Last week, I wrote about the Platinum Rule – doing to others as they want, not as we want. It’s not an easy thing; you have to invest a little energy and ask a person what he or she prefers. Many of us don’t feel we have the time, or we assume that others want the same as we do.
I had a friend in college who wanted to do something really wonderful for my birthday so she organized a surprise party for me; secretly invited all my friends, got a big cake, lots of balloons, and many of the foods she’d seen me enjoy. She really did surprise me, too. I had no idea any of it was going on. It was great to see so many people there, all having fun and celebrating. When it came time to blow out the candles, I couldn’t believe my eyes. My friend had gotten a chocolate cake. Everyone loves chocolate cake, right?
Not this girl.
I was gracious, smiled, and didn’t say anything about it except ‘Thank you’, but many of my friends gasped when they saw it. “Oh my God, Kate hates chocolate!”
The party went on; I wasn’t going to let a little thing like cake ruin it, but was a perfect example of how we make assumptions about all kinds of things.
We in healthcare do it all the time. This is especially troubling given all we know about a person’s ability to heal and get well.
If I were to ask 6 different people to tell me the three most important things during their hospital stay, I’d get many different answers. “Manage my pain” “Call me Bill, not William” “Call me Mr. Jones, not Bill” “Please leave the shades closed” “Please always open the shades” “Get me out of here as soon as possible.” “Don’t send me home before I’m ready” “Communicate with my primary care doctor” and on and on.
We have the perfect opportunity to collect that information. In fact, we have two. There’s the admission form when patients first arrive and the white board in their rooms. By simply taking a moment to ask, we can find out what matters most to them. By paying attention to it, we help them get better faster. What better way to demonstrate care and concern that to look at the white board and say, “How are we doing managing your pain today, Mr. Jones? Here, let me open those shades for you.”
That simple act, using the Platinum Rule, lets the patient know that we are taking his needs into account. We are personalizing his care. How he feels, what he wants, matters to us.
You don’t think you have the time? Believe me, the hospital on the other side of town has already figured this out. They’re doing it. They’ve hardwired it into the behaviors of all the employees who interact with their patients. And patients are noticing. More importantly, they’re noticing when it ISN’T happening at your hospital.
Take a few moments to use the Platinum Rule. And please don’t bake me a chocolate cake.