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Monday, January 18, 2016

Going Beyond Expectations to Create a Culture of Caring





Welcome to the 2nd year of Nurse Advocate. I hope you and you and your family had a Merry Christmas and will have a Happy and Healthy 2016.

My husband and I did something different this year for the holidays and took a Panama Canal Cruise. We sailed on the Island Princess, a member of the Princess Cruise Line. The ship was beautifully decorated which put everyone in a festive spirit. Christmas was spent at Sea, allowing for a relaxed day. New Years was spent in the Caribbean Sea after transferring through the Panama Canal, which was an exciting experience.

The ship provided lectures on the history of the Canal along with a few documentary films to prepare passengers for the crossing which added to the experience.  I did not know a lot about the history of the Canal and was glad to learn how the project came to fruition and was impressed with how it is still working 100 years later. Here is a link if you want to learn more the Panama Canal. http://www.history.com/news/7-fascinating-facts-about-the-panama-canal

Throughout our trip, we experienced calm seas and smooth sailing for all but two of the 15 days. We traveled 4,701 miles from Los Angeles through the Canal and then back to Ft Lauderdale. Ports included Cabo St. Lucas, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Cartagena, Columbia and Grand Cayman. It was a trip of a lifetime and a wonderful way to spend the holidays.

Besides the Port of Calls, the beautiful ship, and great activities, I also took in the diversity of the crew that was made up of people from over 50 countries! In talking to many members of the crew, I was impressed with their sense of adventure and their courage. Most were young (early 20s-mid 30s). For many this was their first assignment as well as their first time living away from their families. Contracts are usually 4-6 months’ time frame. The crew works seven days a week and long hours. It was not unusual to see the same people at breakfast at 8 am and again in the dining room at 10 pm, serving the guest, making conversations with couples or those alone, and doing their chores.

What impressed me the most was that they were always ‘up’ and ready to lend a hand. It was clear their goal was to make sure each passenger had a great experience. The Captain of the ship very visible. He was a true leader and always thanked his crew and asked passengers to let the staff know what they could do to enhance their experience. These were not just words, but a direct call to action for all to work together to ensure everyone had a positive experience.

Here are some of the attributes I observed from the crew and that helped make our experience one that we will never forget.
  • organization
  • attention to detail
  • positive attitude
  • courtesy
  • patience
  • professional appearance
  • neatly dressed
  • willingness to go out of their way to assist the customer
  • dedication to their employer
  • willingness to share personal information when asked; yet respect for our privacy
  • collaboration
  • team work
  • timely and pertinent communication
  • autonomy
  • respect
  • pride
  • dedication
  • smiles
As I write this post, I could not help but compare how the healthcare industry could benefit from the training and positive culture I experienced on the Island Princess for 15 days. If this culture could be incorporated into every hospital, physician practice and healthcare setting we would have a safe, cost-effective, and more efficient healthcare system. Today with the intense focus on improving quality and the patient experience having leaders who can ensure a culture of caring throughout the entire organization is critical.

I am sure there were problems on board the ship. With over 2200 guests of all ages challenges arose. If there were problems, they were addressed in private and not in the public arena. I never saw one crew member be nasty, challenge a passenger or raise their voice even when someone did something that was out of line. Everyone was treated with respect and as a guest in their home at sea.

Another group that caught my attention: the passengers. There were all ages represented, but Seniors were in the majority. As it was a holiday cruise, there were a number of families with multiple generations. There was also a good number of passengers who were disabled. As I have mentioned in the past, as a survivor of a Central Nervous System Brain Tumor I have been left with ambulatory challenges. As a result, I was now a member of this category of passengers.  What impressed me most was how determined those with physical challenges were in not allowing  their disability to derail their love of travel. It was truly inspiring.

I also noted how much caregivers do for their loved ones. I was grateful that I had my husband with me. He looked out for me to ensue I was safe yet allowed me to be as independent as I could. Going on our second vacation since my illness has been a good experience for us as it breaks up our daily routine and allows us to realize how much we love each other and enjoy each other's company.

As we had so many days at sea, I had a lot of time to think, plan and organize my goals for 2016. I look forward to an exciting year and hope you will join me by reading Nurse Advocate as we progress through the year. I look forward to your thoughts, comments, and suggestions. Please feel free to share each issue of Nurse Advocate with your family, friends, and colleagues.

You can reach me by email at allewellyn5@bellsouth.net.   Again, all the best to you and your yours in 2016!