Forming Relationships Between Patients and HCPs

I have now been a respiratory therapist for 20 years. A lot has changed. But, one thing unchanged is the down-home sort of feeling of the hospital I work at. Over those years, many relationships have formed. Not just with coworkers, but with patients too.

When I was ten in 1980, my aunt owned a convenience store. Her home was over the store. Sometimes I’d spend nights at her home. I’d go downstairs to the store and watch my aunt as she worked. I was always impressed at how social and friendly she was with the shoppers.

It was as though she knew her customers and they knew her.

I asked her about this once. She said (paraphrasing), “The same people come in every day. So you form relationships. You get to know people, and they get to know you. It makes for an easy conversation starter. It makes you feel at home when you’re the customer.”

My dad was that way with his customers too. I remember one day riding with my dad to his work. He owned a car lot. He was a salesman. That day, he was obviously not feeling well. My dad was never one to complain, but this day he flat out told me he felt miserable; he felt grumpy.

I walked with him into his work. Almost immediately a customer approached him. The guy said, “Hey, Bob! How’s it going?

My dad smiled, and said, “I am feeling great!

I was always impressed with how dad did that. He turned it off at the door. That’s how it is in healthcare sometimes too. We have bad days.

But as soon as we walk into a patient’s room, we have to turn off the attitude.

Turn it off at the door,” we often say.

And, in many cases, the patient cheers ME up. It’s kind of the opposite of how it’s supposed to work, you’d think. But it happens more often than not. “Hey, how’s it going, John? How are those cute kids of yours?

So, here I’m the respiratory therapist. I’m supposed to be the one helping. And they end up cheering me up. I end up talking about something my kids did. I share a story. I share pictures. And, often, they share pictures with me of their children/ grandchildren/ great-grandchildren. Or, perhaps the conversation goes another direction.

Still, it’s in this way that relationships form.

You get to know your patients/ customers. They get to know you. I don’t know if this is how it is in larger hospitals. But, I work for a small town hospital. I live in a town of fewer than 8,500 residents. This is kind of nice in a way, both for ourselves and our patients/ customers.

So, I’m called to the ER. On the ER bed is Bill, a patient I know. He smiles because he recognizes me. I give him a breathing treatment. As he starts feeling better, we talk about one subject or another. Sure, we’d both rather be home. But, the way it is, hospitals are sometimes necessary. I need hospitals because I need to feed my kids. Bill needs hospitals because he has severe COPD.

He feels comfortable being with people he knows in a familiar setting. This is one of the neat things where I work. I recognized this 20 years ago when I first started here. A senior coworker said to me back then, “Yes. It’s sort of a down-home feel.” And, despite 20 years of changes, it’s still that way.

So, relationships form in healthcare.

Be it with your nurses, doctors, or respiratory therapists. It may even be with the receptionist. You know, the man or woman who smiles as you enter the door.

This is what happens when you work with people. Conversations start. Relationships form. It’s my favorite part of the job.

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