Friday, September 15, 2017

What It Means to “Take Care” of the People, Who Take Care of People

By: Cheri Arafiles

In my experience, most patient experience initiatives are very specific to improving the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) scores of an organization. They are typically training programs or in-services that tell the frontline staff to smile, introduce themselves, this and that to create a better experience for patients and their families. Although I do feel that these “customer service” skills are important, I also feel that they are simply not enough.

In my role as a Patient Advocate, I learned that sometimes there is a disconnect in what the patients perceive and what the staff’s intentions are. I also learned that the patient experience is also about taking care of the people who take care of them. What I mean by being “taking care of them” is that they work in an environment where people feel connected to the work that they do and the people they work with. They feel like a good person for helping others, those on their teams and their leaders feel the same way.

Many leaders make the mistake of throwing pizza parties and pot lucks in an attempt to accomplish this, but again pizza is not enough to get people to talk to each other in a way the creates an environment of connection. Bringing people together is an important element, but why they are brought together is what really makes the difference. When I think of taking care of people, here is what I think of:
  • Allowing people the autonomy to be authentic and genuine in their interactions with their patients. This doesn’t mean to neglect guidance when it is needed, it simply means trust that they know how to be compassionate when they need to be. Let them talk about it, share their stories and experiences and learn from each other.
  • Offering them the opportunity to learn and grow about human emotions related to themselves as well as others around them. This means empowering them with the knowledge they need to understand our social and emotional nature, and then train them to see how it applies to the work they do and the people they work with.
  • Reminding them of the amazing impact they have on making the world a better place through their work. Simply because it is not always obvious and it’s so easy to forget.

Most people are on a mission to be the best person that they can be – so why not teach them the skills for doing exactly that? Imagine if our organizations taught us skills that gave us something to be aware of – like identifying and connecting with the meaning and purpose of the work we do to help others, taking an empathic perspective to help others effectively or expressing compassion in a way that is genuine and authentic. These are all skills that make people feel like a better, kinder person and are skills that are relevant to their work around taking care of patients and customers, but also apply to their personal relationships with their friends, parents, spouses, children, the stranger at the grocery store, etc. People do want to learn things that make them better at their job, but ultimately people want to be a better person.

The founder of, Cheri Arafiles is "intellectually obsessed about the concept of compassion." She designs training sessions and sustainment programs intended to improve patient and customer experience, while also engaging leaders and employees by developing and deepening the understanding of emotions.

Connect with Cheri on LinkedIn and Facebook.

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