Group Culture

Competing on the Basis of Common Courtesy


Prior to a recent speech to medical residents, I was chatting with the Department Chair concerning the growing importance of customer service in healthcare. The chairman and I agreed that there was a need for training on this topic. I strongly believe that great clinical skills are only the “price of admission” and that demonstrating, not just talking about, high touch, high caring service is one of the keys to success in today’s society.

After the lecture, as I crossed the quad, I had a phone conversation with someone who shed a different light on the same subject.

The caller had recently interviewed for a position at a well-known institution, renowned for its world-class status, only to report that most of the people she met with were jerks. She has an extremely even temperament and isn’t prone to hyperbole. She has highly valuable credentials. Even if she’s offered the position, it’s now likely that she’ll reject them.

As strange as it might seem, caring and common courtesy are commodities in short supply. At the same time, they’re cheap and easy to deploy.

If you have members of your group who believe that the universe revolves around them, they are right: they have the ability to destroy the otherwise high-value of their assumedly competent clinical skills by pissing off everyone around them, from patients, to colleagues, to nursing staff, to potential new hires.

Hire the right people, those who understand that delivering care with a smile is the spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down.

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