I had the honor of working as a scheduler as my first job in healthcare. I had no idea what to expect; I had never interacted with patients before and up until then would have never even labeled them as such. They were all just people to me.
I realized not long into my scheduling role that these “people” (or patients as we like to call them) were different. Many were in a desperate place, calling to schedule an exam to rule out or remove some ominous presence of cancer or a myriad of other different life taking diagnoses. They were people who were vulnerable and raw and extra-sensitive to both the slightest gesture of kindness, as well as the frustrating hiccups and bumps along the way–people or process related–in their healthcare journey.
I would go out of my way to try and connect with them, especially if coordinating their appointments was getting complicated or taking awhile (“Crazy weather we’ve had, huh!”) These conversations opened up the opportunity to get to know some of these patients just enough for me to see (or hear, really–everything was on the phone) who these people were: their personalities, their concerns about their procedures or the outcome of the tests, or simply their barriers to following all the directions we’d rattle off. They were never just patients or numbers to get through to me; they were people, with names and families and lives that were intimately affected by the medical conditions that were perpetrating our phone call.
I only scheduled for three months before moving onto a new role. But I missed the interactions with the patients more than I ever anticipated, grieving the loss of those interactions as much as a year and a half later. There was something really special about connecting with people who were in such a raw and vulnerable state, and to play a role in alleviating, simply by genuinely caring, some of their suffering.
As my roles have changed, my focus has expanded: to not only wanting to improve the lives of the people we serve, but also the lives of the caregivers themselves. I’ve realized that in the capacity I serve in now, the caregivers are my new patients, and everything I want them to do for patients (connect, listen, care genuinely for the person, etc) I must do for them. The biggest return I get from my work now is seeing the difference I make in their lives, and knowing that it will organically translate to their future interactions with patients, and with each other.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. How can we support caregivers so that they are set up to best support patients? Leave me your thoughts and ideas below!