Last week, to my absolute surprise, I found myself at an all-inclusive resort called Foothills Hospital where I remained as a guest for some six days.
This was certainly not a planned vacation but it did serve as a useful observation post from which I could watch The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations at work.
Hospitals are extremely busy places and the staff, from the cleaners to the doctors are kept busy every minute of every day. They do a marvellous job of taking care of their patients and we are all blessed to live in a country where, when we need medical help, it is provided at the highest possible level regardless of our socioeconomic status.
I was placed in an isolation ward which meant that anyone entering my room had to wear a mask while in the room and I was required to wear one whenever I left the room.
When I first entered the room I was told clearly what to expect in terms of visits from doctors, daily tests and the frequency of visits from the nursing staff in order to do things like checking on vitals.
I was also told what was expected of me in terms of what I could and couldn’t do.
The nurse explained that the reason for establishing clear expectations with each patient as soon as they enter the ward is to eliminate surprises. Experience has taught them that surprises – doctors telling a patient they will see them tomorrow and then not showing up till the next day, or food trays arriving at unpredictable times – had been the biggest cause of upset patients and the more upset a patient becomes the harder the nurses have to work.
I also witnessed an interesting display of what happens when expectations – reasonable or not – are not met.
On my last day in the hospital while waiting for my eviction notice to come through I was sitting in the patient’s lounge when a man came in and sat down.
His wife had undergone major lung surgery and the nurses had sent him out of her room while they were doing some work with her.
He immediately began complaining to me about the “outrageous” cost of parking at the hospital.
He felt it to be ludicrous that people visiting sick friends or relatives should have to pay for parking and that it was one more example of how messed up our healthcare system is.
I listened for a few moments but as I am the beneficiary of amazing and remarkable healthcare over the years and as a person who is deeply grateful for living in a country and a province where such high quality health care is available to all, my patience was thin and did not last very long.
I mentioned to him that the hospital administrator is a close personal friend (I lied) and that I was reasonably sure that I could call him and arrange for this person to receive a refund for the money he had paid for parking but that I was equally sure that my friend would agree to do so only on condition that he could forward a bill to this man for $120,000 to cover the cost of his wife’s surgery and care.
It took him a moment to grasp what I was saying at which point he called me a body part and stormed out of the lounge.
One of the biggest causes of conflict is the simple act of expectations not being met and clearly this man, regardless of how unreasonable his expectations were, was infuriated by his expectations of entitlement being ignored by the hospital’s parking policy.
Last Wednesday, for the first time since I began this blog, I did not post a new piece – I just did not have the energy. I guess I have set expectations among a few readers as I received 27 emails from folks telling me they had not received a blog and was I ok?
I do apologize.
No one wants to be in a hospital but my stay was made all the more pleasant by simply knowing what to expect and by having those expectations met.
The Habit of Setting Clear Expectations is such a simple way of preventing conflict or angst that I believe all our lives would be enriched if we adopted this habit in all that we do.
I am not get out of the woods. I am on powerful antibiotics for the next six weeks and if these drugs do not produce the expected results I may have to undergo lung surgery.
Not for one nano second to I believe this will happen as I have set a clear expectation that these drugs will do their job and my further expectation is that I will be stronger and healthier than before.
Having set this as a clear expectation I see no reason for it not to happen.
And therefore it will happen.
Let’s make a habit of meeting like this.
P.S. My book Life Sinks or Soars – the Choice is Yours is continuing to sell well over this Christmas season. Please visit us at www.lifesinksorsoars.com and let me know what you think.