Mainstay Hospital in Bismarck, ND is working out ways to get physicians to learn more about each other. Despite the communication techniques that encourage effective communication, Mainstay has found that casual, frivolous conversations build the best networking foundations.
Good communication is a part of quality and safety in hospitals. Marvin Strikers, D.O., OB/GYN and chairman of the bylaws committee, likes chit chat.
“I learn the most about people during casual conversations. At work-related social gatherings, most people talk about work. But I realized frivolous, non-work-related talk is the key. I would see Robert “Bob” Kincaid in the doctor’s lounge every morning. I know that he plays the guitar, and he flies radio control planes on the weekends. But I didn't even know he is a doctor. Turns out he's a cardiovascular surgeon! I should’ve known, since he would mention suturing mitral valves,” said Dr. Strikers.
Mark Warrior, chief executive officer also realized the value of casual conversations. “I’m not a doctor, and I don’t go into the doctor’s lounge much. I mostly attend high-level gatherings like board meetings. But I noticed that several doctors didn’t know what I do. I’ve started having casual conversations with doctors in the hallways. And hey, it’s like they finally know I’m the hospital president!”
With chit chat, sometimes you find out about interesting hobbies. Many of Mainstay physicians sing in bands, play an instrument or have a social media presence.
“You get to feel more comfortable when you know that someone who you viewed as difficult to talk to has a cool interest. You start caring about their hobbies,” says Warrior.
Of course, during clinical interactions, Mainstay prides itself on putting patient quality and safety first. But casual conversations on the medical floors can ease tensions during patient care. Once a pediatric patient was short of breath and needed a breathing treatment. It was Halloween. Poppy, a pediatric nurse, was dressed as a chocolate chip cookie. The patient was treated and did well.
Only after the child was stabilized did the other nurses notice that Poppy’s ten-chip chocolate chip cookie costume only had one chocolate chip left. “Apparently, the other chocolate chips fell off,” commented charge nurse, Rosemary. “The casual conversations helped lighten the mood.”