Creating Compassionate Connections
Work environments are human. Regardless of the technology, humans are part of organizational systems. We envision, create strategies, drive the business, make decisions, design processes, and coordinate workflows. Within this complex series of systems, both macro and micro, we deliver service to our patients. We deliver high technology, quality and efficiency and hopefully a healing environment, a healing hand, through a compassionate approach.
Some of our patients have the capacity to make a personal decision on who or what organization provides them healthcare through a well-visit, diagnostic procedure or surgery. Some may be bound by their insurance plan and choices are limited. But all have one thing in common. They can each create an opinion on what is a compassionate experience.
Compassion is not pity. It is not just being nice and it is much deeper than empathy. Compassion compels people to not only have the capacity to be aware of, project, be sensitive and vicariously experience another person’s experience but also feel the need to relieve the pain. Compassionate responses may appear in a variety of forms – a touch, words of encouragement, connecting to others who can help, or an intimate moment of reaching out beyond the self to say or indicate “I can help or find help for you.”
As a healthcare team, we connect internally with each other. Within teams, across teams and sometimes across organizational systems, administrative, operational and support teams work together to build a network of direct care, support services, finance and human resources to support those who care for the patients.
We are human. By nature of this humanity, suffering is an inevitable consequence of organizational business processes. We make decisions, we create, we evolve, transform and change. We communicate and interact to drive the business. Within this progress, it is possible we also create anguish and emotional responses that must be managed effectively.
And we can manage the pain through compassion.
Suffering is not always easily apparent. We assess pain our patients perhaps through a pain scale, observing facial expressions or sometimes, verbal outcries. But what do we know about our colleagues? Our co-workers? Our manager? What do we observe, hear or feel? Or, what are not seeing, hearing or feeling that may indicate we have created anguish?
Pain may not always be physical pain. Pain can be a result of failure, lack of skills and fear. Incompetence may create pain not only in the individual but in the team. Managing change, succumbing to business decisions, feeling undervalued and stagnant can create pain. Pain demotivates, disengages and may act as a disease across the organization.
A disengaged workforce resulting from non-compassionate internal interactions may lead to service delivery drops and eventually non-compassionate interactions with patients. But with a compassionate approach to each other, we can downstream the compassionate interactions to our patients.
Healthcare organizations push for quality, cost effectiveness and efficiency. But consider this. You are a patient in the emergency room in severe pain. You may even think you are dying. What comes first in your mind? “I want the best technology!” or “I want a human hand of kindness and compassion and a reassuring voice to help me relieve my suffering.”
You are in the middle of a realignment in your organization. Rumors are flowing. After the initial shock wears off you have been laid off, what would you prefer to remember when it’s over? “That was a very efficient process”, or, “I was treated with dignity and respect. It was painful but I feel they did their best to soften the blow.”
We have the power within our voice, our touch, and our hearts to sooth, encourage, reassure, and provide resources to our colleagues, our team and our patients. We have to power to not just complete a service or transaction and say good bye but create a connection for the future.
We can express ourselves with compassion so as not to cause pain to our colleagues or our patients.
We have the power to create compassionate connections within each of us.