Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Appearance of Callousness Revisited

GBMC is an outstanding healthcare system. We have made such great progress in improving the health outcomes of our patients. We have many, many great examples of care and caring. Just a few weeks ago we celebrated our compassionate caregivers and the stories of love and kindness abounded. But, we are not perfect and our HCAHPS scores (The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey), the first national, standardized, publicly reported survey of patients' perspectives of hospital care, are just about average. https://www.medicare.gov/hospitalcompare

A few years ago I got myself into trouble when I wrote a blog called “The Appearance of Callousness.”  Although I did not mention where the upset patient was treated, the staff in that area got upset.  They thought that I did not appreciate their hard work or their intentions. I sincerely did appreciate how hard they worked and that no one intended to get the patient upset. I was just trying to get them to reflect on what the patient was upset about. If we truly believe that we are here to treat everyone, every time the way we want our own loved ones treated then we have to be big enough to reflect on our behavior…even if it was a one-time lapse on our part or even if we had the best of intentions. So today, I received a letter from a man who began by praising GBMC and three staff members in particular for the great care given his wife, but, then he added:
“However, there was one problem. One evening during her stay I was returning to visit her. Forgetting the location of my wife’s room, I approached the desk on the unit and asked a person seated there where she was. Before I could even speak, he/she said ‘wait a minute’ while he/she leisurely worked on some sort of report. I stood there five minutes while he/she ignored me, slowly filling out both sides of a sheet of paper. Exasperated, I finally left, asked someone else where my wife was and found her room. I was concerned about my wife’s condition and this person’s rude behavior did not help matters.”

What do you think? I bet the staff member who this man interacted with was doing his or her job and may have felt pressured to get some important work done. He/She may have treated the previous 50 family members that approached with kindness and respect but this husband felt disrespect.

What can we do as the GBMC family to minimize the chance that someone thinks we have been rude to them? I would love for you to comment on this blog...but I would like even more if you would discuss this with all in your department, unit, or office.

As I am asking this question, I know that there are many, many wonderful interactions with patients and family members but as caring adults, we must still reflect on the few perceived negative interactions. Thank you very much!


This past Sunday, I spent part of Father’s Day running the 28th annual GBMC Father’s Day 5K. It was a beautiful day and it was great to see so many families on our beautiful campus.

This event has been helping to raise much-needed funds for GBMC’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Over the years, funds raised through this event have helped purchase lifesaving technology and services for our NICU babies and their families.

I want to thank the close to 900 participants who spent part of their Father’s Day with GBMC and helped raise approximately $140,000. In 28 years, the 5K has raised close to $2 million for critically ill and premature babies.

Let me also thank the amazing volunteers as well as GBMC’s NICU doctors, nurses, technicians and others who dedicate their lives to the health of babies.  I also had the opportunity to meet some of the “graduates” of our NICU and their parents and so many other wonderful people. I also want to congratulate the more than 100+ weight loss patients, a.k.a Team #COMPto5K , that completed in their first Father's Day 5K and to Cody and Selena Staab, 8-year-old twins and 2007 NICU graduates, who gave back to GBMC by selling their bracelets during the Father’s Day 5K.

Lastly, I want to thank everyone involved in our community Wellness Fair which featured health-related vendors. Additionally, MIX 106.5 Radio was on-site with its Friends and Neighbors van playing music and sharing prizes. The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore was also present with fun animal friends in the kids’ area. Great work everyone!!!


  1. While I can understand the importance of paperwork, feeling pressure to complete the paperwork to help someone could lead to mistakes. I have found that it takes less time and frustration to help the person first and then the paperwork does not fall into possibly more errors. Everyone is busy but it takes less time to point someone the right direction than to do anything else. Then the pressure is off of you to do complete other tasks without thinking in your mind...theres a person standing there.

  2. Smile! I truly believe a kind smile can make all of the difference in the world. Alone, a smile doesn't guarantee great customer service, but great customer services almost always begins with a smile. Warm and inviting, whether in person or over the phone, a smile sets the tone for an interaction. It conveys a ready willingness to not only help but to go the extra mile. So smile and see what a difference it can make! :)

  3. When I was working in the NICU as a nurse at UC San Diego many years ago, where the average length of stay for one patient was many many months, we received a satisfaction survey back and it stated how greatful a family member was for that nurse who got her a cup of water to drink when she needed one.....not "thank you for saving my baby's life".....I learned a lot from that survey! It's always the very small things that make or break an experience and often the small things are the easiest to do...or not do : ) Very important message Dr. Chessare!!!! Thank you! -Erin Batton

  4. As an employee, I am constantly confronted by patients and visitors angrily annoyed at our main floor being level 3. They get just as irate over elevators being out of service. When placed in this situation, what comments if any can I make to displace their ill feelings about those issues without appearing uncaring or callous?

    1. Thanks, Anonymous.

      I haven’t met people that were “angry” about our “Main” lobby being on the third floor but I have met many confused people. As you know, you can enter our building on any of our 5 floors depending on where you are on the hill. How might you number our floors? I don’t think re-numbering is the action necessary. I think we need better information to patients in advance and better wayfinding…I am excited about the Epic implementation and perhaps using an app for better wayfinding.

      Our elevators do break from time to time and we fix them as rapidly as possible. I do not believe that our elevators are out of service more commonly than in other buildings. Nonetheless, you will never appear uncaring if you are kind to the patient as they raise their concerns and reassure them that we recognize that we need to get things back in service quickly.

  5. I have been a nurse for 39 years. I have truly loved every minute I've spent serving the community. For 39 years I have always made it a priority to acknowledge anyone who approaches me. There is no paperwork more important then patients and their families. It costs nothing to smile and ask how you can help the person. Patients and families first, always!


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