I recently found myself watching the movie Patch Adams. It’s a pretty good movie but has a great message. It reminded me of something important. We’ve written in the past about six ways that healthcare hiring is different from other industries, but I think we missed the biggest difference – a difference that Patch Adams certainly would point out.
You’ll recall that Patch Adams is a real life physician who caused a stir by arguing that our healthcare system should not treat disease, but the patient. Patch endorsed a “patient-centric” approach to care because it was the right thing to do.
We talk a lot, recently, about improving patient satisfaction scores, and reducing complications because it impacts reimbursement. Certainly, there is value in aligning financial incentives with the desired outcomes. Whenever I speak to young physicians, or nurses or other healthcare professionals about the “business” of healthcare, though, I remind them that while we go about our work in the hospital, patients and their families are there dealing with fear, pain, tragedy, and uncertainty. Like Patch Adams, we need to remember that part of the care and compassion of healthcare goes beyond treating the physiology and the diagnosis, to helping to ease the psychological pain and stress that are so common during a hospital stay.
Despite all of the technological and process improvements in healthcare, it remains a “people-driven” service where talented, compassionate people have the honor of helping people when they are at their most vulnerable. Accordingly, human resources can have a significant impact on a hospital’s ability to create the right culture, to fulfill its mission and to provide the level of care and the patient experience that we aspire to. Every hiring and promotion decision, ultimately, affects patients. Is anything more important than identifying people who can treat patients the way they deserve to be treated?
I remember when my elderly mother spent a few days in the hospital. She was easily confused, and like most elderly people, her confusion increased when she is hospitalized. I could tell she was anxious as the stream of people came in and out of her room, none of them introducing themselves or explaining what they were doing (even though there were signs in the hallway which told me they’d all been trained in the basics of improving the patient experience and respecting patient autonomy).
Then a respiratory therapist came in: “Hello Mrs. Warren, I’m Bill, your respiratory therapist.” He could see her anxiety. “Do you know why you are here?” She shook her head. He proceeded to take a few moments during the treatment to tell her that they were monitoring her overnight to watch her breathing and that the doctor would see her in the morning. He didn’t cure her disease, but he certainly eased her angst, which I’m sure Patch Adams would have appreciated, and I’m sure allowed her to rest and to heal.
Now, how do we set about making sure that we have more staff like Bill?