Very often when I am approached by someone who has been a patient in one of our Adventist HealthCare facilities—or by one of their family members—they will relate a specific detail about the care they received that was particularly meaningful or significant in their recovery. I’m frequently surprised at how many times the detail that becomes so memorable and important is a simple act of kindness.
There has been quite a bit written lately about the importance of kindness in patient care. The evidence that kindness has tangible and positive impact on health outcomes becomes more persuasive with every new study. And kindness has been shown to be a factor in how likely patients are to seek treatment again from the same physician or hospital—so it is good business. In every industry, not just healthcare, an attitude of kindness towards those with whom you work each day has been shown to have a tangible impact on effectiveness and personal job satisfaction.
Intentionally choosing to practice kindness triggers what John Ballatt and Penelope Campling describe as a “virtuous circle.” It looks something like this: The choice to be Kind directs us to observant and increases our Attentiveness. This helps us become more focused and enables our Attunement with the needs of the one we are relating to. Being attuned to those needs helps to build Trust. Shared trust helps generate the Alliances that focus on improved Outcomes. This shared process boosts the connections we feel with one another, and reinforces a sense of Kinship. And a sense of kinship also predisposes us to be more Kind. Then the circle starts again.*
We all know how it feels to be treated with kindness. It comforts us and makes us feel safe. It increases our sense that we are respected and that our perspectives are acknowledged and are being heard. Kindness is a demonstration of respect.
In our work each day, practicing kindness goes beyond a technique used in our interaction with patients—although it may start there. It impacts our thinking about how we do our work, and the routine ways in which we do it. It becomes part of the energizing force for every interaction with each other, our patients, and their families and loved ones. Perhaps Henry James was right when he wrote, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”
*Based on the Virtuous Circle described by John Ballatt and Penelope Campling in “Intelligent Kindness: Reforming the Culture of Healthcare.”