I love this quote from this emergency room doctor who has made a career of speaking to, and consulting with, healthcare providers around the nation. Dr. Henry has a fascinating series of talks published by Sterling Healthcare called Giant Steps in Emergency Medicine
. It is worth seeking out.
The takeaway for me is the need to be present and engaged in what we do. This means playing the part that the rest of the actors expect from us. It’s “improve,” yes, but as the healthcare professional, you are the actor with your name in lights on the marquee. The rest of the cast takes direction from your cues. To this end, it is imperative that a physician shows engagement, active listening, empathy and just basic good manners when performing a check-up, a check-in or any kind of interaction.
Hollywood types that are widely considered to be best in class in terms of sincerity, politeness and concern for their fellow actors include George Clooney, Tom Hanks, Ellen DeGeneres, Oprah Winfrey, Sara Jessica Parker, Hugh Jackman and Jay Leno. These folks rose to the top of their industry without losing their empathy for others. Here in Mississippi, who can we consider to be the physicians and attending support staff who model such behaviors? And why is this important?
Well, going back to Dr. Henry and his core raision d’etre, he argues that being kind is the number one defense against malpractice suits. Dr. Henry believes the absolute #1 driving force behind many medical lawsuits is not the level of physical care, but the level of emotional care given. That is a big statement, and maybe bears considering by us all. For me, as a restaurateur, I can certainly affirm that waitstaff who connect with guests and show competence and control as a part of their service get better tips and are forgiven when things don’t go right. Guests don’t complain to me about Tracy Bacon or Taylor Kilman if the steak is overcooked or the pizza takes too long at BRAVO! But I will hear it in spades if a weaker member of the team has a problem. The difference is confidence and compassion; a balance of the two.
So, here are a few touchpoints Dr. Henry suggests a physician consider as he/she makes rounds:
- Be kind-everyone is fighting a battle, and in your industry, many are life threatening!
- Be present-all eyes, ears and minds are focused on you like a laser beam. They (the patient and the family accompanying the patient) will remember everything you do, say and infer.
- Say please and thank you-just like we were taught in kindergarten.
- Call people by name-it is the sweetest sound in the world to be called by name.
- Recognize all in the room-again, everyone is watching you, and after you are gone the family will be the ones to recount what you said.
- Apologize for the wait-even if it wasn’t bad, just apologize, it shows you value the time of others.
- Always thank people for asking questions and telling them it is your pleasure to answer them.
These are good, common sense ideas that are easily added to your repertoire, all you have to do is choose to do it, and practice it daily. I think if you do, you just may get a standing ovation after your next performance.
*Inspiration for this article was taken from, and a number of references and ideas are directly attributable to, the body of worked titled Minimizing Lawsuits – Human Ways to Prevent Malpractice by Gregory Henry, MD. This work was published as a part of the Giant Steps in Emergency Medicine series by Sterling Healthcare. © 2011
Jeff Good is the co-creator and managing partner of BRAVO! Italian Restaurant, Broad Street Baking Company, and Sal & Mookie’s New York Pizza & Ice Cream Joint. Recently, he opened business-consulting firm - Dollars & Sense Creative Consulting. Together, with partners Dan Blumenthal and Danielle Davis, he is happy to share his insight into customer service, command & control oversight, payment processing and security as well as playful marketing and promotion, with businesses wishing for a outsider’s viewpoint. Jeff can be found when bussing your table or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.