Human Connection is a Healing Balm

Little things, over time, add up to a lot. A smile. A polite hello. A willingness to engage in conversation. A dedication to a job done well.

The outsized impact that gestures like these have on a patient’s experience is top of mind for Susan and Roger Hanson, who have been friends and patients of Virginia Mason since the late 1970s. As Susan copes with progressive health issues, the Hansons have spent a lot of time in the hospital. They’ve become keenly aware of how their experience improves when people who work at the hospital take the time to connect person-to-person.

“It’s not just the doctors and nurses,” says Roger. “The more time you spend in the hospital, the more you realize just how much the rest of the staff does, and how much it matters — the people who clean the rooms, the people who move patients around, the mobile technicians who bring equipment to the room. What shines through at Virginia Mason is that these people care. They treat us as real people and not just as a job to do.”

A patient’s room is personal — not hospital — space

Time moves slowly in a hospital, punctuated by bursts of activity when staff come and go. These interactions can be the difference between feeling at ease or unsettled.

“I’ve been in hospitals where the staff barge in and start working without even saying hello or why they are there,” says Susan. “It’s comforting that at Virginia Mason, everyone starts by saying what they want to do and asks permission to come in. They make conversation while they work. Their willingness to engage doesn’t feel rote or scripted, and makes it feel like a visit with a friend rather than a business transaction. It warms the place up — and I’m not talking about the temperature.”

Grateful for the human kindness displayed by the support staff, the Hansons made a gift to further the work of Dr. Mark Beiter, the Director of Palliative Care.

“Palliative care people are attuned to quality of life issues and see the patient as a whole being. That’s really important for people living with multiple conditions and seeing multiple specialists,” says Roger. “The palliative care team become like the patient’s advocate.”

Being seen and feeling cared for is a theme that resonates with the Hansons and defines their experience with Virginia Mason.

“We’ve been coming to VM for a long time, and we’re thankful we can always count on the compassion and kindness of the people who work here,” says Roger. “It’s so much a part of the culture it’s like it’s part of their DNA.”

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