I witnessed a simple act of kindness the other day in the coffee line at the hospital. A young man in scrubs realized that the coffee shop did not take debit, and was scrambling to find cash to cover his purchase. A stranger, a young mom beside him, said, ‘Let me cover this. You do so much to help us patients and families.’ Although he said, ‘oh no, no’ and rushed off to find an ATM machine, how I wish he had let her pay for his coffee. Patients have so little opportunity to say thank you to the health professionals who help us, particularly when we are enmeshed in crisis in the Emergency Departments or inpatient units in a hospital.
There are so many ways to share simple acts of kindness, even in the public spaces in hospitals. I can think of:
- The senior administrator who always lets patients and families in and out of the elevators first;
- The cashier at the cafeteria who brightens dozens of people’s days by chit-chatting and commenting on jewelry or outfits;
- The nurse who lets patients or families ‘bump’ in line in front of her in that coffee line-up;
- People who make eye contact and smile at patients in the hallway, comment on cute babies in elevators, and hold doors open for strollers and wheelchairs;
- Any staff member or student who take the time to help a lost patient or family. Even better, the staff who escort lost folks directly to their destination in the hospital.
If every staff member and student committed to doing one simple act of kindness every single day for a patient or family member in the hospital corridors and lobbies…well imagine what kind of environment would be created in what is often a rushed, stressful and confusing place.
As I like to say (borrowed from the Planetree philosophy): It is about kindness. And kindness is free.