbers – "go check the BP on bed 5" is entirely different to "pop along to Mrs Smith in bed 5 and check her BP".
It's clear that many providers are becoming more aware of compassionate care, and implementing training to help staff achieve this. Many staff may feel that this is something they do every day naturally; caring for people after all, was perhaps one of the main reasons for choosing their profession, but it is easy to become complacent.
I was recently admitted to a private provider where everyone who came into my room started with "Hello my name is .." However it was quite clear that because every single person used exactly the same form of words it had all the sincerity of concrete. Why couldn't one of them at least say something like "Hi Mr Dale, I'm Bill .."
You can reduce error by treating your patients as part of the team. However it is important that compassion, empathy and a genuine interest come across as sincere.
We have developed "The Keys from Courtesy to Compassion" course which covers the aspects of helping staff deliver compassionate care on a regular basis and it is clear that some places would benefit from it.
Here is a testimonial from one of our recent clients:
"Atrainability was wonderful to work with. They took our needs for instilling 'Disney' values into healthcare, and they worked closely with us to develop and deliver an enjoyable training session for our senior midwifery leadership team. The team enjoyed the fresh concepts and attuning these to their daily practice." - Amy Maclean, Head of Patient Experience at Birmingham Women's NHS Foundation Trust
"Thank you for helping us…and giving us some really useful strategies to complete our journey and make our business all about people." – Helen Young, Director of Nursing & Midwifery at Birmingham Women's NHS Foundation Trust.
To enquire about this course, click here to contact us for further information.