One of the best lessons I learned about role modeling and the patient experience has stuck with me my entire career. It happened one day as I was leaving my office and heading to a meeting with my director of nursing. She stopped me at the door and asked me what I was thinking about. I was a bit taken aback because it seemed a bit odd. I responded that I was thinking about the meeting, about what I had prepared and what I needed to get out of the meeting. She very firmly said, “I know. Here’s what you are NOT thinking about. You aren’t thinking about where you are and who you are passing in the halls. You are not fully present.” She went on to say, “These halls are filled with co-workers, patients and visitors. You are missing key opportunities to interact with them because you are focused on other things. It’s important that you learn to be in the moment.”
I was surprised to hear this coming from anyone, let alone my nursing director. She pointed out something I’ll never forget. She said, “You don’t know what is happening in the lives of the people that you are passing. Family members could be worried about their loved one in poor health. They could have just gotten a grim diagnosis.” She added, “Your co-workers are working hard too. When you ignore them because you’re thinking about your next meeting, you appear to snub them. Be in the moment. Notice the people around you. Interact.”
She was right. I was totally focused on things other than the people in my environment. The same thing often happens when clinical staff enter patient rooms. The focus is on the checklist of tasks rattling through their heads rather than the person they are serving. It’s on the beeping IV, or the dislodged lead. And when they focus on the equipment first, they are sending a message that the machines are more important than the person. Of course the nurse wants to stop the annoying alarms, but it feels completely different when she enters the room, looks at the patient and says something like, “Mrs. Jones, let me take care of this alarm. I’m sure it’s bothering you,” rather than just swooping in and switching off the alarm without a word.
Being in the moment not only serves the patients, family members and co-workers, it makes your life richer too.