How caring are your caregivers?
When seeking healthcare, most patients are seeking both health and care. Health is the medical well-being or clinical condition that has caused you to seek a healthcare provider. You are at an emergency room because your child had a bicycle accident and appears to have a broken arm; that is health.
Care is the emotional part of your visit; emotions like empathy, concern, compassion and assurance are important signs that your provider cares. In the case of your injured child, this could include the provider listening intently to your concerns, making your child as comfortable as possible, managing the pain, setting expectations related to wait times, introducing themselves and establishing a personal connection with you and your child.
Unfortunately, our healthcare system has evolved into a mostly production line model for treatment. As a patient, you or your loved one is the ‘widget’ being produced. Your child in the ER is quickly assessed as a ‘possible broken arm in treatment room 3’ as opposed to a frightened 5-year-old named Marcus who has never been to a hospital before today. You are a worried first-time mother who is concerned about her child and wondering if the break will require surgery, therapy and how painful the treatment may be for your precious, fearful son.
No separate ER is available for children at your hospital so you sit next to a police officer with a drug-impaired prisoner awaiting treatment wondering how much longer you will have to wait to see a doctor.
Most nurses and doctors along with their support staffs chose to be in healthcare. Most truly want to deliver an exceptional and personal care experience; but many barriers prevent them from truly delivering health and care on a consistent basis. The production pressure in healthcare settings produces an unstated tension between efficiency and effectiveness: between health and care.
More hospitals, clinics and physician offices are seeing more patients than ever before due to financial pressures with the same or fewer staff to handle the extra load. Stress and burnout are becoming increasingly commonplace in the healthcare professions. Compassion fatigue can develop among providers.
Compassion fatigue is a combination of stress from witnessing the suffering of others and burnout. A recent study of stress among nurses reports that 27 percent of nurses who left the nursing profession, say that stressful environments and burnout were the major factors for leaving.
If one-quarter of nurses are ‘burned-out’, how can they adequately provide care to you or one of your family members?
So, the next time your provider is short with their answers, gives you limited eye contact or is generally dismissive, think about their personal well-being. If they’re not emotionally ‘safe,’ you could be at-risk. Ask about the nurse-to-patient ratios in your local hospital inpatient settings. What are their absentee rates? How much of the nursing staff is agency (temporary) staff? What is their nurse turnover rate? All these indicators could be the difference in being an object of care or a healthy and caring experience.
Steve Powell is an experienced facilitator, practitioner, communicator and proven leader with over 25 years of experience in human factors education and teamwork training. For more information, go to http://www.healthcareteamtraining.com/bios/stephen-powell-ms/
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