It is Nurses’ Week. A week for us to celebrate and honor those who have chosen to provide care and compassion for others. This is a week that I never thought very much about, until 3 years ago, when my life changed overnight. On the evening of April 28, 2010, I was enjoying a birthday dinner for my dad and celebrating our official announcement that my husband and I were expecting our second child. Little did I know, that would be the last meal I ate for a number of weeks after. I awoke in the middle of the night and was violently ill. I wasn’t too concerned, because I had a lot of morning sickness with our first child. But, by later that day, I knew that this wasn’t the same. I was hospitalized the following day, and spent 3 weeks in the hospital. The diagnosis – hyperemesis gravidarum, a condition that affects up to 5% of all pregnancies. It causes extreme nausea and other unpleasant digestive issues, and in my case, vertigo. For 99.5% of women, it subsides by the 5th month of the pregnancy, but I was part of the .5% that struggled with the condition for the remainder of my pregnancy. I was unable to keep down even sips of water, and meals, if my stomach could tolerate them, consisted of a few bites of chicken and nibbles of white bread. I was unable to drive, watch television, or look at a computer monitor for more than a few seconds at a time. After my initial hospital stay, and a few weeks of liquid nutrition delivered via a PICC line, I spent up to 20 hours per week receiving IV fluids at the clinic. I was under the almost daily supervision of a team of medical professionals who were determined to help me beat the odds and have a healthy baby. Our precious Lil Peanut (nickname of course!) was born 6 1/2 months later. She was small, but despite it all, relatively healthy. She is a miracle baby, and I know she would not be with us if it had not been for the efforts of all the nurses, doctors and medical assistants that helped us through it all.
After that experience, I have a special appreciation for nurses. Three years ago, I was in the hospital for Nurses’ Week – fighting for the life of my unborn child. This year, I reflect upon that experience to share with you three customer experience lessons I learned from all the nurses that were such a support to me during that difficult pregnancy and in the first few years of our little girl’s life.
Lesson #1 – It’s not just about “doing your job”, it is about having empathy and compassion for your customers
My pregnancy was a very difficult and stressful time. I worried every day that my baby wasn’t getting the nutrients needed to grow, and I wondered what I had done to cause the illness that had consumed me. The weeks I spent in the hospital were especially difficult because I was away from my husband and toddler. The nurses who cared for me during that time took excellent care of me – not just by providing medical care, but also moral support and encouragement. One sunny Spring afternoon, a nurse took me for a walk outside. It was my first breathe of fresh air in over a week, and we sat on a park bench and soaked up the sunshine. She told me about her own difficult pregnancy and delivery, and how her baby had grown into an amazing little boy. I knew that she understood what I was going through, and was committed to helping me through it. I doubt she even remembers that conversation, but I will never forget it. When our Lil Peanut was born, she gave me this necklace. It has been my reminder ever since, that treating people with empathy and compassion is the key to success.
Lesson #2 – Just because your customer isn’t coming to you doesn’t mean you should stop thinking about them
Like most expectant moms, I spent many nights awake and worrying about the health of my unborn child. This was especially true when I was in the hospital. On those nights, a nurse sat with me for hours and we talked. She was masterful at steering the conversation away from my troubles, and one night she told me all about the Florida vacation from which she had just returned. I was envious; she had a bronze glow from sitting on the beach, and I had a green hue from endless nausea. The next evening, she brought me a picture. It was an empty chair, sitting on the beach, with the sun setting over the ocean in the background. She hung it on the wall of my room, to give me something nice to look at. That picture still hangs in my office. It is a constant reminder that I should always be thinking about how I can help my customers, even if they are not reaching out directly to me.
Lesson #3 – The phrase “It’s not my job” should never be used
I recently heard the term “accountability orphan”. It is a term that refers to passing blame onto others, or expecting someone else to do the job that you don’t want to do. This is something that a good nurse will never do. After the second week of my hospital stay, I was transferred from the birthing center to the surgical ward, to receive a PICC line for IV nutrition. The nurses in the new ward were insistent that I remain in bed because that was the “protocol” for my condition, even though I had been allowed to take short walks with assistance up to that point. I was mentally and physically drained, and those brief walks were treasured moments of normalcy. I begged the nurse to call my doctor for permission, and she wouldn’t. So, I called one of the nurses from the birthing center, and within minutes, the ordered had been lifted and I was free to roam the halls of the hospital again. She could have told me “it’s not my job”, but she didn’t. She helped me, even though I was no longer in her care. This is a lesson I have carried forward – if I can help someone, I will do it, even if it is not my responsibility.
I would like to thank the amazing nurses that cared for me during that hospital stay, the 6 1/2 months following and the first 2 years of our little girl’s life. You have forever changed my life, and taught me lessons that I carry forward in my personal life and professional career. I am forever grateful to you all!
Happy Nurses’ Week!