How Understanding Leads to Compassion
By Deb Mals, Chief Nursing Officer
Last summer I had the privilege of spending two weeks in Europe. This was a wonderful opportunity, but it was the first time I had visited a country where the primary language was not English. By the 10th day, I must confess that I was homesick. I would describe home as the familiar. I wanted to hear English and a lot of it. I no longer wanted to be in a taxi, museum or line and not understand a word that was spoken. I wanted American food and a glass of iced tea.
Finding Comfort in the Familiar
Some of you might think of me as a lightweight and encourage me to get over it and enjoy the experience. Well, I certainly had thought that as did my husband. Unfortunately for him, on the 10th day when he was longing for a night of wonderful Italian food, I dragged him to the Hard Rock Café in Rome where I found my familiar environment. In fact, Jimi Hendrix never sounded so good! The menu was American, the server spoke English, and the glass of iced tea was wonderful.
By now you are probably wondering why I’m sharing the details of my vacation. More importantly, how does this relate to diversity and health care? My answer would be, “a great deal.”
As nurses and members of the health care team, we are touching the lives of patients and families when they may be the most vulnerable. Usually, they do not come to us by choice and are often uninformed and fearful. I bet at times they wonder if we are speaking their language and long for the familiar. It is certainly not a vacation.
Understanding Leads to Compassion
Fred Lee, author of If Disney Ran Your Hospital: 9 ½Things You Would Do Differently, identifies compassion as the highest level of caring. He describes compassion as doing or saying something that shows a genuine concern for the patient’s state of mind. It means exhibiting some heartfelt empathy for the patient’s anxiety and fear; it means meeting the patient where he or she is at that point in time. This is where the richness of our diversity plays such an important role.
Miami Valley Hospital’s (MVH) nursing mission is to make a difference in the unique lives of our patients and families. We care for patients from many cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. Without diversity in our staff, it is impossible to achieve our mission. We have an opportunity to become their “familiar.” To understand, meet them where they are and create a personal relationship that promotes psychological, physiological and spiritual healing. As health care providers, that is our responsibility. Diversity unlocks that potential and deepens our appreciation and understanding for each person. From my perspective, there is no greater calling.
Cultural Communications Guide
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