Do you and your employees know the difference between daily job tasks and the role you play in contributing to patients’ overall healing experience? If the answer is no, it’s time for a shift in perception.

So how do we do this?

I think the first thing we need to do is remove the words, “JUST A” from our company vernacular.

Here’s what I mean:

• I’m not just a janitor, housekeeper or environmental services employee (EVS) – I’m part of the care team – I keep the place germ free..without me, patients are more susceptible to life-threatening infections.

• I’m not just a sterilize processing personnel (make up surgical kits), I’m not just a glorified dish washer – I’m part of the care team, I provide clean instruments that save lives.

• I’m not just a tray passer (food and nutritional services), I’m part of the care team.  I provide food that heals.

We all have a role in the show called healthcare.  As a healthcare leader, your job is to connect the dots for your staff to make sure they understand clearly HOW they are an important contributor on the care team…creating healthier communities.

In the article, “10 Things We Can Learn From the World’s Greatest Surgeon,” Drs. Kevin and Jackie Frieberg share important lessons from a most extraordinary man, Dr. Michael DeBakey. Below is an excerpt from that article. It is a powerful example of how Dr. DeBakey understood and believed that each of us has an integral role in the patient experience.

Dr. Michael DeBakey

“Dr. Michael DeBakey was a world-renowned American cardiac surgeon known not only for his prolific contributions to the medical field, but also as a symbol of hope and encouragement to his colleagues. Dr. DeBakey worked at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas and one day a reporter shadowed him and was struck by DeBakey’s capacity to affirm each person he saw in the course of the day.

In one particular encounter, DeBakey began chatting with an elderly janitor who was sweeping the floor. DeBakey asked the man about his wife and children. He told the older man, obviously not for the first time, that the hospital couldn’t function without the janitor because germs would spread, increasing the chances of infection in the hospital.

Later in the day, our colleague tracked down the janitor and asked him, “What exactly do you do? Tell me about your job.” With pride, the janitor replied: “Dr. DeBakey and I? We save lives together.”

He’s right. After all, consider what would happen to our healthcare systems if the cleaning crews went on strike! DeBakey understood that showing the janitor exactly how he contributes to a larger, more heroic cause is crucial. This creates a powerful dynamic. Realizing that he is working toward a worthy goal, the janitor’s perceptions about his work changed. It had new meaning and his enthusiasm for the job was rejuvenated.

Great leaders make time to help people see how their work is connected to something bigger. For a surgeon like DeBakey, those five or ten minutes each day were costly, unless, of course, you consider the productivity generated by a janitor whose work has been transformed.

Right now, how many people in your organization are engaged in work that five years from today no one will give a rip about? 

Can you make the link between what you do and a noble or heroic cause? Can you make this link for others?