Thank you ..two words that are vital to great patient care
Monday morning, and I am walking along the main hospital corridor with around a dozen beauty therapy students and their tutor from the local college. The group are one of many that, through Kissing it Better, visit the hospital on a regular basis to offer, freely, their specific skills, conversation and fun to the Trust's most vulnerable patients. Throughout the morning, as they do on a regular basis, these students would be offering simple hand massages and manicures to patients and their visitors on the wards that specialised on the care of older people.
Dressed immaculately and bubbling with enthusiasm, I always take them through the hospital's main corridor even though the shortest route is across the car park. Seeing the students attracts the attention of passers-by who often stop to ask what they are doing. These people are unlikely to benefit from their treatments but, simply knowing they are in the building lifts their spirits "What a great idea", "How lovely" , "Good on you", are common expressions used to convey, simply, to them all that their mere presence has lifted their day. In other words, they are saying 'Thank you'. It's great for the students to know this and great for the patients, staff and visitors who see them to know that these wonderful gestures are being offered to patients by young people in their community.
That morning someone else was on his way to to an important venue. Passing us in the other direction, the hospital's Chief Executive was clearly heading to a meeting. As he passed, I stopped the girls and explained that the man , who was now disappearing into the distance, was the most senior person in the building. I told them that he knew about them and the fantastic work they were doing across the hospital and that he, like everyone, was extremely grateful. We then resumed our journey.
The next day, I was in the hospital again, this time alone. As I made my way up the stairs, the Chief Executive was walking down them.
"Saw you with the students yesterday", he commented.
"Yes, and we saw you. I realise it's a big ask, as I know you are very busy but it would mean so much to those young students if, next time you see them, you could stop for a few seconds to say thank you.
And the next time those students visited, he did appear at the session and spent more than half an hour with them. They loved it, he loved it and I was delighted. Taking the time to say thank you had made their day and, I suspect, improved his day too.
Making senior staff aware of the many kindnesses being done by hospital staff and visiting students from their local community, is core to what Kissing it Better is all about. In that way, simple loving gestures are shared and others quickly follow suit. But sharing those ideas with the hospital management only has real value if those people pick up on it and make it clear they have read those messages and feed that back. It doesn't have to be a visit. A simple email that says 'I've just read great things about you, well done.' or something similar, is all that's needed.
And how you write those letters is important too. They don't have to be very long but they do need to be personal and detailed enough to ensure the person reading it, and those who are copied in, truly realises the value of the work they are doing. Feeling appreciated lifts morale and happy staff give much better care.
Our team write letters every day. But I only truly understood the impact of them when a health care assistant bumped into me at our local supermarket. She was with her Mother.
Turning to her mum, she said. "You know that letter that's in a picture frame on the mantle piece, that's the lady who wrote it.
I was both shocked and delighted . The letter had only taken me a few minutes to write. But It made me wonder if she had ever been formally thanked for anything before.
Both of us parted feeling that our day had just got better.