Empathy and compassion are caught, they not taught...You can't get to compassion without empathy - Mary Gordon, founder, Roots of Empathy
It is simultaneously one of the largest, one the oldest and one of the biggest urban hospital systems in America. It includes two of the finest medical schools in America. Yet, until recently, it had begun to slip backwards in the minds of sophisticated New Yorkers who sometimes left town for the Mayo Clinic or Johns Hopkins instead of heading down the street to one of this center's hospitals. Then, in 1998, the board of the newly merged New York Hospital (founded in 1771) and Presbyterian Hospital made a key decsion. They chose a psychiatrist to be their chief executive. And the psychiatrist, Herbert Pardes, M.D. (above, left), announced a radical strategy. The new organization would focus on patient-centered care. "The only thing I'm interested in is helping patients..." Dr. Pardes announced. What's so radical about this?...
New York-Presbyterian, like so many large American hospital systems, had no clear focus. Pushed by demands for better research and teaching, slammed by financial pressures, sued by famous patients (including the estate of Andy Warhol who died there after routine gall bladder surgery in 1987) the organization, at the dawn of the 21st century, seemed confused about its mission.
Fortunately, Dr. Pardes' vision was clear as crystal - and it was also right. The organization would join the national Loving Care Movement and return to its patient-centric rootes. These are the roots Dr. Pardes himself had seen beginning to rot when he was a patient himself at the age of seven - poked, prodded, and traumatized by insensitive caregivers. It took nearly six decades from that experience for this remarkable man to ascend to a position where he could lead the growth of a new culture. A culture where every patient would be treated with respect.
Dr. Pardes leadership is a classic example of loving presence. Undaunted by the fact that his organization employs over 50,000 caregivers, he is constantly out on the floors greeting staff and talking with patients. His empathy is catching! And his compassionate leadership is just one more sign that the Loving Care movement has taken hold in America.
Our country's non-profit hospitals are belatedly renewing their focus on patients and first line caregivers. The more they increase this focus, the more successful they become.
Hard to find at the end of the 20th century, America's patient-centered hospitals now shine forth in the 21st century from locations in every part of the country:
1) In California, Deborah Proctor is guiding the 14-hospital St. Joseph Health System toward greater success by emphasizing Sacred Encounters as the primary focus of the organization. The System's flagship, St. Joseph Hospital, has just received Magnet Nursing Status under the leadership of CNO Katie Skelton and CEO Larry Ainsworth. At St. Mary's, CEO Jason Barker is fast growing a culture of Radical Loving Care.
2) In Florida, George Mikitarian has led Parrish Medical Center to the top of the list of America's Healing Hospitals. Clinical excellence and profitability are at an all time high and Parrish is routinely in first in developing the latest strategies for patient-centered care. Twenty miles away, Wuesthoff Health System, with the leadership of Emil Miller and Johnette Gindling, also continues to emphasize Loving Care as the center of their strategy.
3) In Arizona, Laurie Eberst is leading the development of a jewel in the middle of the desert. Mercy Gilbert Medical Center was one of the first organizations to establish a new touch card system to serve as a reminder to all caregivers of patient's humanity.
4) In Connecticut, Griffin Hospital is regularly listed as one of the most employee-friendly workplaces in America. It has a long waiting-list of caregivers who want to work there in spite of the fact it is not the highest paying hospital in the area.
5) In Ohio, my old hospital, Riverside Methodist (left), under the leadership of Bruce Hagen and Chief Nursing Officer Mary Ann Wilcox, has re-established its culture of excellence and has helped the OhioHealth System, lead by Dave Blom, in winning a ranking as one of the most employee-friendly health systems in America (Fortune Magazine) as well as one of the finest for clinical care (U.S. News & World Report). Riverside is a Magnet Hospital for Nursing.
6) In Tennessee, The Mountain States Health System, with the leadership of Dennis Vonderfecht and the direction of Kathryn Wilhoit, has put a laser focus on patient-centered care and has also won Magnet Nursing status.
7) In Kentucky, new CEO Steve Grinnell has chosen to lead Lourdes Hospital around a strategy grounded in Radical Loving Care.
8) In Michigan, CEO Dennis Swan is two years into his loving leadership of The Sparrow Health System, an organization which is transforming itself into the leading Healing Hospital in that state.
9) In Oregon, St. Charles Hospital was one of the first health care organizations to adopt a patient-centered model stem to stern. The loving leadership of that organization continues to nurture a culture of excellence in that organization.
10) In Minnesota, home of the famed Mayo Clinic, the faith-based HealthEast System in St. Paul, under the leadership of Tim Hanson, is making a renewed commitment to mission-centered loving care in each of their hospitals including the pioneering Woodwinds Campus (left) where integrative medicine is featured so successfully that this organization has been named in U.S. News & World Report as the place that best exemplifies the new health care in America.
These organizations are all part of the new wave of American healthcare, a wave that emphasizes the reason hospitals were established in the first place - to be centers of healing for all in need.
The Loving Care Movement is now a clear trend in American healthcare. Those non-profit hospitals that remain stuck in the 20th century miasma of money and technology will continue to lose patients and key staff to the 21st century organizations that emphasize loving care and clinical excellence.
These organizations don't try to force the loving care message. They understand that empathy is caught, not taught. And it is caught from loving leaders like the ones mentioned above.
Progress in any movement is always uneven. But the evidence is now clear that what patients have always wanted is what America's Healing Hospitals are finally offering: the best balance of quality and compassion resting on the only foundation that matters to those in deep need - Radical Loving Care.