We need more kindness – recognising World Kindness Day
Today is World Kindness Day. A day to stop and consider better ways of building empathy, understanding and appreciation of each other. It’s a focus on the positive impact that small acts of kindness have in changing our connection with others.
To me, kindness at work is particularly important having spent many years working in hospital management roles. You may have personal experience of the enormous impact that kindness (or lack of) in healthcare can have when we are at our most vulnerable and relying on a highly committed workforce to deliver the care that we or our loved ones need. You will be sadly familiar with the numerous cases of bullying and harassment that have been surfaced in the healthcare professions. So what’s the cause of this and is kindness the answer?
It’s not just a ‘soft and fluffy’ subject. We know kindness and compassion has a direct impact on patient outcomes and costs. For example, studies show kindness and compassion shown by clinicians towards patient has many favourable outcomes.
- Improves surgical outcomes, reduces morphine use and enables patients to go home earlier.
- Reduces the likelihood of re-attendance at ED for the same condition by 30 percent.
- Improves survival and quality of life for those with terminal lung cancer.
- Cuts the 5-year risk of a heart attack more than aspirin, and of overall mortality more than smoking cessation.
- Improves diabetic glucose control.
- Improves adherence to treatment.
- Reduces health costs by 30 percent when the doctor provides ‘above median’ patient-centred care
And it’s not just about impact on patients. The impact on colleagues is significant. There is direct evidence of the impact of teamwork, team effectiveness and collaboration on patient outcomes, and the impact on staff engagement and wellbeing is enormous. So kindness saves lives.
Healthcare certainly has its own specific challenges; the professional history and dynamics, the need to balance training and education of clinicians with the need to minimise clinical risk, an increasing shift towards transparency and accountability but at the same time an environment that isn’t often ‘safe to fail’, the 24-7 nature of care that requires a shift-based workforce but also craves continuity, and all this within an environment of increasing demand, throughput and expectations. So the ability for moments of kindness can certainly be tested.
There are a raft of challenges we all face in being kind to each other every day. While we may not think we are being ‘unkind’, it’s not the same thing as bringing those small acts of kindness into our daily work patterns.
More broadly, we all experience the contemporary world of work which involves meeting client or consumer needs, deadlines and working with other internal and external stakeholders. This can lead to high-pressure situations. Those situations when we need to get the best out of each other can result in us achieving the exact opposite of what we really need. The lack of kindness can lead to people not being able to think clearly, make good decisions, deal with stressful situations and bring the confident and capable side of ourselves to work.
This week, in recognition of World Kindness Day we have a few events happening. We are hosting the annual Gathering of Kindness, run by the Hush Foundation, which brings together people from across the health and aged care sectors to focus on improving kindness and our Health and Human Services and People and Change teams are actively ‘showing appreciation’ to each other.
So, on a day dedicated to kindness what small acts of kindness have you performed to brighten up someone’s day?