Every Valentine’s Day, the ubiquitous “XO” symbol appears on cards, letters, stickers, candy hearts and Hallmark commercials. It’s everywhere. But where does this symbol come from and what does it really mean?

Well, it’s kind of like the original text message. Shorthand for hugs and kisses – with the “X” representing kisses and the “O”, representing hugs – the XO symbol is one we’ve all seen at many times in our lives. In fact, for as far back as I can remember, my mother always signed her beautifully handwritten cards and letters with an XO. It was on notes from Santa and the tooth fairy, birthday cards and Christmas cards. That little symbol made me feel loved and cared for, even when I was away from home.

It’s interesting to think that two little letters could convey and elicit such feeling and emotion. But they can and they do.

Harley King actually has these two letters in his job title at HCR Manor Care, where he is the Chief Experience Officer – or CXO. In his role, Harley is charged with directly overseeing the patient experience. He takes his role very seriously and goes above and beyond to make sure his patients and his employees get a hug when they need it. In fact, he proudly wears a button that says, “License To Hug.”

As the CXO, you could call him the Chief of Hugs and Kisses.

Harley recently wrote about “TheHealing Power of Hugs” and he shared his philosophy about the importance of hugging, especially in a care environment.

“I have been teaching the importance and value of touch and hugging for over 25 years to people working in health care. Health care is a very personal business. Health care workers encounter people during some of their worst times — when they are not feeling themselves. And often when they most need a hug…if you are ever in doubt about whether you should hug someone, be sure to ask permission. If they say no, respect their wishes. Remember that for people who do not feel comfortable with hugging, a handshake can become a hand hug.”

When you think about it, Valentine’s Day really is what the patient experience should be every day. So, amid the flurry of flowers, cards and chocolates, we should remember that patients as well as healthcare employees need to be showered with kindness, too. It makes them feel loved and cared for and it shows empathy and compassion.

Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be just one day a year.

After all, human kindness can be shared all year round.