I’m inspired by many things. One of the things that makes me think differently often, and instills more patience in me through example, is my husband. There are many things, of course, that I draw from him day to day. Today, however, as I arrived several states away from home for a fairly routine educational activity on nursing leadership and what many nurse leaders know as the underpinning of their work environments- shared governance- I had no idea how he would inspire me… and how I will seek to make that inspiration my own.
For those of you that know my husband, he is a social media and comedic word hound. So- nothing suits him more than blogging, FaceBooking, Tweeting, pod-casting, just being OUT THERE. And for those of you that know me- you know that is not really me. But he encouraged me- you should “live tweet” (??what?) you should blog etc… And I disregarded him. So not my thing…until I got off the plane in Atlanta.
A normal day, albeit slightly more liberated without any small people or imminent work strain, and exciting as I was heading into something new to meet new people and hopefully gain some competency and insight in a cultural element so pinnacle to a nursing work team’s success. But still, nothing really out of the ordinary. Until, I looked for the “ground transportation” signage to tell me where to or how to get where I was going. Now- before I had left- two co-workers said to me “That airport is the worst. No one is helpful. There is a bad odor there. It’s a mess. And there is ALWAYS a problem with your flight, or baggage, or both.” Wow- that sounds fun. Can’t wait.
So I headed through the airport…keeping this in mind. After de-boarding, at the first notion that I was seeking something, an airport professional (obviously an executive of some sort, not an employee assigned to a terminal or helping with baggage or check-in) walked over to me and said “Can I help you find something?” Very friendly, nice and I was impressed- as that was clearly not his regular role.
I then made my way out to find a cab, upon which another employee directed me over to a shuttle, which was more economical. As I went that way, I was greeted by a very pleasant man in uniform who asked me where my destination was. He smiled and indicated that I needed to get a ticket, gestured in the direction that I needed to get it (about 20 feet away), and then offered to hold onto my luggage while I walked over there. At that time another employee, a female, said “Okay follow me” and then indicated that she had been headed to use the restroom but would help me first, but cautioned me that there was wet paint. As I stood with her to purchase the shuttle ticket, the two gentleman that were painting the exterior of the booth where she was smiled at me and I apologized for potentially being in their way, at which point the one looked at me eye to eye and said “Oh no Miss you are the customer. We are sorry for being in YOUR way.” ?!??!?!!?
Wow, I thought… what a nice customer-centered approach this transportation company has and trains their employees to hold as the focus of their work. I then returned a few steps over to the shuttle driver, ticket in hand, and as I gave it to him, he did not ask questions or scrutinize it, but rather he just looked at me, still smiling, and said “Boy that is a pretty little yellow suitcase you have. You can have a seat there and we will be ready to go in about 13 minutes.” 13 minutes, I thought? That’s an odd estimation of our departure time for him to state. So I sat and waited, and watched as he cordially interacted with several other customers getting ready to take his shuttle bus…for 13 minutes.
As we got in the van, the driver the stated “Okay folks about 13 minutes to downtown (and he named the first hotel) and then 6 minutes from there to…. (the next hotel)…” and so forth. He spoke quietly to the elderly gentleman in the front seat with him, and asked him where he was from and a few other niceties, and then described some of the local trees and landscape to him. As we drove into the city and he continued to announce “13 minutes” “6 minutes” etc… and say “The next hotel is just 2 blocks up” etc… I thought to myself “Wow, he is very good at driving in this traffic, predicting the unpredictability, the traffic patterns. He’s a good driver. This is nice.” I laughed and said to him “Wow, you have this down to a science!” because not only was he saying these time frames, but he was right on. He said politely “I do this everyday.” He smiled, paused, and then, in his authentic Southern tongue, he said “And I know that people might be anxious with how long they be in this van, and I don’t want them to worry about how long it take them to get where they goin’ ” “…I think it make them feel better when they know just how long it’ll take.”
About two minutes later, I got out of the shuttle, thanked him and tipped him, and headed into my hotel- with a genuine feeling of being welcomed to this city and feeling great about where I was. I had NO IDEA where I was, but I felt inherently really good about it. (Okay so it was the Westin, and how could it not feel great, but still…) And then it hit me. That gentleman, with probably a high school education- if that- had utilized some of the key communication that we are DESPERATE to get our staff to use. He spoke to his customers in a way that as leaders, we implore our staff to engage in. “Don’t just ask them how much they peed… talk to them about their family as you walk them out of the bathroom! Please!” (Let’s be real- do WE really believe that he had an interest in my new Ann Klein luggage find from Marshall’s? It was undoubtedly amazing and I adored it, but in reality, he was just being nice and trying to make me feel welcome.) He allayed passengers’ and visitors’ trepidations by being warm, being genuine, being thorough and explaining each step of what he was doing. He took pride in his work, and it showed, and it put his customers at ease. If he had no idea where we were, I wouldn’t have known it.
As I was walking up to my room, I realized that they did not tell me about the wi-fi, the hotel layout was confusing and cumbersome, and I was a little perplexed about a few other things the girl at the desk had said to me. I didn’t think that I had signed the correct paper, or that she understood what I said, but, I wasn’t focused on it, because I couldn’t stop thinking about the shuttle driver’s real care for his work and his customers. The pleasantries of the shuttle ride overshadowed any immediate short-comings of the hotel. Sound familiar?
This whole series of interactions spoke to me so vividly and loudly as a leader. We are trying to engage staff to talk with patients (specifically to use AIDET- seems so commonplace, but a real feat when you place it in an unpredictable environment with complex variables and individual patient needs), we attempt to lead them to have pride, to inspire them to be confident, as the patient will see it. They will see your knowledge as you scan their meds, communicate about them, and explain the side effects even if you aren’t certain of every single one. Did that driver know what traffic jams he would encounter? No, certainly not. Did he act like he did, yes- he did. Did I then believe he could handle it and get me there safely, which in turn made him know he could? Absolutely.
So I thought and thought about this, and amidst work catching up with me in my hotel room, my husband won the race. I need to write about this- to expose this experience to other leaders, striving for their teams to have these very moments and interactions. I would have to share this- to help spread some positive energy about how very possible it is for us to do this amidst the inherent bedlam that is our world. Our nurses can do this, despite all the volatility of their environment and chaos of who is in the bed with complex and dynamic needs at any given moment. And as leaders, we can get help to get them there.
Did that shuttle driver have the ability to predict what I would need, who I was as a customer to him, scrutinizing his words and deeds? No, certainly not. Was my scrutiny met favorably so that I would not find fault with him because of how he had treated me from the first moment? Yes, quite possibly. If we had gotten stuck in traffic, I would’ve felt confident in that he seemed to know what he was doing- whereas I could’ve been thinking “Couldn’t he have taken us another way??” His demeanor and intentionality set the tone and made me feel at ease.
Isn’t that the root of everything we want to give to our patients?
Maybe I should’ve given him a bigger tip.