Not me personally, but Cynthia Brouk, FANS Director at GVMH, shared the below story with me. The FANS Department uses this story as a part of their customer service training and the training must work because the FANS Department is at the 98th percentile in the nation with patient food service satisfaction. The author is unknown.
I am a patient. I am the frightened, middle-aged person waiting at your admitting desk. I am the sheet covered form seen through the opened door as you walk down the hall. I am the bathrobe clad figure you see at every corner as you go about your daily business.
You may feel like challenging the words I am about to speak…but please hear me out. Everything is new and strange to me. Yesterday I was in familiar surroundings. Today, I am in a strange world, trying hard to adjust. The little familiar things of my own world seem to take on great importance. I may complain to you. I may rebel against the strangeness. You see, I don’t want to be in the hospital! I want to go home!
From the moment I was seen at your admitting desk, I was a mess of fears. I fear the unknown. I fear pain, disfigurement and death. I fear financial distress or catastrophe.
Will I lose my identity? Will I be exposed to all sorts of indignities? I’m afraid that I’ll be treated, not as a mother…teacher…father…plumber…farmer…banker…but as a fascinating gall bladder…an interesting thyroid…a stubborn kidney.
I appear normal, but I have left feeling normal outside your door. Though I am an adult, I have suddenly become a child—frightened of the long dark nights. And…oh, how I want you to be warm and friendly! I want you to know that I bring with me a personality, not just another problem in surgery or internal medicine. I am more than a name typed on a band welded around my wrist—much more.
Despite your best intentions, I can be crushed by a blunt word from you.
I read meanings into what people say—even their tone of voice. Do they know something I don’t know?
How can you help me from admission day through my post-operative and convalescing period? Until the day I face your cashier? Well—a friendly smile, a warm hello, help me feel welcome. If I ask about the weather or the news outside, please don’t be annoyed. It seems so far away—I just don’t want to lose touch.
And these things you can do for me, too. Urge my nurse to answer my call. If I seem impatient over this, it is probably not irritability…but fear. I am alone. I ring the bell in panic. If my nurse comes, I stupidly ask for a glass of water…but then I relax; for she is there!
I say my coffee is cold. The nurse says that the temperature of my coffee is the least of her worries. But wait! Coffee, you see, is more than a drink. I associate it with friendship and with the warmth and security of home. And just as hot coffee symbolizes these good things to me…cold coffee tells me that I am a stranger among strange and somehow terrifying people. So when I complain of cold coffee, I often mean that I am afraid.
I try to keep my own home clean and neat and I expect the hospital to be especially clean for my comfort and protection. Those little things you do each day let me know you care about keeping my temporary home fresh and clean.
And finally, I need to know that all the employees here work well together; that they have confidence in each other’s skills and judgments; that they respect themselves and each other. If there is a disagreement or bickering…don’t let me hear it or feel it.
Please do whatever you can to help me feel more comfortable. I know you can.