A paper from the NHS confederation has drawn my attention to the common, human decency shown to people who we come across during the course of our work. During a time when we are obsessed with medical treatments, having the best drug, the most high tech investigation. When league tables concentrate on cleanliness, waiting times and other Key Performance Indicators (the favorite phrase of the commissioner these days) what happens to the more subtle, difficult to measure things. Human caring and compassion has always been a quality people assume those working in healthcare have in abundance, but do they? As often is the case it takes a medical person encountering the front end of medicine from the sharp end (ie through one of their close family) to make us take stock.
Robin Youngson is an Anaesthetist in New Zealand whose 18 year old daughter was forced to spend 3 months in hospital immobilised with a broken neck. While her the level of the actual medical and nursing care received was without fault, he was struck by the lack of care and compassion shown to his daughter. There were no systems in place to enable a (thankfully temporarily) disabled teenager eat, watch tv, read and get through the enforced period of hospitalisation. Robin speaks of having to plead with staff to ensure that his daughters most basic social and emotional needs were met, of spending a large amount of money on car park charges, of finding that nurses and doctors exibiting compassion were in the minority rather than the majority. Robin suggests the following action plan is required:
Declare compassion as a core value
Reward rather than punish compassionate caring
Hone communication and relationship skills
Provide space for staff to discuss difficult issues
Challenge models of professionalism
Hard wire new behaviours
Declare compassion as a management and leadership competence
Engage health consumers in the change
you can read the whole article here. You can join the debate here What is clear to me is that there is more to good care than a clean hospital, the best drug and the shortest possible wait for treatment, rather those of us who are in the business of providing healthcare need to sit up and take notice. Human skills of caring and compassion have nothing to do with role and status but should be a basic requirement.