How connecting through stories can improve patient safety

We are all made of stories

Building trust for better teams

One of my co-workers at Case Medical has a quote from Maya Angelou in her email signature. It makes me smile every time, because it’s so simple and so true.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  -Maya Angelou

Bonding, trust, and relationships, including those among work teams, are rooted in the emotional connections we build. The most common way that we as humans build these connections is through sharing our stories. And by listening—really listening—to those of others.

Uncovering real stories

Stories often hide behind other messages. This can become apparent when our Case Medical clinical experts and sales representatives are called on to troubleshoot with customers. When a customer presents an issue, successful troubleshooting requires getting to the root of the issue and uncovering details that may seem irrelevant at first. 2Here’s an example we’ve heard more than once: a customer reports residue on Case Soil® indicator coupons after processing in their washer/disinfector and wonder why the test isn’t working as usual. Spoiler alert: In fact, the test is doing exactly what it’s designed to do, identify problems.

That’s when the questioning and fact finding begins. Using prompts like, “Walk me through your process” or “Can you tell me more?” leads to the clue needed to crack the case. In our real-life examples, there have been numerous root causes identified for this concern—and none were related to a malfunctioning test. Actual causes of a failed wash indicator have included non-functioning spray arms on one or more levels, faulty detergent lines, inadequate dosing, hardened windings, incorrect wash cycle settings, water quality issues, or, most commonly, lack of routine maintenance. The trick to getting to the root of the problem is observation and careful listening without making any premature conclusions. That’s good advice for any type of problem solving.

Focus on the Challenge 

Sterile processing is a team sport where we all have better outcomes when we stick together and stay focused on the common challenge—preventing surgical site infections. What is your story.pngAssumptions can get in the way of discovering solutions. Listen to the stories that people are telling and dig deeper for what may be behind the stories. Take the time to be curious, investigate, and build trust. And share your perspective, too. Stories of all kinds can help us learn to work better together.

Do you have a story to share? Use the form below to let us know how your team has solved a problem in your department.