Working in health care leads to a one-sided perspective of the system’s nuances and challenges. By becoming consumers in the system, some of us will experience a different side, which recently became my reality, as my wife is unwell with an uncertain future. The tendency is to ask of the heavens, “Why us?” but in truth, after watching so many patients go through similar situations, the real question is, “Why not us?”
As a result of this transition from physician to proxy medical participant through my wife, I have been thinking a lot about kindness. A definition that resonated with me is as follows: “The quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate without expectation of praise or reward.”
My wife’s health care journey has brought us into contact with many different individuals—doctors, nurses, therapists, porters, administrative staff, hospital workers, and more. I would like to thank all of them for their care and expertise. A lesson I have relearned is how the smallest act of kindness can elevate someone from just doing their job to being an angel of caring. The difference this makes to a vulnerable unwell patient and their family is immeasurable.
So many have been so kind that it is impossible to list them all, but a few examples stand out.
The ER charge nurse who found my wife a place to lie down while waiting for a bed on the ward upstairs, even though she was a direct admit and not this nurse’s responsibility. She noted how long we had waited sitting in chairs and could tell by my wife’s demeanor how poorly she felt. This nurse took time out from her busy shift to make a difference—kindness.
The porter who asked how my wife was feeling and listened with interest and compassion to her answer—kindness.
The radiation technologists who greeted my wife with such caring and treated her with gentle calmness when she was at her most vulnerable—kindness.
The doctor who took her by the hand and reassured her that even though she didn’t know where this was all going she would do her best to make her feel better—kindness.
The hospital staff who dialed her phone when she wasn’t able to so she could stay connected to her family when she needed it the most—kindness.
The nurses who visited her even though she was no longer on their ward or in their care—kindness.
These examples and so many more serve as a reminder to me to do better when faced with opportunities to perform similar acts. Being on the receiving end of such kindness lends itself to a new perspective on the positive power of slowing down and taking the time to be a little more human.
The take-home lesson is that a little kindness goes a long way when it comes to our patients.
—David R. Richardson, MD
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