I See You: Putting the Patient in the Center of the Healthcare Team

What Avatar Teaches Us About Using an Empathetic Approach to Treating Patients

In our blog post for this week, guest blogger Rebecca Bryan, DNP, adult nurse practitioner and Owner of Rebecca Bryan Consulting LLC, discusses the importance of understanding health concerns from the patient’s perspective.

My favorite moment in the movie Avatar is the love scene between protagonist Jake and Neytiri, a female Na’vi on the planet Pandora. Neytiri finds Jake’s Na’vi avatar unresponsive in the forest and realizes that his human form is in the mobile lab.

She jumps through the shattered window to find him unconscious and near death, suffocating in Pandora’s atmosphere. Desperately placing the oxygen mask on his face, she watches as Jake comes to life, looks Neytiri in the eyes, and says, “I see you.” Neytiri, who prior to this point, has only seen Jake in his avatar form, smiles and responds tenderly, “I see you.”

To appreciate the fullness of this moment, understand that humans were the enemy to the Na’vi, appropriating and destroying their sacred planet. Neytiri had fallen in love with Jake in his avatar form and was devastated when she learned he was human. This love scene was the moment when masks, paradoxically, removed, and soul saw soul, regardless of form.

Etic vs. Emic

That’s the shift in perspective from etic to emic.

That’s the paradigm that can put the patient in the center of the healthcare team.

I have been lecturing about, and helping organizations become, trauma-informed since 2013, but only recently discovered the vocabulary of “etic vs emic” as two ways to understand human behavior. This language was first coined by Kenneth Pike, a linguistic theoretician, in 1954, with etic pertaining to objective findings and emic pertaining to the meaning behind a finding.

With regard to human behavior, particularly through biomedical lens, an etic approach looks at a problem from the outside in. It relies on objective criteria to make a diagnosis, which is consistent with the traditional allopathic model.

Take cigarette smoking, for example. An etic intake would include the patient’s age of smoking onset and packs smoked per year, and the diagnosis would be ICD-10 code F17.200: Nicotine dependence, unspecified, uncomplicated.

An emic approach would respond to that ICD-10 label with a snort; is cigarette smoking ever uncomplicated?! Because an emic approach looks at things from the patient’s perspective – or, from the inside out, so to speak. An emic intake to evaluate cigarette smoking would include understanding what was happening when a patient started to smoke, the good things that smoking does for the patient (“it calms me down…it distracts me from my pain”), the barriers to quitting and the level of desire to quit. Asking patients questions like these gets to what I like to call “the root of why.” It gets to the bottom of things and can be transformative.

The Importance of Personal Experience

Trauma-informed practice calls for shifting from etic to emic, from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?” The kind of trauma I am writing about here is relational, as compared to situational trauma like a car accident or a hurricane. While trauma can occur at any age, it is particularly impactful in childhood, and much of the science generating evidence-based practice stems from the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) studies.

ACEs are common, cumulative and strongly associated with most of the leading causes of death in the U.S., as well as health risk behaviors like smoking, disordered eating and substance abuse. ACEs impact brain development, immune and hormonal systems, and even genetic expression – across the entire lifespan.

Positive events like growing up in a loving home, living in a safe space, and getting good at something counteract ACEs, again across the entire lifespan. In other words, our lived experience becomes our biology.

Walk a Mile in the Patient’s Shoes

That’s why it’s important to understand health concerns from the patient’s perspective. Research from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that 80 percent of health outcomes are the result of factors other than healthcare. Traumatic experiences and adverse community challenges play a big role in this.

When we take the time to step in the patient’s shoes, we have a better chance at understanding what is driving health outcomes – and how to intervene. After all, the patients are the experts of their own lives!

Affirming patients’ experiences and helping them connect the dots across their lives is healing and places them in the center of the healthcare team. It facilitates relationships that are empowering. It says, loud and clear, “I see you.”

Eight Ways to Use Your Culture to Attract Top Talent

Years ago, when visiting client Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care’s Cincinnati site, I was fortunate enough to also visit fellow Worldcom partner Wordsworth Communications in downtown Cincinnati. As our guest blogger this week, Wordsworth Managing Partner, Bridget Castellini, explains how company culture attracts talent in today’s competitive hiring market.

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Strategies & Tactics. Reposted with permission from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).

Today’s public relations professionals need to tap into a diverse set of skills in an always-on, unpredictable and fast-paced industry. They need to be strong storytellers, content generators and masterful communicators; possess an impeccable attention to detail; be nimble to quickly and easily shift gears; have the ability to shake it off easily and get back on the horse… the list goes on and on.

Just as we’re evaluating candidates’ skills, they’re carefully evaluating us. They want the agency they select, and the clients they’ll be serving, to be challenging, yet fair and rewarding. They want the opportunity to continue to push themselves to learn and grow in an industry that changes daily.

More importantly, they also want to feel supported and valued in a team-focused environment. They crave work-life balance and flexibility. They want open and honest communication. They want to add value and feel rewarded. They also need a clear picture of what it’s like to work at your shop before they accept the offer.

That’s why our culture is front and center during the interview process. Agency leaders have a big opportunity (to practice what they preach and use public relations) to sell prospective employees on why they should work for you, starting with your culture.

Here are eight ways to use your agency’s culture to attract top talent.

Lead with Culture

Showcase your agency’s mission and vision during the interview process, starting with the job description. When you sit down with candidates, highlight the top five things you do for employees. Share concrete examples of what makes your culture different or special since most companies will tout the “we’re a great place to work” message. Leading with culture shows you place a high value on it.

Give Them a Tour

This may seem like a no-brainer: give candidates a tour. Forego the phone interviews or meeting at a coffee shop. Show them where they would sit. Allow them to picture themselves inside your walls

Use a Team Approach to Interviews

No one wants to meet only with agency leadership during the interview process. They want to meet with the colleagues they’ll be rolling up their sleeves next to. Your team can be your best ambassadors – have candidates talk to team members in different roles. Set up several in-person sessions so they can ask questions in casual, yet structured meetings, hosting them in different meeting rooms so they can get a flavor for what meetings will be like if they take a position at your firm. They’ll get a good idea of what it’s truly like to work within your walls.

Host a Gathering

There’s no better way for talent to get to know you than a low-key, fun setting like a happy hour or informal gathering. We’ve hosted summer happy hours at the agency structured around a theme. One year it was “Camp Wordsworth” and stations were set-up, staffed by our team to meet and greet with attendees and take them through a fun activity.

Showcase Your Team (and Culture) on Social Media

The first places talent will go to check out your agency are your social feeds. Make sure it includes a good balance of life inside the agency. You’ve worked hard to cultivate and nurture your culture, why not show it off on social media?

Find Out Candidates’ Strengths

Consider having candidates take the CliftonStrengths assessment to determine their talents in the form of their top five strengths. You can use it as another piece of data to determine if they’d be a good fit for the culture of the company.

Form a Culture Committee

Chances are you offer more perks and flexibility than a ping pong table, an Xbox and free Cokes. Basically, you need to walk the walk and not just talk the talk and have a team dedicated to it. At our agency, we have a culture committee that plans fun activities and outings for holidays, birthdays and everything in between.

Ask Them What They Want

Don’t forget to survey candidates and prospective employees on what they want in a work environment. What are their top requirements?

How are selling your company’s culture to your hires? Drop me a line at bcastellini@wordsworthweb.com

The Power of Personnel Announcements

How to Tell Your Organization’s Story Through Personnel News

Smart business leaders know that any organization’s greatest asset is its people. Employees are the force that brings mission statements and balance sheets to life. When it comes to telling your story, promoting their successes can make for a most compelling lede.

The classic personnel announcement is one tried and true tactic. Announcing new hires, promotions and awards, and other achievements burnishes your organization’s brand and distinguishes it from your competitors.

Just as importantly, personnel announcements can enhance collegiality and corporate culture by sending a clear message that employees are valued and their accomplishments are worth celebrating. As such, they should be a key element of any internal communications strategy.

Getting Creative

That being said, it can be a bit challenging these days to leverage personnel announcements through earned media. Many media outlets – from local newspapers to national healthcare industry trade publications — that used to run “Personnel News” and business announcement columns now charge fees to run personnel announcements. The cost can make it prohibitive for non-profits and others with limited marketing budgets to share their news.

That’s when it pays to dig deeper to find interesting story angles that will turn a simple personnel announcement into a bigger story – something we did for client Home Care Associates’ (HCA) announcement of its new CEO, Tatia Cooper. In fact, we wrote a blog post previously about how we wove details of Ms. Cooper’s life and her family’s deep community involvement into our outreach for the announcement, which helped us tell a more meaningful story about HCA that local media outlets truly wanted to cover.

By finding those interesting angles – and leveraging them through an integrated earned, owned and social media campaign – healthcare communicators can make an otherwise straight-forward personnel announcement truly sing.

Putting the Pieces Together

SPRYTE recently was called upon to help a long-standing national client, Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care, announce two senior leadership promotions. Crossroads is a leading provider of comprehensive hospice services to people with life-limiting illnesses and their caregivers. Headquartered in Tulsa, OK, Crossroads serves patients in their homes and long-term care facilities in 11 sites in seven states in the Midwest and Pennsylvania.

DeAnna Looper, one of Crossroads’ original employees at its founding in 1995, was named Chief Compliance Officer for Carrefour Associates, Crossroads’ management firm. In this newly created role, she oversees all clinical, legal and regulatory compliance operations across all 11 Crossroads sites.

Danny Cox, who joined Crossroads in 2011, advanced to Senior Vice President of Clinical Operations, the role previously held by DeAnna. Having successfully led the complex implementation of a new hospice-specific electronic medical record platform for all 11 Crossroads sites across two time zones, he is now responsible for the enterprise-wide integration of all clinical operations.

Both DeAnna and Danny are nurses by training and nurse educators with more than five decades’ combined experience in healthcare, education and administration. The basics make for an impressive personnel announcement, to be sure. Digging deeper revealed details that strengthen the internal message.

Crossroads is committed to continually innovating and shaping the way end-of-life care is viewed and administered. Having worked their way steadily through numerous positions over the years, building and growing the organization, both DeAnna and Danny are the embodiment of this mission. DeAnna, in particular, started as Crossroads’ first nurse and literally crafted the clinical model from the ground up alongside the founder and CEO.

Elevating these two longtime team members who were instrumental in making Crossroads the hospice leader it is today sent a powerful internal message that the company values the contributions of all employees, finds their achievements newsworthy, and lives its mission statement.

Rollout and Response

True to Crossroads’ promise to put its people first, SPRYTE activated its campaign with a personal message from the CEO to all employees. Across the system, every employee at every level was “first to know” the exciting and important news.

The official announcement was sent to a targeted list of regional business, newspapers and other media outlets, and earned coverage in national hospice industry and nursing trade publications.

DeAnna and Danny were each profiled on Crossroads’ popular blog, where employees, patients and families, the referring physician community and industry colleagues frequently turn for the latest news. Here they learned that Danny first felt his calling to the hospice philosophy of care when his own father was dying and no hospice services were readily available. And when DeAnna isn’t busy sorting through the complexities of hospice regulatory compliance, the lifelong Beatles fan can be found singing loudly and off-key to her grandchildren McCartney, Jett and Jade.

Capping off the campaign, the blogs and other communications were amplified across all of Crossroads’ social media channels, where they engaged an even wider audience.

The Takeaway

For healthcare communicators, the moral of the story is to think creatively. Beneath the simple personnel announcement, there are often stories that bring the corporate mission statement to life. By sharing them, you’re not only burnishing your brand, you’re sending a strong message internally that employees are valued and celebrated.