Every person has the power to do things differently – better than the last time. It takes just one thing. Not a policy. Not a procedure. Just a personal commitment.
I see it all the time when doing shadow/coaching and the impact is palpable. A nurse or a doctor commits to do one simple thing better during a patient encounter and it sends a ripple. They see the patient response and it reinforces a positive behavior.
A few weeks ago I was shadow/coaching a group of hospitalists whose communication scores were fairly poor- trying to help them make necessary improvements. In one situation, I observed a hospitalist who did a beautiful and through job of informing the patient about his condition and treatment plan while standing at the foot of the bed. I asked him to recap for me how he interpreted the patient’s response. He said that it was a good encounter and that he felt he had been thorough. I agreed with his assessment but I asked him to sit beside the bed during the next patient encounter and pay close attention to how the patient responded. During the next encounter he sat and made excellent eye contact while discussing the diagnosis and treatment plan. After the encounter, I asked what he noticed. He pointed out that the patient seemed more engaged and opened up more. Then I asked him how he felt about it. He paused, smiled and said, “It felt really good. It felt like we connected in a conversation. I felt like he really understood what I was saying.” I pointed out that he spent the same amount of time in both rooms. The difference was clearly a win/win. Not only did the patient engage more, but he felt better about the encounter as well.
Coaching nurses reveals the same level of awareness followed by increased commitment. It’s all about recognizing that each person holds the power to do things better in one single encounter. The same thing happens when the registration attendant makes an effort to engage and welcome the patient before diving into the “business” of the encounter or when the housekeeper pauses to ask what else he can do before leaving the room.
When people act on their power of one to make a difference, they benefit as well as the patients. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.