We’re more than 12 months away from the 2016 presidential election and a lot of Americans are already worn down by the nastiness, name-calling and inanity of it all. By the time the TV ads ramp up, the boob tube will be living down to its nickname and those of us with a low tolerance for watching grownups make wild-eyed accusations and empty promises may have to go back to reading books again. How extreme would that be?
Remember when our national dialogue was civil? Neither do I, actually, but it sure seems a whole lot more uncivil than it used to. And it’s not just the politicians. Social media is a hot bed of vitriol posted by everyone from pop music stars to corporate big shots to cyber-bullies who cower behind their anonymity. And what about that guy whose pharmaceutical company bought a life-saving drug and promptly raised the price by 5,500 percent? His response to critics on TV and social media was a priceless lesson on how to behave like a smug little — well, I ought to skip the name-calling, considering the point I’m trying to make.
Which is this: Civility matters. For our society to function effectively, we Americans need to stop all the shouting and start treating one another with dignity and respect. Government depends on it, as the current dysfunction on decidedly uncivil Capitol Hill shows. That goes for everything else in our lives, too — school, job, commerce, community.
So, here’s a thought: Could health care set an example for the rest of the country? I know that sounds like a stretch, but we’ve got to start somewhere, right? And here at H&HN, we’ve come across several hospitals and health care systems that are making respectful behavior an organizational priority. They recognize “the power of kindness,” as Dignity Health has dubbed its own initiative. Kindness helps patients to heal, leaders to lead more effectively and employees to work more productively together, according to the San Francisco-based health care system.
Another example: “Bring Your Heart to Work” at Lakeland Health in Michigan. In The Interview on Page 28, CEO Loren Hamel, M.D., describes the effort to teach staff to more clearly demonstrate and communicate compassion with patients and colleagues. They’ve learned that seemingly simple gestures can make a world of difference. For instance, “How do you know when you’ve touched a heart?" Hamel asks. "You put a smile on a patient’s face … that smile translates into less need for pain medication, normalization of blood pressure, modulation of heartbeat, reduction of stress and more.” And, he adds, “when a health care provider gets a smile from the patient, he or she puts on a bigger smile, reaping the same well-being benefits.”
Compassion ... kindness ... civility ... smiles. Imagine an America like that. — Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.