First, a note sincere gratitude for the many notes, tweets, comments, emails, texts and calls over the last week. Please know they are greatly appreciated. Posting here is cathartic and I'll continue to share while respecting the privacy of those involved. I kindly ask readers to do the same. Finally, I'll offer a preface to this post - its an update pure and simple. No style. Nothing profound. If there is such thing as an intensive masters education in critical care experience, then consider me a graduate. We've had an intense twenty-four hours, punctuated by optimisim and encouragement. Most importantly, I'm utterly floored by the strength and courage of what I've witnessed. While some of the weight comes off of our shoulders, I've been thinking about the idea of pressure relief valves, in a metaphorical sense.
First, my previous post was pretty raw. I offer no apologies for the language or the content. Although, I'll admit a few tinges of embarrassment... Fortunately, you have all countered with gracious sympathy. Thank you for that.
Writing that post was a pressure relief valve for a lot of emotion. It was a way to express fear, anger and a loss of control. It was also a way come to grips with the reality that not all healthcare experiences are the same. A no brainer, right? There will be plenty of time to write more about that later.
Secondly, I want to tell you about someone I met here and her unique role. K is a care coordinator. I had watched K most of the morning, interacting with family members in the waiting area - I couldn't quite figure out her role. Translator perhaps? Every time she went over to a family, she got down on one knee, to be the same height as a seated person. She leaned in when she listened with a smile which wasn't forced and instead conveyed "give me some of your burdon, I can take it." K has what some call the X factor, that difficult-to-describe trait where service isn't something she learned, its a natural skill; she was born with it the same way some athletes are just gifted.
I hope I'm not becoming jaded...well, more jaded than I was before... but I've started to question if you can truly teach service. Of course we can teach expressions like "please allow me to find out for you," or "its my pleasure." You can even teach someone to get down on a knee to be closer to eye level. But can you really teach someone empathy?
When it was our turn, K came over to talk to me, taking a knee. She introduced herself as a care coordinator. "Its my job to help you and the patient with whatever you need, starting with a bed. Here's what we have arranged for you... here is how the next few hours will go. Is there anything I can help with - do you need a hotel, or something to drink or eat?" It wasn't scripted.
I told K about my role in our health system and about my interest in experience and service. I asked her how they trained her. "It all starts at hiring. We have to hire the right people, not everyone can do this job." K went on to tell me she had worked for Disney. For those who haven't read Fred Lee's If Disney Ran your Hospital, every job title at Disney is performer. If you sweep the streets, you are hired to play the role of a janitor. In patient care, we have to play the role of caregivers. K gets it.
In addition to customer service and family support, care coordinators help arrange rooms and transportation. As another care coordinator, on a patient floor, told me: "we can do anything that's not clinical." This is a special kind of role, different than a unit secretary and every bit as integral in patient care as a nurse.
I asked K how she felt about her role. "I provide the customer service support for patients and families. I get to help take care of things so nurses can focus on what they do best. I'm the pressure relief."