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Hospital Highlights: Credibility and Care

Despite frequent media attention to dangerous and neglectful medical care, that was not our experience when I accompanied Spouse to an outpatient surgical procedure (which was successful, thank you!) at Winthrop University Hospital on Long Island. Everyone was competent and attentive, and some staff members were downright wonderful.

The Doctor: A Surprising Slant on Credibility

As part of Spouse’s intake and prep, a young woman doc came to examine him and discuss his surgery. I don’t know what her formal level of accreditation was, but she assisted Spouse’s surgeon.

I think of her as Dr. Chirp.

She was the opposite of tall, and spoke in a high, birdlike warble that was probably intended to sound pleasant and friendly, but which came across as girlish, inexperienced, and not quite credible.

Given our instinctive reliance on physical cues (posture, gesture, expression) irrespective of content (what we actually say), I wasn’t initially impressed.

So I was quite surprised when Dr. Chirp left off with her introductory meet-and-greet patter, and started the medical exam. As she poked and prodded Spouse, she muttered to herself — or maybe “spoke quietly” is more accurate. Her voice actually dropped an octave. It was clear that she knew what she was looking for and recognized it when she found it.

Normally I’d prefer that the doc not use jargon, but it turned out that Dr. Chirp was more credible when her language was less comprehensible and her voice was an authoritative low alto.

I’m only sorry I couldn’t think of a respectful way to let her know.

The Nurse: A Lesson in the ABCDs of Service

While I was waiting for Spouse to return from the Recovery room post-surgery, a smiling nurse approached and asked if I knew what kind of snack and drink he would want. It was another example of how tone and manner alone can put a person at ease — you can actually feel your breath expand your lungs and your shoulders leave your earlobes as you hear a kind voice say a kind word.

The nurse asked the question as if she and I were on the same team, like a gracious hostess trying to make things smooth and easy. Once Spouse’s preferences were established, this lovely woman went ABCD (Above and Beyond the Call of Duty) and asked if she could get something for me, too. You can imagine how grateful I was for both the kind attention and the hot drink.

Making the Grade in Service

And here’s the kicker, the customer service cherry on the already well-constructed sundae: I wanted to thank her, and as a “trained customer service professional,” I wanted to be able to thank her by name, so I glanced at her hospital-issued ID.

She noticed where I was looking, immediately lifted her badge so I could see it more easily, and said, “It’s Korenna.”

Empathy A+
Graciousness A+
Pride A+
Professionalism A+

Thank you, Nurse Korenna. Thank you, Dr. Chirp. Fabulous job making a hard, anxious day feel just a little bit better.

Onward and upward,


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2 thoughts on “Hospital Highlights: Credibility and Care

  1. It’s amazing how tone and manner alone can put a person at ease — you can actually feel your breath expand your lungs and your shoulders leave your earlobes as you hear a kind voice say a kind word.

    This is a beautiful post. Sometimes I think that, whether working as a nurse, or hospice worker, or journalistm, the manner is all that counts, it is the manner that really heals. Human presence, kindness, compassion. I watched Fred Rogers work his magic that way, which just kindness and presence. Thanks for spreading the message.

  2. Tim, thank you for this very lovely comment. I agree with you that it’s the sense of human connection — of empathy — counts more than any specific content could. And you’re right about Mr. Rogers extending that sense of relationship in all his work.

    Thanks for stopping by.

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