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New Podcast Episode: The Three Cs of Leadership: Caring, Communication, and Curiosity with Don Antonucci
What You’ll Learn:
“If you strip everything away in health care, what is left at the end of the day is humanity; humans taking care of humans.”
After contracting a rare disease, Sven Gierlinger, Chief Experience Officer at Northwell Health, experienced first-hand the impact and importance of quality patient care. Despite his background in hospitality, the diagnosis, and the subsequent recovery process, sent Sven on a path to a career in healthcare. In this episode, Sven shares how he takes what he has learned from the hotel industry, as well as being a patient himself, to bring humanity to healthcare. As you listen, you’ll gain a deep understanding of the patient and employee experience and learn about the benefits of creating environments where human connections can thrive.
THEMES: Patient Experience, Connection, Listening
As a former patient, one thing that really stands out to me is how I viewed the experience of being a patient. While I felt like I was in great hands, the experience of it all was inconsistent at times. There were the great caregivers, and then there were a few that were not so great that did not have that same empathy, and that were not connecting as well as the others. As a patient, you see that contrast. Today, I remember many of the staff members by name that cared for me, and I can see their faces. It’s going on 22 years that it was in the hospital, and I think about them 22 years later. I share this story with all our employees here at Northwell when they experience our new hire orientation. During this orientation, we explain that it’s every role, that every person in every moment matters, and they are the ones that are delivering this experience and they will have this impact on people’s lives.
It’s about the support that we give to our staff, reminding each other that we’re all in this together. During the height of COVID, it was just so overwhelming to hear the constant codes, knowing that somebody was coding on the other end of the hospital; we had to counterbalance that with joy. That’s when we decided to utilize the PA system in the hospital. To spread positive news that somebody was coming off a ventilator, or when a COVID patient was being discharged, we decided to play, “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles. Soon, video surfaced of staff members and nurses dancing in the hallway to that tune that we played for half a minute or so, because that was hope. It was a feeling of, ‘Yes, we’re winning, and we’re going to get through this.’ I remember the first time I heard the song being played, and I tried to do as much as I could to be at the front lines to see what was happening when it was played. It brought tears to my eyes because it meant that somebody had made it.
The Northwell Health Nurse Choir has been absolutely amazing. It started with a fundraiser where Northwell was involved to support a non-profit organization called “Nurse Heroes.” The organization asked if we have nurses who sing that could then be paired up with celebrities for their fundraising concert. And that’s how the choir was formed!
Lo and behold, they ended up on America’s Got Talent™. They get the Golden Buzzer on the first show [for which we had a viewing party], which was incredible! From there, they made it to the finals of America’s Got Talent™. Every single member of the choir, all 18 of them, is an RN, and they are a bundle of hope. This choir has really lifted the spirits of our entire organization, who follow them and to cheer them on. Even beyond our own organization, they represent the profession of nurses as they perform everywhere from the Time Magazine Person of the Year event to the Holiday Christmas Concert at the White House. By day, these people are still RNs on their units, and then perform as The Northwell Health Nurse Choir after their workday.
Food wasn’t part of my job description when I started at Northwell.
What I realized is–in listening to the voice of our patients and looking at our data, especially when we did deep-dive interviews with our patients–that food was important to them. It wasn’t necessarily supported by the research that food is a driver of likelihood to recommend a hospital or a driver of loyalty in hospitals, and that’s why we didn’t go after it at first. Hearing from patients who otherwise had a great experience, would then tell us how the food was awful. When we finally looked in the mirror, we saw that we were in the bottom decile for quality of food in the health system. We took this feedback very seriously, and we hadn’t just looked at it regarding the food we serve for our patients, but also globally in terms of the role food plays in to all the other aspects–the food that we serve to employees in our cafeterias and how we as an organization teach about nutrition. We ripped out all the friers (no more fried food in our organization), and ultimately set the nutritional parameters for the food that we serve. Through that journey, we realized that we really don’t have the right talent in our kitchen to cook from scratch using fresh ingredients. We were lucky to hire a very seasoned chef who was the chef at the Plaza Hotel in New York City for 17 years, and the Sonoma in California where he had attained a Michelin Star. We hired him, put him in charge of our food at Northwell, and thus we believe he was the first Michelin Star chef in a hospital setting!
Healthcare truly is the most noble field you can be in. To help people in their most vulnerable times of their lives, to help them to get better, to show empathy, to fuel them. And it’s so much beyond the medical care that is important in that care experience.
Everything is about the relationships that we have with our patients and the connections that we make with them. That’s what we have to preserve, and hold in a very, very special place.
If you strip everything away in health care, what is left at the end of the day is humanity; humans taking care of humans.
It’s every role, and every person in every moment matters, and they are the ones that are delivering an experience that will have an impact on people’s lives.
Explore transformative stories from healthcare executives as they share impactful moments of human connection from their professional journeys.