Friday, December 09, 2005

Thanks, I Needed That

Sometimes positive feedback can lift one's spirits and renew one's commitment. While pondering what to write about today, I considered several comments which came my way in the last few days and went straight to my heart.

At my workplace recently, there was a "consumer meeting" in which some of our patients voluntarily came to a group meeting to give their honest feedback about our program and what it means to them. My supervisor described how one of my patients---a gentleman with paraplegia from a gun-shot wound to the spine---emotionally exclaimed how this is the first time that he feels like a human being in terms of his healthcare. He said how amazing and strange it is to have a nurse who actually calls him on the phone from time to time to offer assistance and make periodic home visits. He said, "You have no idea how that feels." My supervisor admitted that, listening to this testimonial, tears came to his eyes.

Just today, I struggled to make it to work in a snowstorm only to receive a cell-phone call just before arriving that I was welcome to work from home and not risk coming out in the storm. Somewhat disappointed that I had missed an opportunity for a snow-day, I was rewarded in my efforts by being able to assist a patient in obtaining an urgent ultrasound and an urgent visit with one of our doctors. While she may have been able to make it to one of those appointments today without my help, she certainly would not have achieved both. Leaving work early, I was even able to drive her home, stopping at her pharmacy along the way to pick up her medications which she admitted would not have happened due to her disability, the snowstorm, and not having a car. Her gratitude was overwhelming, especially when she said, "No one cares like you do."

A student in my class to whom I have given some extra support and compassion said some embarrassingly laudatory things (thankfully privately) about me last night as she packed up her things at the end of class, and I found myself truly grateful for being "seen" by her, even though the support I have offered did not seem worthy of such unbridled praise.

While I may sometimes forget how the little things that I do for others can be very meaningful for the recipients---even when what I do seems so relatively minor---I also remind myself how the feedback which I receive from those whom I serve can only strengthen my resolve that my work is worthwhile and tangibly effective. For every patient who is unable or unwilling to show appreciation for what they are receiving, there are ten whose gratitude is like a balm, a reinforcement that helps me to continually recommit to my work. Feeling that how one earns one's living has value for others is priceless in its abililty to sustain one in moments of stress and overwork.

We were reminded by my boss just yesterday that our agency---and the specialized care which it provides---is being watched by many in the healthcare delivery industry around the country. The results of our work has been published in professional healthcare management journals,
studied by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and by the Boston University School of Public Health. My commitment stems from the fact that what we are doing may eventually serve as a blueprint for delivering compassionate and quality care to disabled and underserved communities of patients around the country. An opportunity to possibly be part of healthcare history is a driving force behind our collective passion for our work.

On this snowy evening, I can feel good about the energy I put out into the world, despite the headaches, frustration, and overwhelmed feelings which abound. These small doses of positive feedback will go a long way toward refreshing me in my continued pursuit of finding meaning in daily life.

I really did need that.

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