• Scott McInnes

#39 | Grant a dying wish

EMT brings a patient to look at the ocean

This moving photo was all over social media last year. A lady in the final days of her life being transported to hospital and who asked to go to the beach one last time.

And a similar story recently of a terminally ill man being transported to palliative care. He hadn't eaten for days and, when asked what he’d eat if he could get it, he said ‘a caramel sundae’. They stopped off at a McDonald's and got it for him.

He died a few days later.

These are two great and seemingly small examples of people doing the right thing at the right time. In this case they are both stories from paramedics at the Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS)

They did what was right at that moment - what was in the best interests of that patient at their time of greatest need.

And I’m sure afterwards they felt as though that day they’d done their bit, they’d made a difference.

And they had. A MASSIVE difference.

The vast majority of us don’t get that chance. As Orlagh Hunt said in my recent podcast with her, ‘most of us don’t go to work to save lives or find a cure for cancer’.

We just go to work to do a good job. But we can make a difference every single day - just by doing the right thing.

However, for that to happen we need to create a culture in which our people know it’s OK (and that we're expected) to know what that 'right thing' is and to just get on with it. Sometimes that might mean ‘contravening policy’ or, perhaps, 'interpreting' the rules.

If you look at the QAS Clinical Practice Manual it says its aim is to 'Provide high standards of emergency treatment, patient care and transport for the sick and injured'. In both the stories above, 'patient care' wasn't about drugs or bandages - it was about a visit to the beach and an ice cream. For those paramedics it was about interpreting what they stood for and doing the right thing.

And people need to know that, total recklessness aside, that’s OK.

And there are a few things that need to be in place to make that happen

Your organisations see the power in doing the right thing - QAS sees the power in doing the right thing - in sharing these stories on social media, on raising the profile of the amazing and difficult work their paramedics do every day

You've got amazing leaders - Leaders need to know what's right and what's possible, and give their people the space to try (and perhaps fail). And when they do fail, they're there to support.

You promote thinking differently - How much more good would your people do if they thought differently about a given situation? If those paramedics thought too much about the request to go to the beach, it mightn't have happened. What if the ambulance gets stuck? What if the terrain is rough and we can't wheel the bed? What if, what if, what if. They didn't think what if. They thought 'let's just bloody well get this done'.

You've got a culture that allows people to bend the rules - For your people to be truly amazing, it needs to be OK for them to bend and interpret the rules without fear of repercussion. And in that, it needs to be OK to fail.

You celebrate success - With every amazing outcome should come an equally amazing celebration - perhaps that's just a pat on the back, a cake in a team meeting, a story on your intranet or, even better a story on social media (because you've got the bravery to publicly say 'we bent the rules and did something amazing for a customer')

So no, you might not be curing cancer or saving lives every day, but you can do seemingly small things that make very big differences in the lives of your customers or colleagues.

It's worth thinking about the changes you might have to make to allow that to happen


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