Most of us would say that we want every employee to take ownership of the patient experience, but in reality, it can be difficult for staff to intervene uninvited. I recently had an experience that reinforced the art of taking ownership on behalf of the organization.
Last week my husband and I made the four hour trip to visit my sister during a particularly long hospitalization. We had taken a break to eat in the cafeteria. Chatting over dinner, we were discussing how Elizabeth’s physical appearance might be alarming to other family members who hadn’t seen her for a while. We were talking about what we could say to help prepare them for what she currently looks like and what is going on with her medically.
We hadn’t noticed that while we were talking the cashier from the cafeteria (now on break) had sat down at the table next to us. She politely leaned in and said, “I couldn’t help but overhear what you were saying. We have excellent social workers and chaplains that help with this type of thing. They can help you to plan what to say and how to describe the situation for other family members.” We thanked her and she went on saying, “When you get back to the nursing unit, just tell the nurses you would like to speak with a social worker or chaplain. They will get someone for you. It can be extremely helpful.”
Some people may be put off by a stranger eavesdropping and moving in on the conversation, but in our case, I was impressed. What impressed me was her knowledge of resources available to patients and families and her courage to speak up, acting on behalf of the organization. She was courteous and respectful of our privacy and yet took action that would help us through a rough situation. Even though her job description was that of a cashier in the cafeteria, she was so much more. She was a knowledgeable ambassador of the system. Now that’s ownership.