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It should always be about the patient

I recently attended a meeting which included commercial organisations as well as public bodies. The meeting had an intended purpose to problem solve. The meeting Chair asked that everyone introduce themselves, and specifically wanted to know more than just saying who they were, specifically wanted to know what they did, their role, their perceptions of the issues being addressed. One by one people did just that, there was talk of contracts, of vendor issues, supplier issues of delivery risks, money and of course problems.

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By the time it came to my turn to introduce myself, I thought how is the best way to describe what am I here for? My job role, my title, or another way? While I work in health information technology, my job firstly is about patients and their safety. I then said I’ve heard 10 people introduce what they did and what they were responsible for and not one person has mentioned the patient.

For a second I felt I’d said something wrong, but I reminded everyone that the one thing we had in common was this was about patient care, not technology, not contracts, not plans, not reports but patient care first and foremost. The result was interesting. People actually looked up and listened. It was as if I’d  reminded them their core purpose; it may be the commercial aspects, it may be making money, but fundamentally all had forgotten it was about the patient. In fact, the patient was invisible until I said the word.

I’m proud to be a nurse and never shy, nor feel uncomfortable about taking about patients, to patients or with patients and their families. But sometimes in the wider complex world we work it, it is easy to forget what this is about.

My lessons to clinical staff working in any area, but especially health informatics are:

  1. Never apologise for being clinical. Being clinical gives you unique insight, authority and respect. Being clinical is powerful, especially with non-clinical staff.
  2. Very few people can argue that when a clinical member of staff raises a valid safety aspect it’s hard to ignore it, in fact it can be the catalyst for change. Potential harm, or probable harm is not on anyones agenda. Treat the risk agenda as a powerful but important tool, like a knife, referred to in the right circumstances and used correctly will cut through any mustard.
  3. Never say “I’m only” or “apologise” for being clinical, because you’re never ‘only’ and often the only one thinking patient first.
  4. Finally, remember:

‘It always starts with the patient’, think patient, and when you make a point always cite the patient, it will neutralise any conflict, because most people have been, will be or know of family or friends who have been patients, and ultimately they want the best for the, even if they don’t say or think patient. 

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