Courage To Have Compassion
Written By: Robb Stevens
A rather striking paradox in the business of healthcare is that no one truly wants to be the customer! Other than giving birth to babies, most people only go to the hospital when or if they absolutely have to. One industry estimate found that, on average in the United States, a person goes to the hospital only once every seventeen years and to the ER once every three years. That means hospitals have very few opportunities to get it right with most of us. Delivering a great experience then means providers must care about their impact at every level and from every angle – each and every way they interact with their patients.
As we think about what patient-focused care looks like, for most people, it can likely be summed up as the way we want ourselves and our loved ones treated at a hospital – period. Think about a time when you, a family member, or a close acquaintance has been at a hospital. What do you remember most? Hopefully you had some very positive and kind caregivers on those occasions, leaving you with reasonably pleasant impressions of the experience. But you may also recall some of the not-so-pleasant interactions you had as well. I can quickly recall both from my own minimal experiences as a patient.
A positive experience is more than just an ideal for caregivers to strive for. Rather, it’s a firm expectation that most patients have. Great results and exceptional care are what people envision – whether delivering a baby, being treated at the ER, getting an out-patient surgery, or anything else. Even if unspoken or at times unrealistic, an exceptional experience means that all workers have to be at the top of their game because patients expect cost, quality, and service to be top-notch.
The hospital world is so fast-paced, and thus the business side of it can, at times, overshadow the reason that hospitals exist in the first place. Certainly, there are tasks to be accomplished, deadlines to meet, and emergencies to attend to, and in that process, it may be easy to lose sight of the overall purpose of it all – to take care of people. The business side of the hospital world is often unwittingly compressed into one word: HEALTHCARE. In fairness, the business side is what provides the framework for modern care to be provided for a patient’s health. Without the business side, ancillary companies like Med One would not exist either. Ultimately though, caring for the health of individuals is two words, and there is great impact in separating the words into health and care. I suspect that most people that have chosen to work in hospital settings arrived there because they considered it to be much more than just a job, but more of a mission or even a calling – to take care of sick people in need. For health care workers, there may be plenty of performance metrics in play, but ultimately, the only metric that truly matters is patient satisfaction!
To better align with the mission and mindset of hospital caregivers, companies like Med One must also identify unique and meaningful ways to put their own care into health care.
We know the role of providing critical care equipment through rental and leasing channels is vital, yet indirect. While the equipment we rent has a direct impact on specific patients, front-line caregivers are actually the ones putting the equipment to work. Equipment leasing is even farther removed from the front lines. With rare exceptions, our leasing professionals never actually see in-person the equipment we lease before it is shipped to a customer. Such peripheral involvement can lend itself to becoming transactional or process-oriented in the way we approach business, but because we serve a customer base that exists and is driven by compassion, we simply must keep our mind’s eye on the lives we are impacting. By so doing, we put altruism into the “why” of our own mission to make equipment available to health care providers. If our purpose in making equipment available does not align with the provider’s purpose for needing it, then we ultimately are missing the point.
There are hundreds of equipment rental and leasing companies that can all rightly claim a mission of making equipment available to their customers, but medical equipment has a uniquely human element to it that simply does not exist with, say, a car rental, a piece of construction equipment, or IT gear. This human element — specifically our equipment being used to directly help improve and even save a person’s life — demands a bit more thoughtful care and compassion in the way we conduct our business.
When Med One engages in its own shared mission and then engages customers in the right ways, it leads to successful outcomes because care providers can then more effectively carry out their mission. For certain less visible job functions outside of the sales, preparation, and delivery of equipment, it may take extra creativity to become more compassionate. For the joint mission in play though, it is absolutely worthwhile for all workers to adopt a compassionate mindset. Doing so requires purpose and action and faking it will not do. When done with genuine intent though, compassion builds appreciation, respect, and a greater sense of unity.
Compassion comes from the Latin: com (with or together) / pati: to suffer. One definition says it this way: “the humane quality of understanding the suffering of others and wanting to do something about it.” Within that definition, there are three essential characteristics that emerge: the first is an affective or emotional quality, which is, “I feel for you”; the second is a cognitive quality, which is, “I understand you”; and the third is a motivational quality, which is, “I want to help you.” Anybody who is truly practicing compassion has all three of these qualities, and together, they are extremely powerful. The first two — the affective and the cognitive — create the conditions for humility, while the third, motivation, creates conditions of ambition for the greater good.
By making medical equipment available to health care providers, Med One is collectively doing something about it, so the need is to more fully understand and embrace the reasons why we are doing it – specifically to bring relief, comfort, and healing to other humans. THAT is the greater good.
A compassion mindset helps us to invest time into people and set them on a path for success. Such a mindset allows us to more fully support their growth and help clear their path of obstacles — whatever that may mean in the specific daily work we each do.
Compassion is something that everyone in an organization can embrace more fully, and when it spreads throughout a company, the tendency to inspire and motivate each other starts to happen on a regular and more natural basis and becomes wonderfully contagious. Employees then come to work with a greater desire to impact the world in their own unique way, and there is a deeper sense of meaning to their work. That depth will motivate individuals to take greater initiative — to truly do whatever it takes to do things right for the benefit of customers who depend on their sincere efforts.
A compassionate company is also a sympathetic company, which means they are known to have a desire to help others to be happy and even relieve them of suffering. Compassion demands being completely focused on what your user or customer wants. Everything else is done in service to that one thing.
The application of this isn’t always easy or obvious. A company can’t just say “let’s do kindness,” and it magically happens. It takes time. It means a mindset shift and getting out of comfort zones. It also means identifying and personally understanding what the impact can be and why it matters.
Building a mindset of compassion can start with the ways we interact with our own co-workers. As workplace compassion improves, it tends to resonate outward to the customers we serve as well. With that sort of transformational mindset, here are some great ways to practice compassion at work:
- Offer guidance to a co-worker — take notice of those who may be struggling and help where you can.
- Lend a hand to someone who is under a tight deadline.
- Actively listen to colleagues and customers without judging them.
- Acknowledge employee and co-worker strengths and positive attributes in front of others.
- Give each other the benefit of the doubt.
- Cultivate a collaborative environment.
- Get to know people — it is easier to be compassionate with others if you REALLY know them.
- Open up. Compassion is a two-way street, so be approachable and make it easy for others to get to know you.
- Do at least one sincere act of kindness a day.
- Be sincere and intentional with pure motives.