I recently heard a story that really made me sit back and re-prioritize my approach to patient care. In modern medicine we focus on medical care, optimizing medications, throughput time, and innovative technology. Excellent care is considered standard with focus on disease intervention instead of the entire patient.
The story goes like this… A hard working nurse, recently left a grueling 12-hour shift at a busy emergency department. She was buying groceries, trying to get home at a decent time in order to make her family dinner. While going through the store, the nurse noticed a vaguely familiar middle-aged woman in the store that seemed to be staring at her. While going from one isle to the next, the nurse felt as if she was being followed or watched. After checking out, she hurried to her car. While loading her groceries, she looked up almost in a panic to see the woman standing in front of her. Being night in an inner city environment, the nurse was quite alarmed. The woman quickly began speaking, “ I hope your not startled but I had to speak with you. You were the nurse that took care of my daughter last year after her accident. I just want you to know how much we appreciated your compassion and all that you did. You have impacted our lives more than you will ever know. “ Relieved, the nurse smiled and returned a sincere gesture and recollection. The nurse inquired about the daughter and her recovery process. “ She passed that night” the woman replied. Your presence, your compassion during the worst moment of our lives will never be forgotten.
My recollection of this story simply doesn’t do it justice…but the underlying tone is loud and clear. As healthcare professionals, our perception of priorities of care may often differ from the patients. We tend to focus on policy and procedures, while the patient is often scared or lonely…..needing a simple gesture of compassion. I’m not saying that less emphasis should be placed on excellent medical care. What I’m proposing is that we should continue excellent medical treatment while treating the entire individual. Innovation can overshadow basic principles. Let’s get back to the basics.
At the end of a hard day, what motivates me? What keeps me going? Is it a reflection of hitting all core measures or decreasing throughput times? Although important and essential……..its not what makes me tick. It’s the colleague that needs my help, it’s the hurting child, or the grieving loved one. It’s making a difference on patient at a time. It’s simply BEING THERE.