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James Cook: Putting Life in Perspective

Perspective: a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; outlook, viewpoint, point of view, position, stand, stance, angle, attitude, frame of mind, frame of reference, way of looking, interpretation.

Every Wednesday from 1-3 p.m., all leaders within Novant Health Rowan Medical Center and the entire Novant Health system, spend these two hours visiting our patients on all of our units.  That’s all 13 Novant Health hospital facilities!  We call this “rounding” on our patients.

Immediately following rounding, leaders reconvene to address any issues and concerns, as well as share what is going well with our patients and healthcare team. This is an opportunity for leadership to make sure our healthcare team is providing “remarkable care” and a safe environment for our patients, team members and communities.

Last week, as each of us reported on our rounding/visiting experiences, one of our leaders (let’s call him Jason), began to share his experience with a patient he visited. The patient happened to be about Jason’s age, in his 30’s, married with young children.  Upon entering the patient’s room, Jason introduced himself and asked if Mr. Jones would mind sharing his thoughts about his care during this hospital stay.  Mr. Jones expressed a positive experience related to personal care and attention.  As he became comfortable with the conversation with Jason, he shared personal feelings about his struggle dealing with the news that he had stage 3 cancer – fear, decisions to be made about treatment options , concerns about his family, financial burdens, even the possibility that he may be facing the final days of his life.  Deeply touched and concerned, Jason listened intently, offering words of encouragement and reassurance that his healthcare team and his hospital are here for him.

It was all Jason could do to hold back tears as he began to share this encounter with the leadership team. In conclusion, Jason said, “Today I had a patient put my life in perspective.  The problems I have whether at work, home or in life in general are no comparison to what I heard and experienced today.”

Mr. Jones was not alone today; he had Jason to listen to his story, to be truly and fully present with him in the midst of his pain and fears.  When we touch someone’s life or are touched by another, we connect to a deep understanding that we are more alike in life than different.

Jason’s experience through Mr. Jones’s story touches all of us in some way, too. Whatever we are facing in life, our fears, our frustrations, our joys and happiness, it may be for a moment or season that we lose or find perspective. There are those moments in life that bring clarity, and there are moments of confusion. When you feel you are losing your perspective take time to listen to someone else’s story from their perspective.  Listen with respect, dignity, compassion and presence.  In turn, have the courage to share your story when your perspective seems clouded.  Whether you share with someone you know or even a complete stranger, you might be surprised to receive a blessing from the one who listens to your story.

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18 NIV

James Cook is chaplain at NHRMC

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