Thursday, April 30, 2009

...and THAT is how it's done!

I think it's very important for people to strive for excellence in everything they do. It ennobles their souls, enriches their communities and inspires others.

There's a funny thing about excellence though. Although its effects are often seen with the naked eye, excellence itself often resides in such tiny spaces that it can be seen only with a microscope. I offer up one example from my personal life:

A few weeks ago I was in the hospital with severe back pain. [Note: I received terrific care from the nurses. They were truly heroes. Now if only they could have worn those white outfits...] I stayed for 5 days while the doctors tried to arrive at a diagnosis and treat the pain. My nights were spent watching the clock so I'd know when I could press the call button and get another dose of pain meds. Then I had about 30 minutes of comfort and sleep until the meds stopped working. Then back to watching the clock.

One morning I woke up with what felt like a really bad hangover. Splitting headache and very dry mouth. The nurse arrived and told me that my doctor had ordered a test and they were going to wheel me down there shortly for this test. And oh, BTW, I couldn't eat or drink before getting this test. Now when you're hungover, drinking water is exactly what you need. But, OK, hospital stays can't be all fun and games.

By the time I got to the X-ray lab, I was in really bad shape. On top of the back pain that was the cause of my admission, I had this awful headache and the worst dry mouth I've ever felt. I felt so weak and so badly wanted them to put me back in bed, get me some water and get some pain meds in me. Well they started taking some X-rays and the radiologist then determined that I was too dehydrated for the test. Yeah, you gotta laugh.

So they wheel me back up to my room. I felt completely awful. And the nurse saw me and I'm sure I did not look good or sound good. And she very briefly just rubbed my back for like a second and said something nice which I cannot, for the life of me remember. I just wanted her to make the pain and discomfort go away. And that tiny 1 second little back rub was such a strong sign that she cared and that I was in good hands. I doubt it was in the manual. It was just a caring human response.

I am really appreciative of the care I received from all of the nurses. They were all very competent and helpful. They did their job. Some better than others but all were very good. But this one nurse added a small touch at just the right time that meant the world to me. I suspect that someone watching might not have even seen what she did. It was that brief and quiet. But it took her from very good to excellent.

It will be a long time before I forget what she did. And it makes me wonder what opportunities there are for me and others to pursue excellence outside of the glare of the spotlights, when nobody is watching, when it isn't in the manual and when there's no obvious reward. Those are the greatest opportunities of all.

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