How Compassionate is Your Organization?

306648_430031007052972_255367038_nTake this short survey from Hearts in Healthcare to learn something about how compassionate your organization is. We invite you to use your findings as a springboard for discussion with your peers. Making compassion a topic of discussion in your organization helps clinicians in all disciplines to be more mindfully compassionate in their interactions with patients, families, and each other.

To take Hearts in Healthcare’s brief, but revealing survey, click here.

Find Out What it Means to Me

RespectThis article on respect—what it is and what it is not—came to my attention a few days ago, and I think it supports the practices of the therapeutic relationship beautifully:


  • Respect is tuning in to the other. It’s meeting the person exactly where he or she is.
  • Respect is being open, and it’s about wondering about what matters to the person.
  • Respect means following and listening to what the person is saying.
  • Respect means speaking to and about the person with regard.

I love the reflective questions in this article by JoAnna Brandis, and I recommend it for discussion at your next team meeting. Click here for the full article.

~ Mary Koloroutis

Joan’s Family Bill of Rights

Mary-Koloroutis-150x150I came across this wonderful piece entitled Joan’s Family Bill of Rights, by Barbara Lewis, and knew immediately that I wanted to share it with you.

Barbara spent two weeks in the ICU with her younger sister Joan, who then died from an unknown infection. During her time with her sister, Barbara, a successful marketing professional, kept a journal about her family’s experience. After her sister’s death, she came across her own notes and debated with herself about whether she should write to the manager of the ICU. Then she thought, “If I were that person, I’d want to know what someone observed on my unit.” By way of sharing her experience in a positive (though quite instructive) way, she wrote Joan’s Family Bill of Rights in memory of her sister.

The manager of the ICU later told Barbara that she cried when she read the document and passed it along to leaders in her hospital who in turn sent it to people at the health care system level. They called Barbara to come and talk with them. She has since made numerous presentations within their hospital and is continuing to present information in hospitals elsewhere on the topic: What the Families of Patients Need.

We hear often from caregivers that including the family in care and really understanding what is important to the family can be confounding. I think Joan’s Family Bill of Rights provides some poignant insights about what it is like to be the family member by a loved one’s side during a painful illness. Barbara tells us what we can do to enhance their experience and help families cope and partner in the care of their loved ones. She also tells us what we may inadvertently do when we are not “awake” to their presence and needs, which will result in their feeling dropped rather than held in our care. She calls for us to remember that the family’s “devastating pain is internal, and there is no cure. Your kind words can save a breaking heart.”

Please read Joan’s Family Bill of Rights, share it with your colleagues, and use it for reflection and conversation about ways you can be attuned and present to the families in your care.

Commentary on “A Flight Tested Solution to Patient Safety”

Beyond ChecklistsThis was brought to my attention in a LinkedIn conversation of the Sigma Theta Tau International discussion group. A participant posted this article, which mentions the book Beyond the Checklist, by Suzanne Gordon, Patrick Mendenhall, and Bonnie Blair O’Connor.

I highly recommend you read this article, and here’s why:

Despite widespread research proving that human relationships are critical to safe, quality patient care, there continues to be greater emphasis on checklists and mandates and less on investing and committing fully to the development of relational skills in individuals and teams. Safety requires connected teams who talk to each other regardless of role or position. Healthy, high functioning teams are built on trust, mutual respect, open and honest communication, and consistent and visible support for each other and from their organization’s top leaders. Clearly articulated expectations for civil and intelligent team relationships are vital for creating a healthy work culture, which is foundational to safety and quality, and for recruiting and retaining the most talented and committed individuals. It is time to invest in the systematic development of relationship-based, healthy work cultures in which the provision of care to patients and their loved ones drives everything and their safety is our moral obligation and a sacred trust.

~ Mary Koloroutis

To purchase Beyond the Checklist, click here.
To purchase See Me as a Person, click here.

Commentary/Research: The Secret to Feeling Like You Have More Time

Stanford PhD candidate, Melanie Rudd, and her colleagues, Kathleen Vohs and Jennifer Aker, have written a paper on “how awe expands people’s perception of time, alters decision making, and enhances well-being.”

Daniel Pink, an author on the science of human motivation and one of our keynote speakers at the September 2013 International RBC Symposium, features a video clip of Melanie Rudd describing her team’s thoughts about time, perception, awe, and the power of being present.

We hear from you that time is one of the biggest obstacles to authentic therapeutic interactions and one that you are consistently seeking to conquer. We thought you would find the thoughts of these scholars on awe and the perception of time to be quite compelling.

Play the Video: Daniel Pink The Secret to Feeling Like You Have More Time

Mary and Michael

Commentary/Research: The Difference Between Hospitality and Health Care

This is Mary’s recent response on the Patient Experience Champions:

I greatly appreciate Dr. Gallan’s blog post on the clear distinction between the goals people have when engaging in the hotel and resort industries vs. being a patient in a health care setting. He makes the important point that “while hospitality employees are highly trained and skilled, they do not approach the training and demands that are placed on health care providers such as nurses and physicians. Health care providers are entrusted with our very lives, and are treating patients’ physical conditions and sense of dignity.” This important distinction means that health care leaders must understand that to achieve extraordinary, compassionate, and knowledgeable patient care, they must invest in creating the cultures, the support, and the development required for clinicians to knowledgeably render moment-of-truth, authentic, therapeutic interactions with persons who are vulnerable (potentially suffering) and focused on “survival, wellness, and treatment.” My co-author, Michael Trout and I have described a therapeutic methodology to support clinicians in our book, See me as a Person. We believe we must advocate for the respect and dignity of the patients we serve as well as advocate for the respect and dignity that clinical professionals deserve in providing complex, compassionate care to those experiencing illness, trauma, loss. Their work goes beyond customer service. Thank you, Dr. Gallan, for putting voice to this important phenomenon.

For Dr. Gallan’s entire post, click here.

“Difficult” Patients

The following article is reproduced from the October 22, 2012 issue of the Weekly Healing with Heart Reflections Newsletter, with permission from Martin Helldorfer and Moss Communications.


While I was facilitating a workshop in San Antonio, Texas, I heard a nurse voice what I thought was a pivotal insight for those of us who care for patients. She was someone known for her knack of understanding how to deal with difficult patients. “Is there a secret in how you do it?” someone asked. “No,” she responded, “all I do is remember that I always see patients at their worst, never their best.”

When she was asked to explain, she said (and I paraphrase):

“Think about it. We only see people when they are hurting. They’ve fallen down stairs, tripped on a rock, had an operation, are in pain, have had their futures changed by illness, have stroked, are about to lose a loved one, or are nauseous. Only patients who are delighting in their newborn are feeling good about themselves, and even among those patients there are some who are struggling. Like I mentioned, we don’t see patients at their best, we see them at their worst.”

Then she added, “When I meet a difficult patient, I try to remember that this person has a better self that I don’t see and will likely never see. Realizing that awakens my warmth, which really does influence the way I work.”

After a moment of quiet where we were absorbing the meaning of her words, she added. “I guess there is a secret. We always have to remember that we are here for patients, not ourselves. Sure there are rewards, but you can’t be looking for them. You’ve got to have enough presence of mind to keep your focus on the needs of patients. If difficult patients bother you, you’re in the wrong profession!”

Her thoughts got me thinking about myself as well as those with whom I work. When we are rested and feeling okay about ourselves, warmth is awakened and caring for others is welcomed. The problem comes when we have lost perspective or are overwhelmed. Is there a more compelling reason to care for ourselves—mind, body, and spirit—than that we have the professional responsibility to care for others?

by Martin C. Helldorfer