The Greatest Nurse I Ever Met

*This is my “thank you” to the great nurses of the world. You are a gift to everyone who is fortunate to be served by you.*

I love exceptional customer service. Everything about it. I love that those who serve do not think of themselves as servants, but as service professionals. They enjoy making others feel special. They go out of their way to “Wow”. For these service superstars, service is not what they do, it is “who they are”. This is why I cringe when I hear healthcare professionals say “I didn’t go to school to serve people”. Huh? Yes…I’ve heard that exact quote several times. Hospitality means to take care of others, and guess what the root word is in hospitality. You guessed it…hospital. I firmly believe that healthcare IS the highest form of hospitality. 

As a healthcare provider, the ENTIRE purpose of your job is to help, assist, empathize and take care of others. All those words mean to serve. Of course, not everyone is meant to serve other people. We have all seen those individuals. That’s fine if you don’t like to serve…just get a job that doesn’t require you to serve. If everyone is not meant to serve, then even fewer people are meant to be healthcare providers. Other people (especially inpatients) are completely dependent on you.

This brings me to The Greatest Nurse I Ever Met. This nurse works in a hospital in Southern Maryland, where my wife was on strict bed rest for almost two months. Since she was on bed rest, I was practically an inpatient also since I stayed with her almost non-stop over that two-month period and saw the care she received firsthand. Even though most of my training and consulting clients are in the healthcare industry, I must admit that this was the first time I truly “felt” and understood just how important nurses are. From my perspective, they account for the vast majority of the patient service experience. The physician would do her rounds in the morning and might spend 5 – 7 minutes with my wife, then leave. It was the nursing team who supervised and administered the healthcare for the rest of the day. It was the nurses who were called if my wife needed something. It was the nurses who listened when she had an immediate concern. If the hospital is a building, then the nurses are the heart and soul of that building.

One of my favorite books is If Disney Ran Your Hospital. There is an interesting quote that reads, “Hospitals don’t have patients, doctors do”. That powerful statement is true in many cases. However, I can now see how offensive that statement can be to nurses who build enduring relationships with their patients and patients’ families. Nurses cry, laugh, and spend time with their patients all-day, everyday.

So during my wife’s inpatient stay, one exceptional nurse was Sharra. Besides her exceptional clinical acumen, her warmth and eagerness to serve seemed just as potent as any medication that was given. As an inpatient, my wife was fortunate to have received multiple flowers for her room. After a few days, she ran out of vases to put them in, so Sharra said, “I’ll make you one!” She promptly got a disposable styrofoam water pitcher and cut the top off to make an impromptu flower vase. I refer to that as a touchpoint deposit, and when there are deposits, I say Cha-Ching!

Sharra didn’t stop there. Since my wife knew that she would be in the hospital for, at least, a few months, we asked for some good places to order food from in the surrounding area that could be picked up or delivered. Sharra could have easily referred us to the hospital’s concierge, but that would go against her service ethics. Sharra is a nurse who “works like she owns it”, so she gave us a hand-written list of her favorite restaurants and next to each restaurant, she noted the approximate distance from the hospital and type of cuisine. She even put a star next to the ones she really liked. Cha-Ching!

Each week, the inpatients receive a menu of food offerings from the hospital’s cafeteria. Since Sharra knew my wife would be staying for a while, she got her a menu for the entire month. Cha-Ching!

When Sharra entered the room, each day she beamed “Good Morning Sunshine! So here’s the plan for today.” Being in a potentially depressing situation, as my wife was in, it was refreshing to have an upbeat, positive personality to take the edge off being confined to a hospital bed for an extended period of time. Cha-Ching!

After my wife’s daily bed bath, Sharra would get her a warm towel and change her bed sheets using warm sheets and blankets. Cha-Ching!

In short, Sharra made her feel like she was her only patient. She never complained or talked about her workload or how many patients “they” gave her. She never complained about her bosses, co-workers or the hospital (at least not in my presence, or within earshot). In fact, she was one of the only nurses we did not hear bad-talking or gossiping in the hallway. Yes, patients can hear everything that is being said in the hallway. In fact, she beamed about the hospital, only spoke positively and even bragged about the hospital’s expansion plans. That is being a true ambassador.

So, Sharra is the greatest nurse I ever met, and I’m sure there are several more “Sharras” in the world. As an observer of Sharra’s care, I felt privileged to have seen her in action, and I am sure she is humbled that she gets to do what she loves to do everyday…and gets paid for it. Service is not what she does, service is who she is.

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