There’s good and bad that comes from having worked at Disney for so many years. The good comes in the form of fond memories, lifelong friendships, and if I can be completely honest – having the time of my life working at the happiest place on Earth for 12 years.

There really is no bad, per se. I guess it would be better to say there are “lingering effects” that come from working at Disney. The most notable, at least in my experience, is the reality of once a cast member, always a cast member. Try as I may, I can’t seem to shake the culture!

Whether it’s picking up random bits of trash at the mall (plastic bag, empty coke bottle) or pointing with two fingers rather than one to give directions, these little blips of Disney culture keep surfacing even 15 years later.

Once such incident happened last week while spending fourth of July at the beach with my family. It was hotter than the surface of the sun so the brisk ocean waters offered a cool respite.

pictureAs I stood watching my kids frolic in the waves, I noticed a family on my left. The mother was holding her phone in one hand and making one of those “move in closer” gestures with her other. She was trying to get her whole family to pose for a picture with the ocean in the background.

And just like that my Disney instincts kicked in. As a cast member, I was taught to make sure everyone is included in the experience whenever possible. When people go on vacation there’s usually one person taking all the pictures. As a result, they’re rarely in any of their family photos. In these situations, Disney cast members are trained to stop what they’re doing and offer to take the picture for them. So everyone can be in the shot. It’s more than just a kind gesture. Who knows if this may end up being the last family photograph before the oldest child goes off to college? Or the last shot before their baby sister is born next spring? Or the last photograph before dad’s cancer diagnosis?

The mom was so happy when I asked if she’d like me to take the picture for her. Say cheese….and click. When I handed the phone back, she thanked me and then looked at the picture, smiled, and said, “That’s one for the Christmas card!”

Disney is essentially the gold standard for creating meaningful connections with guests – but their success has little to do with the gazillions of dollars they spend making rides and shows. Those things are nice but that’s not their real appeal. The stuff of magic and pixie dust is made up of all those little moments that happen in between the rides and the shows.

The challenge for all of us is to figure out to harness that and apply it in our work.

Hospitals and healthcare environments are nothing close to theme parks or a day at the beach, but there are still opportunities for meaningful connection.

Think of the mom who spent all night at her child’s bedside – she may appreciate a warm blanket or pillow, or a cup of coffee in the morning.

Or the husband who wants to keep his teenagers updated on their mom’s surgery – he may appreciate a phone charging station nearby.

Or the grandfather who wants to cheer his ailing wife – he may appreciate a clear shelf where he can display pictures of grandkids and their beloved dog.

Keeping everyone in the picture is important. The patient is our purpose, but they aren’t our only customer. How can you create special moments for customers, patients, family members, or colleagues? How can you keep them all in the picture, so to speak, to create a better patient experience?