Over the past couple of weeks I’ve talked with many of you about the tragedy in Japan. Like many of you, I have wished there was something I could do to help. I remember similar conversations just a few years ago in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, I was so moved at that time that I actually volunteered to travel to New Orleans and run an emergency shelter through the Missouri Hospital Association. I wasn’t “called up” but I would have gladly answered the call had I been.
In conversations with co-workers, then and now, there is an apparent desire to help. I believe one of the consequences of working side by side with people who care is just that – they care.
They care not only about themselves but about the people they share the world with which is the primary reason they are health care workers. When I say health care workers I don’t just mean the doctors, nurses and other “hands on” caregivers. I mean those who clean the floors, file the charts and process the bills. We’re a team, the surgeon can’t work without an instrument and no matter how good the surgeon if someone doesn’t clean and sterilize the instruments the outcome will be bad. We all work in health care and we are all health care providers – we’re a team. Just like the janitor at NASA whose job it is to send people to the moon, it’s each of our jobs to save lives every day. It’s at our core to want to help people.
In reality there’s not much we can do to help the ill and injured in Japan. We can donate money and we can pray, both very important and both will have an impact, but let’s look at what we can do every day to have an immediate impact on those in “need”.
Number 1: We can wash our hands. Hand washing is the number one way to prevent the spread of infection. Hand washing protects our patients and those we love.
Number 2: We can take time to listen. Listening to our patients helps us to better understand their needs and to customize care. Listening to co-workers helps us to coordinate care and makes for better team work.
Number 3: We can ask more questions. Asking questions goes hand in hand with listening, by asking our patients questions we can get a better understanding of their needs. Asking questions of our co-workers helps us avoid mistakes.
Number 4: We can speak up. We can speak up as advocates for our patients when they are not able to speak for themselves. We can speak up when we do not agree with our co-workers to avoid a mistake.
Number 5: We can smile. We can smile to put our patients at ease. We can smile to put our co-workers at ease.
Whenever a tragedy strikes it’s at our core to want to help those in need. Let’s not forget how we can help those who “need” us every day.