For many of us, our first encounter with Healthcare, was probably in a gloomy ward while we suffered high fever or an injured knee. Needless to say, ‘Love’ was far removed from the equation, at least as far as our memory serves. Recently however, there has been a drastic change in the way ‘healthcare business’ is conducted with organizations being openly warm, affectionate and compassionate. There has been a budding ‘emotional culture’ that is resulting in improved employee and patient well-being and performance.
Hospitals and medical institutions have largely broadened their scope and definition of ‘culture’; Bringing in and cultivating a strong ‘emotional culture’ based on love and other emotions, like sharing, pride and pleasure; Together with the existing and much more traditional ‘cognitive culture’ where values such as innovation, teamwork and results-orientation are recognized. This blend of the cognitive and the emotional, has had a huge transformative effect on the industry.
Researchers at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and the George Mason University School of Business inspected what they call a ‘culture of companionate love’. 185 employees (including nurses, doctors, social workers, and food service workers), 108 patients, and 42 patient family members were surveyed. The study was conducted at two separate points in time with a gap of 16 months between them. The study took place at a large, not-for-profit, long-term healthcare facility. 13 units of the facility were observed. The focus of the study was mainly to explore and measure the impact of work culture on employee, patient, and family outcomes, and on the quality of care. The results were staggering – employees who experienced love and care as a part of their work culture reported higher levels of satisfaction and comfort. There were fewer unplanned absences, less burn-out and fatigue, and their health stats showed a general improvement. The research also demonstrated that the culture related directly to client outcomes, including “improved patient mood, quality of life, satisfaction, and fewer trips to the Emergency Room”. For the families involved with the survey, there was a greater satisfaction with the facility and a chance that they would go ahead and recommend it to others.
The importance of ‘care’ comes with an understanding of how people view themselves. Especially going through medical experiences, with special needs, people are bound to feel frustrated and isolated. They are evidencing a change in the narrative of their life story, identifying themselves differently to what they have done most of their lives. This feeling is not limited to the people directly experiencing the problems, but to a whole group of people, family members, doctors and carers who genuinely apply themselves. This understanding is at the basis of the solution for the healthcare industry as a ‘care’ giving industry.
Taking on the cue, children’s hospitals around the globe let people design and personalize cards to be hand-delivered to children who were spending Valentine’s Day in a hospital bed. Some hospitals extend this facility to other wards, and patients everywhere can experience some love. The words of support and encouragement from community members and strangers are a great gesture that help patients cope with their circumstance.
Caring is a big part of the job description being in healthcare. Most people believe that caring is only expressed towards those in immediate need – the patients and people who suffer. But should caring be unidirectional and linear like that? Working alongside one another, expressing affection, showing understanding when things go wrong, handling matters with sensitivity and grace and being a positive reinforcement to others, those are the building blocks of good healthcare. And coincidentally, they happen to be the very definition of ‘love’.