It’s 5:30 in the morning and I’m walking into a dialysis center in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. Who would have thought this is what I would be doing on a Wednesday morning?
One patient is sitting in the lobby waiting for their treatment time of 6:15 am, while a Patient Care Technician (PCT) frantically speed walks on the dialysis center floor preparing the dialysis machines for the day. I receive a smile and welcome from both. How are they so upbeat and kind at this hour?
After nine years in renal research, I can still say I learn something new every day. Being in the dialysis centers consistently is an experience that has opened my eyes to new facets of our research business. Even now as I sit here, I am overwhelmed with the experience I have had in the last three weeks consenting and processing blood samples in our centers. What has impacted me most during this time has been the interpersonal experiences with our patients, the center of all our goals and research.
As I sit with our patients explaining the research study being conducted in their dialysis facility, in addition to being mindful of answering questions to Good Clinical Practice (GCP) standards, I can’t help but think what an important role having a compassionate servant’s heart takes in this process. In my experience, I’ve found just a few small things can make a big impact.
- Pull Up a Chair
- Sitting together on an equal playing field and having a conversation as opposed to being “talked at” can help patients feel more comfortable during the process. Your patient shouldn’t feel like they are sitting in the principal’s office, but like you are having a conversation as equals.
- Engage on a Personal Level
- Showing interest in the patient’s life, even if it is just asking how their day is going, humanizes you and the situation.
- Show Compassion
- Our patients’ lives can be very difficult with a chronic disease – aches and pains are real. Showing compassion for their situation and providing them an opportunity to be heard can make a difference.
- Take the Time
- I ended up sitting with many of the patients I spoke to for extended periods of time. When the consenting process was over, I made sure to stick around if they were interested in continuing a dialog, regardless of the topic. In doing this I learned so much about my patients and was able to enjoy their interesting life stories.
- Never underestimate the power of a smile and a positive attitude. Patients will appreciate your attitude and respond to your tone. Let’s make this a positive interaction for all!