Tips for Client-Centered Customer Service

This month at In the Know, our inservice, Client-Centered Care, is being featured.  True client-centered care means:

  • Health care professionals understand that clients are consumers who have choices and need clear, accurate information.
  • The client has a voice that overrides the care team’s “schedule.”
  • Care isn’t just delivered by healthcare professionals. There must be opportunities for loved ones‘ to be involved.
  • A healing physical environment, food, spirituality, and emotional support are just as important as pills, monitors and machines.

One way to approach client-centered care is to ensure your clients are having the best healthcare experience of their lives.  This requires dusting off your “customer service” skills–and then polishing them to the shiniest possible finish!

Here at In the Know, we have an amazing example of exceptional customer service in Evan, our Director of Customer Care.  Time after time, I hear praise for Evan from customers who are delighted by his warm personality, his willingness to go above and beyond and his personalized service.  So, who better to call on to give us five fabulous tips to help perfect our customer service skills?  Here’s what Evan had to say:

“My top five tips?  They’re pretty basic but they have served me well in my interactions with customers.  While my contact with customers is over the phone, I’ll pass these tips along in a way that relates to client care.”

  1. Set the Tone.  Remember that the first five to ten seconds of your interaction with a client will set the tone for the kind of relationship you have with the client. It’s important to have a comfortable, friendly greeting, but one that also sounds genuine and unique to that client.
  2. Listen Up. From the beginning of your interaction, prove that you are a good listener. This shows clients that you care about their situation. Allow them to dictate the conversation early on.  Doing so helps you identify their needs, as well as build trust in your relationship.
  3. Be Curious. Continue to ask open-ended questions—questions that take more than a “yes” or a “no” answer. This, too, shows clients that you care about their needs. And, remember to read between the lines.  I have to do this by listening to a customer’s tone of voice, but you get to see your clients in person.  So, be curious about their nonverbal communication, too.  By asking questions and using your observation skills, you will be poised to provide client-centered care.
  4. Make It Personal. Try to use the client’s name several times throughout your interaction. This does so much for your working relationship with a client and it is so easy to do!
  5. Express Gratitude.  Thank clients for letting you care for them.  Remember that every client has a choice when it comes to their health care providers—and they have chosen you. A little customer service can go a long way. Even a simple, kind gesture—like saying thank you—can leave a lasting impression on your client.

From the CNA Frontlines: The Gift of Today

In her latest post, Corey Ann Rotella, CNA, shares her thoughts about mindfulness–going through the day being truly alive and aware of each moment. Please share your thoughts on this subject below!

As CNAs, one of the biggest benefits of our job is the gift of awareness.  So many in this world seem to sleepwalk through life, unaware of how quickly it passes.  We all have our moments of wasting time.  A difficult shift, troubles at home and the daily struggles of living can make it so easy to wish minutes away without giving it a second thought.  However, those of us who care for the sick and elderly are more in tune with how valuable each moment really is. After all, we are surrounded by people who would give quite a bit to have wasted moments back.

Often, as I go through my shift assisting my residents with their activities of daily living, I listen to them as they reminisce about times gone by, both good and bad. They talk about family and friends and joys and heartbreaks. They tell me their stories, some of which I have heard dozens of times. I never tell them that they are repeating themselves.  I just smile and listen.  Each story they share with me has countless lessons.

It is no small feat to reach the age of ninety-three, outlive everyone you know and love and still find both joy and humor in the little things:  a good, strong cup of coffee, a hot shower, a purple blouse.  The simple, tiny little luxuries that we so often take for granted matter greatly to my residents. This is important. This is worth bearing in mind.

We live in a fast paced world.  It is easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of our own lives, to run full speed through the times that matter most. Who has time to “stop and smell the roses” when we have friends, families, jobs and obligations? And yet, it is those who live in the moment who make the most of life.

We CNAs are gifted to care for those who have learned this in hindsight. We work in an environment that is a constant reminder to BE IN THE MOMENT, to keep our head where our feet are. Time spent regretting yesterday or fretting tomorrow is time wasted. My residents teach me that every single day. They remind me to never take my time for granted. Do I do this perfectly?  Of course not.  But I do keep it in the forefront of my mind and when I do forget, this little saying helps remind me:

Yesterday is HISTORY. Tomorrow’s a MYSTERY.                                                     The gift is TODAY, that’s why they call it the present.

All of us at In the Know agree with Corey.  Life is fuller and richer when we live in the moment!  Take a look at how living in the moment affected the 20 cancer patients in this video…

Working as a CNA: Why I Stay

This week, Corey Rotella, CNA, shares her thoughts about what keeps her on the job. We’d love to hear from nurse aides everywhere so please add your comments about working in health care!

Anyone working as a nursing assistant has chosen a very challenging path.  Poor compensation, workplace politics, short staffing, conflict between coworkers, irate and difficult residents, miscommunication, heavy lifting and the loss of those for whom we care all make for a tough work environment.  I definitely have lock-myself-in-the-linen-closet-to-get-myself-together moments.  And, I have my weepfest-over-a-pint-of-Ben-and-Jerry’s-ice-cream days.  So, why do I keep coming back? Why do I stay?

First of all, I embrace the challenge. I thrive on it. In my life, it is a rare and beautiful thing to be able to bring order to chaos rather than the other way around.

And, while I detest warring egos and unnecessary gossip, I love that I have learned how not to engage in it. This career has shown me the absolute necessity of leading by example. I have outlasted three changes in management in my facility. Some were great, some were terrible, but in one way or another, I have learned from them all and it’s the lessons more than anything that keep me coming back.

For example, I’ve learned how to resolve conflicts, the importance of dedication and flexibility, how to excel in the face of difficulties and that work ethic comes from within.  For every negative aspect of the job, I can list at least ten positive ways that I’ve grown.

But the real cherry on top is what I have learned from my residents.  They inspire me every day. To live with cerebral palsy, Parkinson’s disease, cancer or dementia and still laugh and love and find joy is nothing short of amazing.  It’s such an incredible gift to be a part of their lives…to walk them through the tough days and celebrate with them during their triumphs.  They have shown me the uselessness of the word “impossible.” Most importantly, they have taught me:

COURAGE: the mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty

HOPE: To place confidence; to trust with confident expectation of good

HUMOR: the mental faculty of discovering, expressing or appreciating the ludicrous or absurdly incongruous

By watching my residents, I learned to strive for these three traits…and to demonstrate them daily in both my work and my personal life.  As a result, I have not only saved my sanity, I also vastly improved my quality of life.  At the end of the day, I love what I do!

Is everyday sunshine and rainbows? Are my residents always a delight? Of course not. But every day is worthwhile.  Every day, I get to be a part of the solution.  I get to make a small difference in my corner of the world.  I get to know why I am here and that I have a purpose. To me, that is priceless.

I would love to hear your stories. What brought you to the field of nursing and what keeps you here? After all, we learn from each other, too!

Until next time,

 

From the CNA Frontlines: A “No Complaints” Experiment

As I was scrolling through my news feed on Facebook earlier in the week, I saw something that STOPPED ME IN MY TRACKS.  A friend of mine had posted a challenge. Go an entire day without complaining about anything. Not traffic, not people, not the job, not one complaint…and see how it changes your perception.  What a fantastic idea!  I made a mental note to email my friend after my shift and left for work.

Flying solo on the assisted living wing is a challenge. It means my residents have to be more patient and I have to run twice as fast to meet their needs in a timely fashion.  This is the perfect recipe for a “complaint soufflé”, peppered with frustration from both residents and staff.

As I was digging through the linen closet in a vain attempt to “will” more towels into existence, I could FEEL the complaints racing through my mind.  I knew the objections from my resident whose shower was going to be delayed until fresh linens arrived were not far behind. That’s when it hit me. THE IDEA. Why not take my friend’s “no complaining” challenge and incorporate it into a project for my folks?

I am a woman who loves a project and I was excited about this one. I presented it to my residents during lunch in the dining room. We would pick a day, go without complaining and then discuss what we learned.  I was thrilled to see that several of my folks expressed a real interest in taking part!  There was some lively discussion and they started throwing out ideas.

“We can REMIND each other when we catch someone complaining!”

“We can HELP each other out!”

“I’ll TELL on them!”

After stifling a laugh at the last comment, I explained that this was not about “telling” on someone but rather about self-awareness and challenging ourselves.  The project was a go. We picked Thursday and, for the next two days, we kept a countdown.

No Complaints Thursday started out with a walk in the rain to work. That wasn’t a problem for me.  Scrubs dry quickly.  As I got my residents up and dressed for breakfast, I was really proud of how they took to the challenge. One of my folks wanted to wear her favorite blouse, but it was in the laundry. Rather than have a meltdown, she informed me that since it was No Complaints Day, she would be glad to wear the pink one instead.  At breakfast, instead of the usual frustrated demands for more coffee from residents, there were polite requests and smiles.  When certain tasks could not be completed exactly when they wanted them done, they really were more patient about it.

Now, did ALL my folks remain free of complaints the whole shift? Of course not. But that wasn’t really the point. THEY TRIED. They engaged with each other. They were open and excited to be trying something new. They felt a part of this event, rather than just sort of thrown into a pre-determined activity.  It was a learning experience and they really appreciated that we were doing it together. Even my more withdrawn residents opened themselves up to this challenge. They had FUN with it.

At the end of my shift, I asked them what they learned from the experience.  Some said that it was harder than they thought it would be. Some said they felt happier and that the day went more smoothly for them. One told me that the squeaky wheel makes the most noise and that he is going back to (and I quote) “raising hell.”

Then, they asked me what I learned. Here’s what I told them: Sometimes, you don’t know how often you do something until you can’t do it.  I didn’t realize how often I complain, if only in my mind. I found it challenging, but worthwhile, to stop and access each moment to find the positive in it.  As the day wore on, it became easier. My mood was lighter, my stress level was lower and I also had a lot of fun with the experiment.

Most attitudes and behaviors are habits. Our experiment reminded me of that. How different would our experiences be if we all made a concerted effort to adopt an attitude of gratitude on a daily basis? If we made it a point to notice when life was going well and embrace those moments of joy that negativity can often overshadow? I don’t want to forget this lesson. Maybe, my residents and I will make No Complaints Thursday a regular event.  I think it would be beneficial for all of us.

How about you?  Would you like to join us?  I’d love to hear how No Complaints Day goes at your workplace!

Until next time,

Here’s more about Corey Anne Rotella, in her own words:

“At first, I worked in the housekeeping department at an assisted living facility until I could afford to take the state test. Then I moved up to CNA. I also have my Medication Aid certification, but my heart is on the floor, where I can interact, observe and care for my residents.  My priority is taking time with my residents so that they know they are valued as human beings.  At the end of the day, don’t we all need to know that?

What I love most about my job as a CNA is that every single lesson I learn at work can be applied in all areas of my life.  A lifelong chronicler, I began to fuse my two passions and write about my work experiences, my perceptions and the issues that we all face in the healthcare system–patients and workers alike.

What impresses me most about the nurses behind In The Know is that they shine a light on the problems that exist in the healthcare field and offer practical, well thought out solutions that are effective and embrace individual accountability.  I am both extremely grateful and incredibly excited to contribute to their mission in any way that I can.”

From the CNA Frontlines: Choosing Minutes or Moments

Scary as it may sound to anyone who knows me, I was doing some math earlier (GASP!).  According to my calculations, those of us who work full time spend around 2,080 hours a year at work—not including overtime.  In the healthcare field, very little of that time is spent standing still. I know that I spend most of my shift running, juggling, problem solving and answering questions while racing to my next task. My experience as a CNA in a long term care facility is that if you aren’t exhausted by the end of your shift, you’re doing something wrong.

Because of the hectic pace, I used to find that “mental multitasking” was the best way to adapt and get things done effectively. While one part of my mind was focused on the task at hand, another part was going over the list of what came next. Doing this ensured that everything was accomplished in the quickest possible time frame.  Everyone’s basic needs were met efficiently and beds were made before breakfast. This method took time to learn and required a lot of practice to apply with proficiency.  It worked well! So why, after a year or so, did I decide to scrap the entire multitasking method?

I realized that my focus was on accomplishing tasks for my residents rather than on the residents themselves.  By working the way I had been, I was only half in the moment.  Yes, I performed my duties and helped people with their activities of daily living. Yes, I noticed their moods and physical well-being–but was I fully engaged?  Was I REALLY listening to them?  The answer was a resounding “no.”  Not the way I should have been.

This was brought home to me one morning as I was helping one of my residents.  While getting cleaned up before breakfast, she started crying. Alarmed, I sat on the edge of her bed and encouraged her to open up about what was upsetting her. She spoke of fears and loss and anger and regret as I held her hand. And as I listened, it occurred to me that THIS was the most important thing that I could do—be fully present for each interaction with the people for whom I care. If this means that some beds do not get made until after breakfast, then so be it. I owe them that.  One way or another, everything will be done in the eight hours. It’s more important to prioritize than it is to multi-task.

That was some time ago, but in that moment of clarity, I realized that all of us in nursing have a choice. Our shifts can be filled with minutes or moments MINUTES slip away one by one while we are busy thinking of other things but MOMENTS leave an impact. Minutes drag on or are wished away. They are wasted. Moments teach us and reach us. They remind us of our humanity.  I’ve shared one of mine with you. When I reflect on my days now, I can find many moments and I know how they have shaped me.  2,080 hours a year. That is a lot of time. How we choose to spend it is up to us.

Until next time,

Here’s more about Corey Anne Rotella, in her own words:

“At first, I worked in the housekeeping department at an assisted living facility until I could afford to take the state test. Then I moved up to CNA. I also have my Medication Aid certification, but my heart is on the floor, where I can interact, observe and care for my residents.  My priority is taking time with my residents so that they know they are valued as human beings.  At the end of the day, don’t we all need to know that?

What I love most about my job as a CNA is that every single lesson I learn at work can be applied in all areas of my life.  A lifelong chronicler, I began to fuse my two passions and write about my work experiences, my perceptions and the issues that we all face in the healthcare system–patients and workers alike.

What impresses me most about the nurses behind In The Know is that they shine a light on the problems that exist in the healthcare field and offer practical, well thought out solutions that are effective and embrace individual accountability.  I am both extremely grateful and incredibly excited to contribute to their mission in any way that I can.”