A Tribute to My Dad for Father’s Day

My beloved 90 year old dad died four years ago after a short battle with an aggressive cancer. Like many therapists, I am the “go-to” person in my family for healthcare; without a physician in our ranks, I am often called into action to find the right doctor, hospital, medical care, etc. My dad became a patient of the “grand poobah” of lymphoma. He was admitted to a prestigious NYC hospital, one dear to my heart – I was born there, my daughter was born there, and sadly enough, my dad died there twelve days after his admission.

I spent 12 days in the hospital with my dad – the longest time I have been hospital based since my days as a staff OT back in the 80’s. Twelve days in the hospital taught me a myriad of things; among them, that morphine drips are over rated, it is difficult to turn an ICU into a hospice unit, hospital food is still horrible, and face to face contact with the primary physician by law can be as little as 3 minutes per 24 hours. Above all else, I learned the lack of hospitality in the hospital setting still existed. When I realized I could not alter the outcome of my dad’s hospital admission, my thought turned to how I could improve the experience, not only for him, but for my family as well. I knew he could not get better, but that did not mean I did not want him to feel better. This meant hanging up family photos, bringing in comfortable down pillows, having colleagues come in to provide massage and Jin Shin Jyutsu, getting a barber to give him a bedside shave and a haircut, and making sure chocolate milkshakes were delivered twice daily.

The book If Disney Ran Your Hospital, 9 ½ Things You Would Do Differently, by Fred Lee is a must read for all health care administrators and providers. A main premise of the book is that we have to acknowledge that hospitals not only provide a service or product, but also an experience. What kind of an experience? Mr. Lee describes it as an experience that “engages patients on an emotional, physical, intellectual, and yes, spiritual level.” Service happens outside of you, while an experience happens within. It is the quality, consistency, and substance of that experience which will likely become the primary differentiator of the hospital. Throughout, Mr. Lee drives home how best to implement this new philosophy, which can be done on a small or large scale, and is adaptable for all healthcare settings. By the end of the book, you will be imagining a patient room as a stage, and health professional as having roles, not jobs. He breaks down major “impact ideas” that hospitals should consider, all based upon the premise that while the services we provide are intangible, the experiences of our patients are memorable, personal and individualized.

The goal is to find those approaches that foster the best behavior in staff while providing the best emotional experience for patients. He breaks down the pillars of the Disney experience, and applies it to a hospital setting – the importance of a patients’ perception of the care they are receiving, how courtesy may be more effective than efficiency, why patient loyalty is more important than patient satisfaction, and even how imagination(the hallmark of Disney) has its place in the hospital. Mr. Lee links imagination with compassion: if you can imagine what your patient and their family is going through, what they must be thinking and feeling, through that imagination process, you are growing your capacity for compassion.

When healthcare professionals find themselves on the other side of the equation, getting care instead of giving it, it is usually an enlightening experience. Going forward in my consulting work, I know I now need to give guidance to therapists and their staff on ensuring that the experience we create for our patients is the cornerstone of the quality service we provide. The experience we may have does not guarantee the experience we may give. There are many great articles, and evidence-based research to support the importance of the experience and the need for hospitality in hospitals. Among them are:


If Disney Ran Your Hospital… is available at www.amazon.com

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