Archive for July, 2023

Patient Centered Care

July 5th, 2023

The moves on my personal career chess board went something like this: Band director to arts manager, then tourism director to health care executive. Looking objectively at my employment progression, one might struggle to identify some type of intelligent connectivity and continuity that makes sense, but it was indeed a rich experience pathway that resulted in a unique brand of leadership that could not have been predicted.

First and foremost, it armed me with a very deep level of understanding and experience in human relationships that addressed things like personal growth, happiness, and positivity. As a junior and then senior high school band director, I learned compassion, patience, and persistence, and was forced to become a master counselor to help my students achieve sometimes incredibly challenging goals.

When I entered healthcare management, my most often replicated thought was “Why do they do things this way?” It took me a while to find the answer to my question. The vast majority of the individuals involved in healthcare were adept in things like math, science, and other left-brain skills. My career path was heavily weighted in emotional quotient skills, and human interactions that nurtured my students, encouraged artists in creativity and uniqueness, and promoted entrepreneurial activities through our tourism business membership.

One of my first healthcare administrative fellows quoted a line from one of his professors that became our mantra, “Don’t give people what they will like. Give people what they will love.” There was also a masculine/feminine component to this philosophy as well because the vast majority of healthcare leaders were men, but the majority of employees were female, the majority of healthcare decision-makers were women, and the road to recovery and healing always included nurturing. These realities resulted in my taking a very different view of what healthcare leadership should look like, and it was opposed to many of the traditional “Dr. House” approaches that had been followed for many years.

The absolute power of humanness in healthcare had to be the core of the relationships between the patients and caregivers. That human touch is what fostered healing. This meant developing programs with empathetic understanding relating to the patient’s emotional needs. It also meant encouraging genuine connections between our healthcare professionals and their patients. That required pointing out over and over again that it may be the employee’s 127th tumor, but it was the patient’s first, and that meant compassion, tenderness, and empathy had to be part of the care.

The capacity to understand and share the feelings of others represented a very challenging new world order because that sharing also meant vulnerability, personal exposure to emotional pain, and transcendence of traditional roles as the caregivers embrace the holistic care of their patients. The acknowledgment and validating of patients’ emotions, fears, and concerns, allowed our healthcare professionals to create an environment that promoted healing. It also reassured the patients that they were being seen, cared for, and heard. Most importantly it instilled hope and reduced anxiety. That alone allowed white blood cells to do their work.

It didn’t take long to realize that with the establishment of provider-patient relationships, healing could begin more quickly. These relationships required the providers to understand their patient’s uniqueness. What were their cultural backgrounds, family circumstances, and personal preferences? By doing this type of homework and then allowing patients to actively participate in their healthcare decisions, a bond was formed that resulted in a patient-centered type of care that created incredibly positive statistical outcomes that still hold today.

By our acknowledging the psychosocial impact of illness, healthcare professionals were able to offer support, guidance, and resources to help the patients get through their challenges. By addressing these spiritual and emotional needs, our patients experienced resilience which facilitated their recovery and added to the overall quality of their lives. Honestly, as the neurosurgeons used to say, “This is not rocket science.”