You can’t measure kindness the way you measure heartbeats, milligrams of medication, or doses of radiation. But human kindness is being encouraged and recognized at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital (SNMH) as a vital component of the healing process.
“This is not a new idea,” said Debbie Plass, RN, vice president of marketing and business development. “But it’s the promise that we want to continue to be known for. It’s a powerful way to help our community understand our mission and our values.”
SNMH and other hospitals have long talked about delivering compassionate care. But now the local hospital’s parent corporation, San Francisco-based Dignity Health, is making human kindness part of its public promise, through the launch of a system-wide campaign called, Hello humankindness.
The effort is described as, “the culmination of a lot of conversations and research with our own employees, physicians, and the public. It is what our employees have told us is what we do best, and it is a modern expression of our mission and values.”
It has recognized what nurses and other healthcare professionals have witnessed, Plass said.
“After more than a century of experience, we’ve learned that modern medicine has the power to cure, but it is humanity that holds the power to heal,” Dignity Health said. “In short, medicine is more effective when it’s delivered with humankindness. We are taking our belief in the health power that humanity holds to champion the changes we’d like to see in health care — and make Dignity Health known nationally for the human kindness that we hold to.”
In the words of Kathy Medeiros, president and chief executive officer at SNMH, the issue comes down to trust.
“Human kindness is a feeling we get when we know for certain that we are being cared for,” Medeiros said. “It’s what our most cherished loved ones want for us when we’re in need of a simple touch, or confidence in an emergency situation. It is the assurance that, even if I am unaware, everyone will do the right thing and I will be treated with dignity and respect. It is trust.”
“It’s not what you say, but how you say it; it’s not what you do, but how you do it. Our focus at SNMH is not just to do health care, but to do it with care, compassion, love, and kindness,” said the hospital’s chaplain, David Swetman.
Espi Avelar, RT(R), manager of Diagnostic Imaging, recently wrote a letter to Dignity Health President Lloyd Dean, to express her own response to the corporation’s campaign.
“I saw your communication related to Hello humankindness and was so moved by it I actually got goose bumps,” he said.
She went on to describe an interaction with a patient who had just been told of a cancer diagnosis. She asked the patient how his nurses had been treating him.
“My nurses are angels,” the man said. “I’ve come here for a terrible reason, but it’s been one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”
Avelar continued in her letter, “He went on to say the nurses go into his room and will sit with him and chat and allow him to get so much off his chest, because they know how much this has weighed on him. He has been so impressed with the care we deliver, he said he’s going to tell everyone he knows about the care he received and will shout it from the rooftops.”
Avelar told the patient about the Hello humankindness campaign, and wrote, “He was so touched by the ‘move’ we’ve (Dignity Health) adopted to describe who we are that it moved him to tears. He wanted me to let you know what a wonderful description (it is) for what our staff has done day in and day out during his stay.”
The hospital is encouraging employees to share similar experiences, Plass said.
“We want to share these to inspire and empower the hospital team, to spur innovation, and start a movement,” she said.
Both research and experience show that patients respond to kindness, Plass noted. And patients want to be heard.
“Listening is a really important aspect of the care we provide,” she said. “The way we sit, make eye contact, engage family members and loved ones. It’s even the way we stop and listen to our team members to make sure we provide what each person needs to heal.”
The hospital team is known for the excellent care they provide.
“We are talking about humankindness,” Plass explained. “We are telling stories about how we provide it, and recognizing employees and volunteers for their own acts of kindness.”
Plass acknowledged that to the cynical, Hello humankindness may be viewed as just another corporate slogan.
“Brands are powerful tools that create a promise through experiences of those who use products and services. These are fundamental human truths and we choose to hang our brand hat on humankindness, just as Volvo has built its brand on safety, and Nike on empowerment. We need to find new language that resonates with consumers and ties in our timeless values, so that consumers understand who we are and what we deliver,” Plass said.
For more information about the Dignity Health Hello humankindness campaign, visit www.hellohumankindness.org or call Debbie Plass at 530- 274-6110.
All physicians providing care for patients at SNMH are members of the medical staff and are independent practitioners, not employees of the hospital.