The Kindness Coalition

Pioneering a Culture of Compassion in Medical Care

April 9, 2024 – by Rebecca Handler

In the high-pressure environment of healthcare, it can be easy to overlook the softer elements of patient care — like kindness and communication between a healthcare team. However, a new initiative at Stanford Medicine is proving that kindness is an essential skill that can be just as critical as medical expertise.

The new program, dubbed The Kindness Coalition (TKC), has a simple but critical mission: to foster kindness among healthcare workers in order to create a more inclusive and collaborative healthcare environment. 

TKC is the brainchild of Amity Eliaz, MD, and Prerak Juthani, MD, two internal medicine residents who saw the need for a kinder and more collaborative culture in healthcare.

"We were inspired during a particularly intense set of night shifts," Eliaz shares. "It was clear that intentional, kind behavior significantly enhanced our working environment and the care we provided for our patients.”

Given a healthcare team's frequent time constraints, stress can often result in negative interactions or miscommunication. By prioritizing positive communication strategies, Eliaz and Juthani aim to create a more supportive, collaborative, and efficient healthcare system.

Amity Eliaz, MD

Prerak Juthani, MD

"We were inspired during a particularly intense set of night shifts. It was clear that intentional, kind behavior significantly enhanced our working environment and the care we provided for our patients.”  - Amity Eliaz, MD

Kindness Can Save Lives

During a particularly busy and challenging night shift, Juthani and a nurse had to manage a patient who had developed a pulmonary embolism—a blood clot that had traveled to the lungs, presenting a serious medical emergency. Despite the high-pressure situation and the fact that it was one of Juthani’s first cases as a first year resident, the groundwork of kindness and effective communication they had established earlier in the night played a crucial role in managing the situation effectively.

“The scan results came back in the middle of the night when not many people were awake, and we didn't have all the resources to figure out the best course of action immediately,” recalled Juthani. “Usually, when patients are transferred to the ICU, it's very chaotic—like, 'Oh my God, this patient is going to die, what have we done so far?” 

Juthani had introduced himself to the nurse at the beginning of the night, fostering a therapeutic relationship built on mutual respect and open communication. When the critical situation arose, they were able to share their concerns and develop a contingency plan together.  “Knowing each other by name and having open lines of communication transformed a potentially chaotic situation into a manageable one," says Juthani.

This collaborative approach, grounded in kindness and understanding of each other's roles and concerns, not only mitigated their nervousness but also ensured that they were prepared for various outcomes. This further exemplifies how fostering a culture of kindness and effective communication among healthcare workers can lead to better patient care, quicker mobilization of resources in urgent situations, and a more supportive work environment.

Looking Ahead: Expanding Reach and Impact

Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. TKC has begun to garner attention and participation from a wide range of hospital staff, from nurses and pharmacists to residents and environmental service workers to social workers and case managers.

With the vital support of the Division of Hospital Medicine and the Cost Savings Reinvestment Program from Shieh-Svec, as well as faculty sponsors Dr. Poonam Hosamani and Dr. Jason Hom, TKC has held five events so far, with a turnout of over 100 attendees at each one and representation from over 10 professions. 

Looking ahead, Eliaz and Juthani envision TKC not just as a staple within their own health system but as a model that can be adopted by healthcare institutions nationwide.

Be sure to follow TKC on Twitter at @TKCshc to stay updated with the latest news and event information!

TKC’s Core Strategies

At the heart of TKC are several core principles and strategies designed to nurture this culture of compassion and teamwork

1. Fostering Connection Through Monthly Events

The “Kindness Kickbacks" are monthly events to engage healthcare workers across professions & departments. These gatherings are an opportunity for building relationships among healthcare workers. They offer a break from hectic shifts and busy schedules – allowing attendees to connect, share insights on kindness, and enjoy refreshments. 

2. Promoting Kind Behavior

TKC aims to utilize a multi-pronged approach to promoting and guiding kind behavior among healthcare workers. One example of this approach is the pins that the team created for members to place on their name tags; these pins serve as conversation starters and reminders to engage in kind behavior. TKC is also currently developing a toolkit to help guide and inform kind communication and actions using evidence-based principles.

3. Recognizing & Encouraging Kindness

TKC has created the “Kindness Recognition Form,” allowing healthcare workers to acknowledge and appreciate the kind acts of their colleagues. With the forms, both the person who was acknowledged and their supervisor receive an email recognizing and appreciating their kind behavior and the positive impact of their actions.

4. Lowering the Participation Barrier

Understanding the time constraints and pressures healthcare workers face, TKC has made its events and initiatives easily accessible. By scheduling activities during normal working hours and making participation flexible, they ensure that everyone has the opportunity to engage without adding to their burdens.

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