There was an amazing place in Kashiwa, Japan for a time, that was part cafe, part performance art, and part experiment in human nature and generosity. The Ogori Cafe was a pretty ordinary place with nothing very remarkable on the menu. But there was one small detail that made all of the difference: When you ordered, you got whatever the person before you ordered and paid for.  The person behind you got what you ordered!

Imagine what sorts of interactions took place all day long in the Ogori Cafe.  Because you didn’t know what you were getting until you had already ordered and paid, you had to choose to be generous or cheap to the person behind you without knowing your own reward. Also, imagine the connection that was made among the diners there. They were all linked by the choices they made for one another.

Would you have gone to the Ogori Cafe? Or would it have been too much of a risk to put your meal in the hands of a stranger? I think I would just have had to try it!

As happens with most things, this idea got me thinking about healthcare.  Consider the nurse working a shift on any floor of any hospital. Their experience is largely dependent on the nurse that worked in that same room a few hours before. Is the patient happy? Rested? Clean? Frustrated? In pain? What the current nurse gets has everything to do with what the previous nurse “ordered.”

By the same token, the work that the nurse does during their shift is largely a gift to the next nurse. Working with a difficult patient or situation may be stressful for the nurse to resolve, but they will probably not reap the benefits of the solution. It’s the next nurse who will benefit from the generosity of that job well done. It doesn’t matter whether the nurses know one another. They’re connected by the organization and most importantly by the patients. In this age of 12 hour shifts, they may be passing their work back and forth. Their individual work toward a great patient experience is a gift they give to one another.

There was a big sign outside the Ogori Cafe with the rules. Several of these seem like great rules to live by while we work with fellow staff and our patients!

1 Treat the NEXT person. What you give them is up to you.

2 Enjoy what you get, even if is not what you would have chosen for yourself.

3 Say “Thank You” (Gochihosama) if you discover the person who ordered for you.

As you work your shift today, think of the person coming next. Handoff a satisfied patient and they will say Gochihosama!