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Sorry Works! Blog

Making Disclosure A Reality For Healthcare Organizations 

NICU Staff = Potential Disclosure Champions

NICUA few weeks ago, I gave a series of disclosure presentations for an East Coast hospital, including the hospital's NICU Department. Speaking before the NICU staff was an interesting and valuable experience. Very quickly it was apparent that the NICU staff already knew or were comfortable with most of the content of my talk. About a third of the way into my presentation, I had to stop and say, "The emotional intelligence of the people in this room is higher than average healthcare professionals...you provide a lot empathy every day for the families you work with....so, this talk will hopefully be a lot of affirmation for you mixed with some new or novel ideas. Also, I encourage you as NICU staff to consider that you could be leaders of the disclosure efforts at this hospital. You could be some of the disclosure champions this hospital needs to develop a successful disclosure program." These NICU professionals told me stories and shared experiences of how they work with nervous and sometimes traumatized families. NICU staff understand empathy, they have a lot of practice using empathy, and they appreciate the finer details of helping upset and angry families. Stuff like having a photographer on call when a premature baby dies, etc. Amazing and powerful stuff. Most of the time NICU staff use empathy with deaths which were nobody's fault, however, when they do have an adverse event they know how to remain connected with families. Empathy is like a reflex for these folks....

In the new Sorry Works! Tool Kit, we talk about the importance of finding your disclosure champions --- the people who will lead your disclosure program. Your champions will include the "usual suspects" from risk, claims, legal, and c-suite, but you also need your "hidden champions," such as staff who have experienced adverse medical events professionally or personally. Add the NICU staff to your list. These folks know empathy, and they have A LOT of practice working with upset and grieving families. They know how to conduct difficult conversations and how to stay connected with traumatized families, and can help other colleagues throughout your organization work through difficult situations.  NICU staff could help make empathy a reflex for the rest of your organization!

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