We’re four months away from the presidential election, and a lot of Americans are already worn down by the nastiness, name-calling and inanity. Those of us with a low tolerance for watching grown-ups make wild-eyed accusations on TV may have to go back to reading books again. How extreme would that be?
Remember when our national dialogue was civil? Neither do I, actually, but it sure seems a whole lot more uncivil than it used to. And it’s not just the politicians. Social media is a hotbed of vitriol posted by everyone from pop music stars to corporate big shots to cyber-bullies who cower behind their anonymity. They all behave like smug little — well, I ought to skip the name-calling, considering the point I’m trying to make.
Which is this: Civility matters. For our society to function effectively, we need to stop all the shouting and start treating one another with dignity and respect. Government depends on it, as the current paralysis on Capitol Hill shows. That goes for everything else, too — schools, jobs, commerce, community.
So, here’s a thought: Could health care set an example for the rest of the country? Here at Trustee, we’ve come across several health systems that are making respectful behavior an organizational priority. They recognize “the power of kindness,” as Dignity Health dubbed its own initiative. Kindness helps patients to heal, leaders to lead and employees to work more productively, according to the San Francisco-based health care system.
Another example: “Bring Your Heart to Work” at Lakeland Health in Michigan. Last fall, CEO Loren Hamel, M.D., described the effort to teach staff to more clearly demonstrate and communicate compassion with patients and colleagues. “How do you know when you’ve touched a heart?" Hamel asked. "You put a smile on a patient’s face. … That smile translates into less need for pain medication, normalization of blood pressure, modulation of heartbeat, reduction of stress and more.” And, “when a health care provider gets a smile from the patient, he or she puts on a bigger smile, reaping the same well-being benefits.”
Compassion ... kindness ... civility ... smiles. Imagine an America like that.
This column previously ran in Hospitals & Health Networks.