I am not a nurse and yet I am intricately tied to nurses in all that I do, in direct patient care and in the many aspects of my other nonclinical duties at the hospital. Even in my health care MBA program, I am interacting with nurses.
What I am thinking about is the relationship between members of the medical team and our abilities, or lack there of, to be truly present for our patients and each other. A patient is not cared for by just the physician or the nurse alone; there is a myriad of other teammates who interact with our patients and with us in order to create a symphony of care. Delivering great and compassionate health care is like live theater; it needs actors (medical personnel), a well-designed set (unit), and the stage (health environment/hospital). I find that the “medical theater” delivers its best performance when the cast and crew have presence of mind, when we commit to teaching and learning from each other in practice, and when we keep our patients center stage.
It has been shown that when team members act rudely or disrespectfully, a team performs poorly, whereas when team members act more positively or receive positive encouragements, it performs well under pressure. I have found many examples of performances that do not uphold best practice. Poor performance is often rooted in the stress of practice.
In a perfect system, our attention can be devoted to one thing at a time with presence at all times. We do not work in a perfect system. But we can choose to be the best version of ourselves in practice with each other and furthermore, in practice with our patients. We easily spend more time together as staff than we do with the patients and families we serve. It is important for us to model positive behaviors of care giving for each other as we cohesively deliver care to others.
I hope that as practice evolves, we can all perform with patience and respect towards each other. One of my professors said that in order to promote growth in those we lead, we not only have to meet them where they are at, we need to truly care about them and their development. I have found this to be true in my relationships with those whom I lead and with my colleagues. Our patients deserve the best versions of us when we deliver care at the bedside, their most vulnerable moments. When we commit to delivering care to each other, it ultimately reaches the patients and families we serve. That's the brand of care delivery that merits a standing ovation.
Yeng Yang, MD, FAAP, is Director of UMP Pediatric and Newborn Hospital Medicine at Maple Grove Hospital.