Don Berwick: 'One of the most important guarantors of continuing excellence in the NHS is the ability to include and invite and listen to the wisdom of patients.'
It's been an inspiring week. I have heard some challenging and inspiring talks, had wonderful conversations, met some great people and touched base with old friends and new. I may be exhausted but its been worth it.
That's not only because of good outcomes but its also about spending time with good people. My new role is so much about connection and that's why I really enjoy it.
When I first left clinical nursing it was the connection with patients I particularly missed. That sense that you had made a difference to someone is often very immediate as a nurse. Its the thing that helps you deal with the emotional cost of the role. The power of the connection dependent on empathy, respect and a deeper listening. It needs the right context too to flourish. If as a clinician you are stressed through work pressures, illness or other external issues its hard to invest in a therapeutic relationship.
It's often said that people have to experience something to truly understand the issues for others. But does it really? After all we are different in our response to life's challenges so what I know about me can be in the way of what is another's truth. It's why self awareness is a fundamental part of the toolkit of the helper. Knowing where your experience and another's differ. But connecting to your own deeper understanding does help you be able to go there with others.
What being on the receiver end of care has helped me understand though is why when your care is not person centred it is easy to disconnect. I hadn't understood before why people sometimes didn't attend follow up. But then when you wait hours in a follow up outpatient clinic to be told you are fine, without any exploration of what fine would be for you. Nothing about how your life has been impacted on, simply about how a scar has healed...the visible ones at that. Yes I understand how it feels not to want to go back.
But my more recent diagnosis in a unit which is so focused on the person, my follow up has become a touch point for reassurance, talking through my options. Yes it can be the time when the journey might begin all over again...another mammogram showing recurrence but I know they will support me, care for me, do their best to see it through my eyes. Demonstrate empathy throughout my care. It's the fundamental difference between a good and bad experience of care. Securing that for everyone is something worth fighting for.
Reasons to be heartful.
I spoke to so many people this week so passionate about improving care for all I really do believe the time has come for change. And some cat and dog empathy is emerging in the Birt household. Moments of affection being observed. Breakthrough in team!