Did you see this last week?
Late night host and comedian Jimmy Kimmel returned to TV after a week away and revealed that the birth of his son was fraught with complications.
His monologue was both agonizing and uplifting to watch. Agonizing because, as a father of 3 little ones myself, I can only imagine their anguish throughout the ordeal. It was uplifting to watch because (*spoiler alert*) the story has a happy ending.
The other reason it was uplifting is because it’s obvious that Mr. Kimmel feels a deep and profound appreciation for all who helped his family through such a tumultuous week. That’s why I chose to write about this, and it’s why you should share this video with your team members and encourage them to watch. Along the way, be sure to point out one detail above all others:
He knew their names.
Did you catch that? In a 13-minute monologue, he recounted in significant detail the medical emergency his newborn son faced and the fear his family experienced throughout. And as he shared this story, he named the nurses, the doctors, the surgeons, and more. He identified them not by title alone, but by their names. And this is something that we as leaders in healthcare sometimes forget. It’s something we have to remind our employees about each and every day.
They know our names.
This isn’t just true in medically sophisticated or life-threatening circumstances. It’s true in the busy pediatrician’s office. It’s true in the sprawling primary care clinic. It’s true in the optometrist’s office, the dentist’s office, and the women’s health practice. In every place where a patient or family member seeks care, is vulnerable, or looks to us for help, it’s true. They know our names.
Anyone who has worked in healthcare for more than 10 minutes knows that patients and families don’t always know the title of the person helping them. Patients constantly refer to anybody in scrubs as “the nurse” even when it was actually an MA, CRNP, PA, etc. But they really do know our names, and they remember them. It doesn’t always happen at first. It’s often after.
While they are in front of us, patients and families are navigating a myriad of emotions and ailments: fear, anxiety, exhaustion, stress. This is true even during routine visits or for minor medical complaints. These are powerful forces which can result in some patients being stoic or forgetting to say, “Thank you.” Other times they result in uncooperative or difficult patients. (Being emotionally intelligent as a healthcare professional means knowing this and not taking it personally.) But later, in a moment when you perhaps least expect it, a patient will ask you your name or thank you for your kindness. And they remember.
Every day, healthcare professionals go to work in high-stress, high-contact, compassion-demanding environments. It’s easy to become consumed by the challenges, the volume, and the processes. But the truth is that anyone who works in any kind of care center makes a profound difference in the lives of others. Yes, it’s through the expertise we deliver and the processes and protocols we execute. But more importantly, it’s the degree to which we demonstrate to patients and families that we genuinely care about them and want to help them. In trying or life-threatening situations like the one described in the video, healthcare employees tend to be able to access their compassion more easily. It’s harder to do so, perhaps, when working in a busy family practice clinic and feeling overwhelmed by late arrivals, call-offs, irritable patients and docs who are snippy about running behind.
It is in these moments, one person at a time, when we must stop and remind ourselves: I matter a great deal to this patient or family member. They are counting on me. I will be a shining light of support, compassion, caring, or hope, regardless of how their fears or stress show themselves. They are going to remember me either way. I will attach a great experience to my name.
Take a few minutes today to watch this. And share it with your team. You’ll be glad you did.
Joe Mull, M.Ed, is a leadership trainer and keynote speaker. He works with healthcare organizations that want their practice leaders to engage, inspire, and succeed. To learn more or bring Joe to your site, visit www.joemull.com.