During a medical appointment, a young assistant was updating my file and asked if there were any medical changes in the past year needing updated.
I expected this question and was dreading it because of the reality that hits me all over again: my mom is gone.
“Yes,” I answered. “My mom died in January, and she was diagnosed with bladder cancer right before she passed.”
Gulp. Breathe. Ugh. A flood of memories passed before my mind’s eye about those last tumultuous moments spent with Mom at her end. I waited for the assistant’s response, anticipating phrases of sympathies and comfort, or more follow up inquiries.
“Is there anything else?”, she asked.
I just blinked and stared at her dumbly. “No”, I managed to utter.
Is there anything else? Isn’t that enough? My life was turned upside down just months before and the lightness of this question left me dumbfounded.
I share this example not to put this woman down - she was simply doing her job. In fact, she was extremely polite, friendly, positive, and accommodating. But she lacked a huge component missing in many workplaces today: empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – and then acting upon this observation. Instead, she returned to her robotic focus on “checking the boxes” just as she was trained to do.
My hope is that she and the rest of the readers first understand our jobs deal with humans. And humans are magnificent emotional creatures filled with stories, passions, hurts and trauma. These emotions are worthy and need to heard and validated. It only takes seconds to make an impactful moment by showing another you care.
Whether you call it customer service, patient relationships or people engagement, never forget you are interacting with a human. Acknowledge those times you hear a heartbreaking story with a pause and compassionate spirit. Because your work is more than the actual job you are trying to do