Do you ever wonder if your interactions with your people really matter to them? With so much despair, does what you say or do make a difference? Do you ever wonder if it’s even worth trying to help someone make positive changes?
Several years ago while driving to work on a snowy highway, I was hit by a truck. That accident landed me in the Emergency Department, where I had interactions with other healthcare workers. I was now a patient, not a peer. The time I spent in the Emergency Department forever changed how I practice pharmacy. Some of the interactions I had with the staff were horrible. There was an x-ray technician who seemed to think I was in his way. There were others who never looked at me or asked me why I was crying.
There was one interaction that made the biggest impact on me as a person and as a pharmacist. My attending physician that day looked at me directly in my eyes as he spoke to me. Not in a threatening way, in a connecting way. Just through how he presented himself his body language told me, “I got you. You’re going to be OK.” It was the first time I had the experience of having such a deep connection with another human being that I wasn’t related to or romantically involved with.
This attending physician spent only a short time explaining to me what would happen next, but I felt so valued and cared for. He was 100% present with me. I could tell he was focused only on my well-being and not distracted by anything else. He made me feel like I was the only one he had to take care of that day. I can still feel that connection all these years later. Whenever I think of that experience, it still gives me comfort.
Recently, a woman was picking up her prescription, and she told me, “I haven’t seen you since the first day of lockdown back in March. That day you told me about how you were going to pay your hairstylist even though they canceled your appointment.” She went on to explain that she’s thought about that often, and how it helped her be more generous and that change made her happy.
I almost cried at hearing this. Not only from the serendipity of the moment but because it changed how I look at my work in the pharmacy. I am getting through to people. I am making a difference. And it’s worth it. I decided that this woman’s experience represented many other lives that I’ve helped. I choose to believe that people are making positive changes in their lives because of what I have said. I choose to believe they see themselves as I see them- as valuable human beings worth taking care of.
Looking back, I wonder if my ER doctor felt as good as I did after our interaction. I wonder if every time he uplifts someone, he gets a dose of those good vibes too. I like to think so. I do remember talking to that woman in my drive-through. I don’t remember exactly how I told the story about my hairstylist or even why I chose to share it. But I do remember feeling really good after ringing out her prescription. That’s how we know. The good vibes are sent and received. They’re shared.
You’re making a bigger impact than you realize. The way you do your work matters. The way you stay present for people, the way you look at them, and the way you talk to them, changes them in ways you may never hear about. You can know it’s true. Before every interaction, assume you are making a difference. Then begin to pay attention to how you feel after each interaction. Are you a bit happier, a bit lighter? Let that be your guide.