Creating a culture of ‘small, random kindnesses’ in your practice

In a world too often fuelled by hate, it has never been more important to be kind. A culture of small, ‘random’ acts of kindness in your practice is essential for patient and employee satisfaction – so how do you achieve this?

On 27 March 2018 a post by an NHS graduate management training scheme trainee went viral on Twitter. Leanne Ashmead shared her story of how a stranger had offered to pay for her breakfast at Prêt a Manger so she wouldn’t be late for the bus about to leave for the hospital. The stranger had noticed her NHS badge and insisted that this gesture was but a small thanks to NHS employees working tirelessly for our health and happiness. The tweet sparked an outpouring of personal anecdotes and praise for medical professionals.

It’s not hard to see why such a story became a twitter sensation; in a social media world increasingly about shaming, hatred, rashness and ‘debate’ – mostly of an unproductive and inflammatory variety – this was a welcome glimmer of humanity – a little bit of hope to break up the drudgery of our newsfeeds.

This is not the only example of a random act of kindness towards an NHS employee to do the rounds online. Heart-warming notes have been left on ambulances and, in a similar vein, a generous passer-by paid for a paramedic’s petrol.

There has been some deeply unsettling news recently– including the tragic death of Caroline Flack, allegedly the result of incessant bullying by the media – generating a reactionary tidal-wave that carries Caroline’s own message, ‘In a world where you can be anything, be kind’.

In the face of this, it is a relief to remember stories about the random acts of kindness strangers can gift to others – and this kind of  kindness on the streets and in our shops should also extend into the office, the boardroom, the GP practice waiting room.

A high stakes environment

In healthcare settings, where pressure is high and stakes can be higher, these small acts of kindness are never really small; they can ricochet outwards, easing pain, making lives easier and helping those on the brink of burnout feel supported.

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Mark Doughty, co-founder of the Centre for Patient Leadership, has a relevant story to tell of how a hospital cleaner showed generosity and thoughtfulness to his dying father, and how a culture of ‘random acts of kindness’ translated to exceptional care.

“[The employee] told me that, when she first arrived at work at the organisation, her manager had asked her into the office. The manager explained that she was critical and integral to the achievement of the team and organisation’s vision…

“The manager reinforced that…no one member of the team was more important than any other, whether that was the doctor, nurse, manager, cleaner, or kitchen staff;they were all partners in achieving their goals.

“What this manager and her team had created was the kind of culture that was naturally populated with those small acts of kindness and compassion that really do make a difference.”

A fundamental requirement

Founded on equality, and free at the point of access, the NHS has a culture of ‘small and random acts of kindness’ built into its core. The more your practice reflects this, the more helpful it will be for everyone who sets foot through the door.

Of course, kindness is essential to keep your employees and patients happy, and to keep business running smoothly, but it is also much more fundamental than that.

Take inspiration from the manager in Mark’s anecdote. When a new employee is inducted, tell them how integral they are to the practice and how you will support them to do the best they can. Support them from day one so they can see the worth in their work – no matter the nature of their role. Create an environment where employees feel that they can share their worries or concerns without judgement, and where they will be taken seriously.

Try to practice one ‘random’ act of kindness a day – and watch your practice transform into a place where others do the same.

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