It’s the small things.

small-things

I’ve had a refresher this week following a #WeMDT chat.  One of my core beliefs: The small things matter.

I’m talking about little gestures. Things 99% of us shrug off. It doesn’t take a lot to make someone’s day a little better. Today I was wandering around with a stupid grin on my face and some passer-by smiled back. That cheered my up no end. The little love heart my barista put on my hot chocolate was another good point of today.

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But in health care we can forget the small things. Passing them off as insignificant or something that we don’t have time for. One of these was brought to wide attention by the wonderful Kate Granger following her experience in hospital. If you don’t know her story: first of all..WHY and second of all educate yourself HERE.

I think an introduction is important but it’s not the be all and end all.

Hospital can be a frightening place. Lots of faces but not a lot of names. Now, I’m a bit bad with names. But the sentiment of an introduction is never lost for me. It means you’re willing to engage with someone. You’re being personal and not a mindless automaton of the NHS filling in a tick box encounter. It’s also not just what you say but how you say it. The melody of our words not just the lyrics. If you’re stiff…stick to closed questions, impersonal then you’re going to get the same response from a patient and therefore hinders the therapeutic relationship.  Ill people aren’t always going to compare to your energy levels/enthusiasm. But that’s not their fault. I think that may be part of the issue. people are discouraged when you don’t get the “same level” response. It shouldn’t.

A bit of history to why this is a big thing for me. I had a week long stay in Leeds General Infirmary a few years ago. My auntie had died in the very same hospital the day I was admitted. It’s something I found quite upsetting (understatement of the century). 

Now I’m generally quite a happy, jolly person but being secluded, due to infection control, in a small side room on a ward being routinely poked with needles and jabbing pain in my gut eventually wore me down and I became quite depressed after the first day.

But what unexpectedly raised my spirits was the one of nurses who cared for me for 2 of the days I was admitted for. I don’t remember her name. She didn’t do anything special. But she made me laugh in a time that I didn’t think possible. I’d had boat loads of painkillers in pill form. They delivered them in little bun cases. By the end of the second day I had quite a collection. To which this nurse remarked that I should “get up sharpish and bake us all some buns”. I had a good laugh at that. Not exactly the joke of the year but it was the warmth and humour she projected. She was kind and saw I was hurting. I’ll remember her humour for a long time.

I’ll also remember the (I think) operating department practitioner who put his hand on my shoulder,comforted me and waited patiently when I burst into tears upon seeing the operating room and explained that I wasn’t scared but my auntie had died here a week before. I never actually got to thank him. I never knew his name. But I’ll remember his kindness forever. 

Incidentally this experience was when I decided I was quitting my job in law and pursue a career in nursing. It’s why it’s etched within me to be better and do better every day. 

But we should all aspire to this. I do. I’ll say it again for those in the back: small things matter. The odd (appropriate) joke. The smile as you walk down the corridor. Holding the door open for someone in the hallway. Stopping to help someone looking at a hospital map.

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