Little acts make big differences

November 24, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

When Chief Executive Officer Marschall Runge, M.D., Ph.D., shared his blog about kindness and compassion, several Michigan Medicine employees reached out to add their thoughts about how random acts of kindness and moments of compassion toward one another can make a big difference in a hectic work day. 

So, in honor of Thanksgiving, a holiday meant to embrace gratitude, Headlines decided to provide just a few examples of workplace compassion — through the words of our faculty, staff and learners.  

Sarah Fox, a clinical research area specialist in plastic surgery at Mott wanted to share a related article from the Journal of the American Medical Association, Little Acts and Big Differences, co-authored by two surgeons in her department,  Danielle Dougherty, M.D., and Erin E. Perrone, M.D.

“Although disagreements in the hospital environment are inevitable, they do not have to be condescending or disrespectful,” wrote Dougherty and Perrone. “Making an effort to ensure civility and mutual respect can go a long way … There are countless examples of times when small gestures of acknowledgement and encouragement are what got us through a difficult day … Those little connections … a look of appreciation, the willingness to pause and discuss a concern, the words of validation after a long shift … suggest that we are in this together and share a common humanity.”

Affirming a caring environment

Encouragement and appreciation are exactly what the pediatric chief residents had in mind when they began the tradition of collecting shout-outs from residents, faculty and fellows throughout the week and then sharing them to the residency program at-large at their Friday educational conference and through an email “Shout-Out Digest.”

“A few weeks ago, a pediatric patient well-known to many residents died in the hospital overnight,” said house officer Benjamin Pritz. “The overnight attending submitted a shout-out to the residents who supported the family throughout these difficult hours. At the same time, the residents submitted a shout-out to the attending in gratitude for her support and willingness to help them navigate the situation. These simultaneous shout-outs, each unbeknownst to the other, really affirmed the exemplary teamwork and care for one another demonstrated by all.”

Other examples of kindness and recognition

Opportunities for recognition also occur across departments.

Devin Lippert, administrative director for the Office of Patient Experience, recognized Health Information Technology & Services Desktop Support Specialist Chad Horton for taking time out of his busy schedule to help her as a new leader to the organization. 

“He truly listens and understands his customers’ needs,” Lippert said. “I cannot thank him enough for his support during my onboarding.”

The Pediatric Pulmonary Medicine Department gave a big shout out to Charles Drummer — a custodian with Environmental Services — for his happy and positive outlook, which brightens so many people’s days.

The East Ann Arbor Geriatric Department also lauded how much call center representative David Brinkerhoff cares about each and every patient when listening to their concerns, even serving as a calming force in crisis situations. 

Personal touches

Acts of kindness and compassion aren’t always related to work.

When EEG technician Jennifer Albrecht left her pager on the People’s Express bus at the end of a long day, it was fortunate that nurse supervisor Deanna Skicki spotted it.

“She searched me out, contacted me to let me know she had it AND drove out of her way after work to give it to me,” Albrecht said. “Not many people would do that. I am so grateful that Deanna did.”

Nurse practitioner Li Gao took the time to dig up her garden and bring Ruby Marr, an instructor with internal medicine, some of her Black Eyed Susans and Irises.

“Yesterday I found out she did the same for another colleague a few months ago.  She’s so thoughtful and I often reflect back at her kindness and try and pay it forward,” Marr said.

Modeling a culture of compassion

Through mentoring and coaching, leaders can role model and inspire compassion and kindness among others. Lamia Marouf, senior project manager for radiology IT services, had this to share about a past leader: “Over the years, I have experienced acts of kindness at work that have had a lasting effect on me. One that stood out for me happened when I was working in an environment that had some dominant personalities and loud voices in our meetings. Initially, I found it intimidating and would often remain quiet and not offer opinions or ask questions.

“However, my leader at the time would remind us that the loudest voices are not always right or more valued. He created space for my opinion to be heard. I have never forgotten this act of kindness and how it made me feel.

“Now, when I facilitate large team meetings, I’m always conscious of how important it is to understand different personalities and diverse cultures, show kindness and consideration to everyone, and enable all voices to be heard.”

When Dougherty and Perrone reflected back on acts of compassion in their article Little Acts and Big Differences, they too recognize the lasting impact it has on them today.

“When we were in medical school, we never daydreamed that a nurse remembering our name or an attending physician from another service listening respectfully to our concerns would be the catalysts that made for a positive day,” they wrote.

“We never expected these to be the moments that brought unexpected joy … But these are the moments that connect us to our collective humanity. In a hospital setting mired in fatigue and surrounded by illness, it is not always the satisfaction of a life-saving surgery but sometimes a small act of kindness that makes a big difference. Health care team members should remember to treat each other with respect, civility, and encouragement so that each one can truly ‘Live the dream.’’’

The entire Headlines team is grateful to all of our faculty, staff and learners for all that you do every day. Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!