Checklists.   Questionnaires.  Assessments.  Interviews.  As healthcare providers and caregivers, you may do this all day long. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a huge fan of checklists in the healthcare environment. I love order, structure, and process. It probably helps that my MBTI® type preference is ENFJ and my “J” world revolves around things like checklists and schedules.

1152277_touchingAs much I loved these methods in my prior experience of making sure patient care work is done, processes are standardized and I have applied some piece of evidence-based practice related to the care, I was always and still am searching for the better mouse trap of patient communication. My pulmonary rehab programs relied heavily on patient satisfaction – they needed to love the staff, love the program, feel a connection and go back to their physician feeling this was the best thing they’d ever done for themselves.  As some call it, make them “raving fans.” And they were our fans.

We had every kind of assessment useful to measure outcomes – walking distance, VO2 max, rate of perceived exertion, quality of life, locus of control, readmission rates, length of stay date – you name it, we probably tried to figure out a way to collect it. Some of our patients were less than enthusiastic, cautious about the program, and perhaps downright belligerent about being in the program. As with many other types of rehab, with tenderness and care, we could generally bring the most difficult patient to enjoy the sessions and gain from the experience. We not only had to show we were technically competent, most important, we had to show we cared and yes, loved them.

Throughout the time in the program, we had an opportunity to find how at least one thing that was very important to the patient – outside of walking longer, breathing better or having more energy or less pain. We could find out what was really important that represented who they were as a person, not just a patient. One wanted us to know he was part of the US forces that liberated the Dachau prison camp. Another used woodworking as a hobby. Another experienced the tragedy of watching her husband lose grip on the tree they were both clinging to for life during a severe flood and saw him float down the torrid stream and out of her life.

This information was more than just irrelevant anecodotes. This was valuable information about the patient on who they were as a person, their values and their personal motivation. As a team, these bits of information helped us value and respect our patients even more as we helped them in their journey of the healing process.

As you make your daily rounds today and ask what you can do to make them more comfortable, as you build trust with your patient or the patient’s family, rather than ask, “Is there anything else I can do?” perhaps pose the question, “What is one special thing you would like for me to know (or would/feel comfortable sharing) about yourself that could help me better care for you or know you better as a person?”

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