Can You Hear me Now?

BP March 31 RNau
By Roulla D. Nau, Master of Healthcare Administration, GW 2008

As a young healthcare management professional, my first job required working with five clinical teams to open a new hospital. These colleagues had more training, education, and experience than me. Despite this disparity, we found a common platform – listening to and learning from each other.

Each team worked well and attempted to balance many responsibilities, including providing direct patient care. While each meeting teemed with excitement, the fear and anxiety was palpable. We focused on learning from our current operations to prepare for the new hospital. The leadership offered guidance to the team, but these recommendations changed frequently.

Struggling to plan in such a fluid environment, the teams felt they were not being heard by leadership or by one another.  After some reflection, I asked the teams to “pause” during meetings. We used the “pause” to disengage from our mobile devices and slow down our discussions. This intentional disengagement forced all of us to listen to one another and find ways to continue planning, despite key details lacking at times. After about a month of asking people to “pause”, our overall productivity increased, and the teams’ morale improved.  Staff entered our meetings with devices off and ready to work.  No one needed a reminder to “pause.”

The opening day of the hospital rapidly approached, and anxiety levels continued increasing.  We continued to support the current operations while also tackling the remaining tasks for the new hospitals.  We hired staff who were eager to join our efforts and understood the value of listening to one another and to patients.  One week prior to the opening of the hospital, several of the senior leaders asked the teams what worked well and what could have been done better to prepare for the hospital.  Nearly every person said “pausing” during meetings forced us to listen to one another.  One staff member said “I no longer felt like the Verizon ad asking ‘can you hear me now?’ We all actively listened to each other instead of remaining tethered to our smart devices. We made changes that will save lives.”

This year-long experience reinforced the importance of listening to our team members and colleagues.  In a society and era over saturated with communication and information, it is easy to forget the importance of face-to-face interaction and active listening.  Consider how you can help others stop wondering “can you hear me now?”

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