Smile, and pass it on 

In a previous post, entitled Life and Death, I wrote a lot of praise and positive words about one of the ward sisters on the medical unit I was a patient on at the time. The day after the events that Life and Death focused on, I went to the PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison service) office within the hospital. Through PALS you can ask for advice, make a complaint, or pass on a compliment, and it can be addressed to the hospital as a whole, a particular ward, or even a specific member of staff.

I wrote a letter to the ward sister whilst at the PALS desk, expressing my gratitude for the amazing compassion and kindness shown to both me and the patient next to me. I told her that her actions that night had directly made a positive difference to how I coped with the situation and that she had really helped me. I said to her that I was certain the patients’ family would have been grateful that such a kind ward sister was in charge of their loved ones’ care on her final night. I thanked her sincerely for her wonderful attitude towards me and all other patients. When handing in my letter at the PALS desk, I wondered whether it would ever actually make it to the individual that the letter was about. People are more inclined to make complaints about poor services; were the compliments deemed less important, less constructive? I hoped not, but I tried not think too much about their protocols and just quietly wished for the ward sister to find out how grateful I was.

And she did!

In unfortunate circumstances, I found myself once again a patient on the acute medical unit just under a couple of weeks ago, which was probably around a month following the hospital admission during which I’d written Life and Death. I was upset one afternoon, when I noticed the lovely ward sister from last time was on duty. She approached my bed and told me she’d just seen I was on the ward again, and that she’d come to find me because she’d received my complimentary PALS letter the previous week; she was really grateful for it and it had nearly made her cry. I was so incredibly pleased knowing it had gone through PALS and actually reached her that I smiled for probably the first time that day. And the fact that she had remembered my name and taken the time out of her busy schedule to come and say thank you to me personally, at my bedside, was enough to cheer me up from my ill, upset state. Being able to tell her after that I truly believed it was completely necessary and well-deserved positive feedback was lovely.

I suppose that little moment just reinforced to me how important it is to focus on and compliment the positives, no matter how small, of any service – particularly a healthcare service. The ward sister made things feel OK for a moment during a very difficult time for me, and the least I could do was say thank you, if not face to face then via a small statement through PALS. But that seemingly tiny expression of gratitude via PALS allowed for the ward sister realised how special and important her actions were on that night, which in turn made her smile and realise the positive impact that she had on the hundreds of people she cared for in her role. And the fact that I could see her again, and be told directly that she’d really appreciated my letter, just continued the sense of warmth generated by her caring attitude in the beginning.

Compassion really does make the world go around.

I found out the next day that the ward sister was leaving, that this was her last shift on this ward and that she was going to work at a different hospital in the palliative care services. From the wonderful nursing practice I’ve witnessed, I’m confident that she’ll do fantastically in her new role.

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