It was almost nine o’clock in the evening when I finally arrived at my hotel from a long day of meetings and travel in preparation for the full-day workshop I would lead the next day. I was tired, but I was also hungry. I asked the front-desk clerk as I checked in if there was a place nearby where I could still get a quick bite. She pointed across the lobby and said, “I think Joan over in the bar can still get you something to eat.”
The bar at the suburban hotel where I was staying was not exactly a hot spot on a Monday night. There were only two other people at a small table talking when I walked in and pulled up a bar stool. Joan was busy cleaning up behind the bar but cheerfully greeted me with a menu. Our small talk quickly brought her to the question, “So what brings you to town?”
“I have a meeting tomorrow at General Hospital,” I replied.
She immediately stopped what she was doing, looked at me with the appreciative smile a mother has when you ask about one of her children, and uttered three simple words.
“That’s my hospital.”
Her heartfelt expression of what General Hospital meant to her and her family said it all. Sure, she went on to explain that “her babies” were born there and that they took wonderful care of her husband when he needed surgery. But the details weren’t necessary to convey the powerful connection she had developed with General Hospital because of the compassionate, respectful care she had received there. It was as if she was telling me about a member of her family, and she was so proud of who they were and what they had accomplished.
The expression of an institution being “my hospital” is, in many ways, the ultimate compliment and should be considered as one of the best measures of success in assessing a patient or family’s long-term experiences with our organizations. It’s tough to pose the question on a patient satisfaction survey. (Asking “Is General Hospital your hospital?” just doesn’t get you to the same place.) But we know it when we see it. And this level of loyalty and commitment is a dialogue worth having among care teams to discern what it would take to elicit the same reaction and response from all of the patients as I got from Joan.
Certainly General Hospital had done a multitude of things right over the years to build the kind of trust and connection that Joan and her family felt with the institution. But my guess is that at the heart of all of those things was the sense among frontline staff – especially nurses – of each patient being “my patient” – an individual who deserves the same level of compassion and care that I would provide to my own mother, child or very dearest friend. In a business that at its core is dependent on personal connections more than any other, that sense of dedication and accountability to each individual is what will continue to distinguish the very best healthcare organizations.
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