It’s a given that leaders should model desired behaviors. This was verified during a recent discussion with the Director of Nursing in my sister’s subacute facility. I had been traveling and when I got to Elizabeth’s room on a Monday morning, I learned they had been “out” of her pain medication since Friday. The nurse caring for her shrugged and said, “I guess they called the doctor and never heard back,” and kept doing what she was doing. I called the doctor myself from her room and within five minutes had the prescription ordered and verified that the on call physician would have filled it over the weekend had anyone tried.
Later, the Director of Nursing came to the room to examine Elizabeth’s wounds. Elizabeth has an incision that goes from her sternum to her pubic bone with two open areas that require packing twice a day. So it’s reasonable to believe she’d have pain worthy of medication. I (very calmly) told the director that I was glad to see her because there was something I needed to discuss. My remark was met with a poker face and no verbal encouragement to proceed. But, of course, I proceeded anyway. I very evenly said, “I’m concerned about the lack of problem solving and initiative among the nursing staff.” Still no encouragement to go on, but I did. I said, “Let me give you two examples of why I am concerned.” I went on to give the pain medication example and two others that, to me, were very elementary nursing functions i.e. crushing pills and sitting the patient up in a chair or at the side of the bed when they have trouble swallowing pills.
How did she respond? Poker face with a hint of disdain. She went on to blame the doctor for not responding when the request was sent on Friday. There was no apology, no hint of remorse and no evidence of empathy for my sister’s situation. She is modeling exactly the same behavior I see among the staff.
Shrugging, blaming, and ignoring are not good service recovery strategies.