Nurses can play a powerful role in the philanthropic process. Because nurses work closely with patients and their families, they often have a front-row seat to the wishes and desires that patients express. Nurses usually handle the discharge process, putting them in the unique position of being the last medical professional that patients see before leaving the hospital—a “last chance” for patients and their families to convey gratitude or indicate a desire to be more engaged. Do the nurses at your institution have the training they need to respond in a way that will strengthen the culture of philanthropy at your institution?
“I don’t think that nurses at the bedside have been trained to think about philanthropy. It just requires some education about how to respond. Nurses are here to serve their patients, so they will absolutely do things that will benefit the patient.”
–Director of Nursing
We recently had the opportunity to interview a nurse leader and gain valuable insights into the nurse’s role in philanthropy.
1. Listen differently
In caring for people, nurses learn to listen for problems their patients or families are having and then take action to address them. Because they are focused on the physical and emotional well-being of patients and their family members, nurses might miss opportunities to deepen engagement with the hospital.
It’s in the words that patients use to describe how they’d like to make a difference. Patients might ask if there’s anything they can do to help. Or they might offer a solution or an idea that would improve care. I try to pick up on their drive to make a difference. Most of our patients are very satisfied with their care. But there’s something a little different about their demeanor or the words they use that makes me think this might be an interested patient.
2. Make it routine
Most nurses have an almost overwhelming amount of responsibilities they must attend to in caring for their patients and might be resistant to adding the extra duty of listening for philanthropy. Responding to a patient’s desire for further engagement does not have to take extra time, especially when nurses make it a routine part of care.
It doesn’t take additional time. It’s really about rephrasing what you might ordinarily say. If a patient expresses gratitude for exceptional care, I might ask them to tell me what we’ve done well or if there is anyone they want to recognize for doing an exceptional job. I think we can definitely help patients feel empowered to give back just by our response.
3. Understand the nurse’s role in philanthropy
Nurses might shy away from making a referral because they don’t feel qualified. Helping them understand their role—and that of the foundation—in the philanthropic process should allay any qualms they might have. Nurses’ comfort level with the process rises when they understand that participating in philanthropy can be part of the healing process for patients and their families.
We treat all of our patients the same. It’s not my place to make assumptions. We provide the same level of education to the new mom and the mom who is having her fourth baby. The same is true with philanthropy. I don’t want to take away from that patient’s ability to give. I would never want to do anything to make them feel anything other than great excitement or pleasure in being able to give back to others.
Strengthen the culture of philanthropy at your healthcare institution by providing training for your nurses. When nurses respond appropriately to patients who have expressed a desire to be more deeply engaged, doors to a whole new level of healthcare are opened.