Listen to Moments Move Us Season 2 Episode 10: Reflecting on Moments of Connection with Rebecca Coren
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New Podcast Episode: Reflecting on Moments of Connection with Rebecca Coren
Sometimes the person who has minimal patient contact ends up having the most impact on their experience.
Tina Bennett is passionate about investing in her team no matter their role. As the Chief Experience Officer at Yale New Haven Health, she preaches the message, “Every person, every time.” She believes in order to build a healthcare system that truly helps patients be well, you have to start with people.
In this episode, Tina tells her story and shares how she helps both patients and her employees feel seen and valued.
THEMES: Empathy, Compassion, Patient Experience, Mentorship
“I originally wanted to be in television production, so I was in school for communications. My junior year of college I was in a bad car accident. And in that car accident, one of the injuries that I sustained was a broken wrist and in addition to over a hundred stitches in my face. And because of the broken wrist, I couldn’t do my normal work and I had to temporarily withdraw from school, which was devastating. I had been working [as a dietary aid] at a retirement center and it was a 60-bed facility that had a healthcare center inside of the retirement center. I ended up calling my employer, my manager, and I’m like, ‘I can’t be idle. I have to do something.’ And she allowed me to come to work with my hard cast up to my shoulder. And learn her work and help her with her work. I would do things on the computer, and it was right then where kind of a light bulb went off, where it was like, I like this. Being able to work with her firsthand I saw what it took to be a leader in healthcare, and that was really where the journey started.”
“In that accident, there were a few things that stuck with me. When I got hit, a guy t-boned me, and I see all the glass went inside of my face. When the ambulance driver came, he said, ‘Where do you want to go?’ And I named where I wanted to go, and right then it was like, ‘Wow, people have the ability to choose where they want to go.’ The other thing that happened in that first few minutes when I got inside of the ambulance, I was like, ‘Is my face cut? Am I scarred for life?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ And I was like, ‘Wow, why would he tell me that?’ And so again, the importance of communication and having those skills and knowing how to interact with people, that was another thing that I learned in that short amount of time.”
“When you’re thinking about healthcare and the patient experience, there are people like me who are worried about [how they look] and worried about the care they might receive because they may not look the part. I really feel like today and where I am was full circle, because now being in patient experience and having the ability to take that experience and take those parts of that story and be a part of the change to transition healthcare, to be mindful of those things, and treat people differently is to me, the best opportunity ever. It made such an unfortunate event 20 years ago, mean something— and honestly, I wouldn’t change it.”
“My mom was a single mom. My dad died when I was four, and so growing up with just my mom, and the way in which she took such great care of me, I didn’t feel like it was just us. I didn’t feel like I was missing anything. And I saw her be consistently resilient. I had a very stable upbringing. I’m sure there were things that may have knocked her off the track, but I never saw that. I think having her as an example, who always showed this great deal of strength, taught me in these difficult moments how to do that and how to be that.”
“In my family, I was the first of everything: First [to go to] college, first to buy property, first to get a driver’s license. My mom never drove. And I remember by 18 I wanted a driver’s license, and you need a car to get through the test. And there was no car in my family, so I borrowed a neighbor’s car. And so, you learn how to problem solve. You learn how to figure it out. That was at that young age where I have to figure out how to get it done. And so even that has been a moment that has carried out through my life today where it’s like you might have to get creative to get it done.”
“Almost six weeks ago, I broke my ankle. I ended up going to an urgent care that’s not my organization. The provider was great, and she said, ‘Somebody’s going to come in and put a hard cast on your ankle.’ And two young ladies came into my room; they didn’t introduce themselves, they came into the room and said, ‘You need to lay on your stomach.’ Now my ankle was the size of my thigh, swollen, and throbbing. I’m like, ‘Oh my gosh. Lay on my stomach.’ So I did, with no help. They wouldn’t help me. And then they said, ‘I need you to put your foot up.’ And as I was trying to do it on my own, I said, ‘Ouch.’ And one of them said, ‘Oh, it’s going to hurt worse than this.’ And then one said to the other, ‘Do you normally leave the toes out, or do you put the toes in?’ And I’m like, ‘Wow. They don’t even have a clear plan or a standardized way that they do this.’ I feel unsafe. And then one says to the other, ‘Geez, this room is too small to do this.’ They’re venting right in front of me.
When I think about the experience, and I think about tools. I had anxiety, fear, all the things that were going on in addition to the pain. And on top of all of that, you now feel like a burden on these caregivers, and it added on to everything I was feeling. It made me more emotional. I am the Chief Experience Officer at a healthcare facility over patient experience, and it still made me sad. The reason I share this is tools and education. They had no idea that I was listening, that I was feeling, that I was observing. I don’t think that was intentional.
We really have to start to make sure we’re educating and helping all roles within healthcare understand that you all play a major role no matter what your title is, no matter who you are, what you look like. You are really a part of this journey of reducing suffering for patients. It is your role to reduce suffering, not add to it. And I think that that is a part of this work that is a part of this journey, helping everyone really understand that.”
“There was this one transporter who had a chance to have the president of the hospital shadow with him. She put on her sneakers, and she put on the uniform, and she was with him, and she was just kind of quiet, just observing. And she came back and shared this story that there was this patient that didn’t seem necessarily approachable. He looked angry; he looked like there was a lot going on. The transporter got down at eye level (cause the transporter was really tall and this patient was in a wheelchair) and said, ‘How are you today?’ And the patient said, ‘Wow. No one had stopped to ask me that. I appreciate your professionalism. You really brightened my day just by saying this.’ And the president herself, she was like, ‘I may have been reluctant and afraid to address this patient because they seemed unapproachable.’ And the way in which this transporter was able to [connect,] it didn’t matter how this patient looked, didn’t matter if they seemed like they weren’t going to be willing to talk. That transporter knew the value of that dialogue. And it really did impact that patient in that way.”
“In the beginning of the pandemic, we were trying to figure out how we were going to connect patients and their loved ones because we couldn’t have visitors. That was one of the most challenging times because we know that having your loved ones at the bedside is critical to wellness and healing. We were trying to figure out what kind of technology we can use. And we were able to get iPads to every single unit across the organization. I had a patient whose mom had passed away on her actual birthday, and because it was end-of-life, the daughter was able to be there, but her siblings were everywhere, and you can only have one person at end-of-life. She shared with me the picture of them on Zoom and she had typed out, ‘My sister in Illinois and this one is in Maryland, and my brother is here.’ And how they were all able to be with her mom at the end of life just from this technology.
The group that had to figure out the technology, [they] had to make sure the iPads got out, had to make sure that everyone knew how to use them. Then you had nursing who had to administer them. You had the unit clerks that had to help with the process. It was this big group, and that story was a great example of all hands-on deck and look what it did for what was such a bad situation because you’re losing your mom. But this woman took the time to say, ‘You helped the experience. What was the most difficult time in our lives, the work that you do had an impact on us, and we were able to be with my mom.’”
“One of my mottos in life today is: What can you do? There are a number of things we can’t do, but what can you do?”
“It’s important for us to always be able to set our pride aside and to know you may have to ask for help.”
“Throughout my career and my journey, mentorship has been really important and that’s a resource. A lot of times we don’t know everything, and we have to be comfortable understanding that and being open to guidance and input from others. I think that has played a major role in my success and why I’m where I am today. It’s important to have diverse mentors that can help pour into you and give you different perspectives.”
“Ask thoughtful questions.”
“The foundation is people. One of the models that we have [at Yale New Haven Health] is: ‘Every person, every time.’ What that means is not just every patient, it’s every loved one, it’s every staff member. It’s focusing on the people because wellbeing is critical to this journey. I think we have to start there and making sure that we understand what the priorities are. If our people aren’t well, the people who provide for our patients, then they can’t help our patients be well.”
“I was always in patient experience. No matter what role I was in, no matter what team I was leading, it was patient experience. A lot of people think, ‘It’s the transport; It’s just moving.’ It’s not. It’s what you say to me. It’s how you prep me for every single bump we might go over. It’s the surgeons, it’s the food, it’s everything, it’s how clean the place is. Every piece is a part of the experience. That was the real work that I did in patient transport: helping the transporters understand you are as important as the surgeon. You are a part of this journey of number one, reducing suffering, but promoting healing. And, for example, quiet. When you’re in the hospital, you need to be quiet to heal. Anyone can impact quiet. Every single piece is a part of healing down to engineering, coming in to fix lighting down to flooring.”
“It’s really about understanding and having empathy. When we’re making these decisions, being thoughtful about the different shoes people are wearing.”
“I think a lot of the work we do in healthcare and what we thought experience was, was more clinical than it actually is. You think about the skills we have and it’s not about that. It’s the ability to really connect so that you build that trust so that the patient really will tell you what they’re worried about.”
“I think one of the important components of this work is really having the patient voice be a part of the work that we do, almost in a way that I shared my story, there are so many stories that need to be heard. One of the things that I’m proud about at our organization is we have patient family advisory councils. And on these councils, there are patients themselves or their loved ones, and they are actively a part of decision making. They get a chance to look at the technology and vet some of the tools that we implement that we may think is amazing, but we need to have our patients, the people who it impacts, tell us it’s amazing.”
“One of the things we teach is try not to use medical jargon. It’s so simple because we just get used to our acronyms and our words and our patients feel left out. We want to make sure that our patients feel included in the decision making and in this journey. They will simply feel left out because we’re not speaking a language that they understand.”
Explore transformative stories from healthcare executives as they share impactful moments of human connection from their professional journeys.