C&A is holding a series of dialogues with leaders in the field around the topic of patent safety synergy that will be published in feature articles throughout the year in our newsletter. Each dialogue will be featuring selected leaders. This month we provide an interview featuring Sharon Dills, C&A Senior Consultant.
Q: Reflecting on your career path, what led you to go in to healthcare?
SD: Believe it or not, I went into nursing honestly questioning that it was the right career choice for me. I can now say 27 years later I am still a licensed nurse and have evolved into spending the last 8 and a half years as a consultant for Courtemanche & Associates. I reflect on the push and pull that healthcare has played in my life. I have loved caring for patients and making a difference in people’s lives. It has had its challenges and high points.
Q: Please share a memorable story that illustrates an experience where you felt you made a difference in the life of a patient.
SD: What comes to mind is a sad story that still makes me tear up, but the story is important because the experience taught me that I am meant to be in healthcare. For my first two years in healthcare, I served as a nurse in the Neonatal NICU. There was a baby girl who was born at 27 weeks to parents who had strived through many miscarriages to have a child. Their daughter was being kept alive by the medical equipment we had at that time and ultimately the baby died. I became very attached to the baby and to the parents and when the baby died I was heartbroken for all of them. I stayed in touch with the parents for several months until it was clear that my support for them only brought about sad memories of that time. I had to learn that to best serve my patients and their families, I had to keep a professional boundary up so I could make objective decisions. Months later, I had a more positive experience. One of my other NICU patients, despite many health challenges, survived and I was blessed to see the baby grow into a blossoming child. I was reminded that despite the outcome my patients face, the work I do to care for them and their families is essential.
Q: How did these experiences shape your path?
SD: I moved on eventually from the NICU and worked in behavioral health and other hospital units, and worked in management and fulfilled a variety of roles, always growing and moving in new directions, always with the goal of keeping my patients safe and well cared for.
Q: Having been at C&A for 8 and a half years, what do you feel is the biggest contribution you have made?
SD: The last 8 and a half years have been probably the highlight of my career. All of the things I learned in nursing have shaped my philosophy and bring me to the place I am now, always striving to keep patients safe. I have consulted in probably hundreds of hospitals, meeting so many people who share a common purpose in healthcare. I feel that it is my responsibility to help people understand their roles. As an example, it makes me happiest to work with an environmental specialist who explains that it is just their job to clean rooms and empty trash. I help explain that their role is so critical to infection prevention, that they are a crucial member of the team it takes to keep the patients safe.
As a consultant you have the opportunity to make a lot of good things happen. You have the capacity to make change on a larger scale. What I try to focus on with every interaction is connecting with the people I work with, improving and touching people’s lives.
Q: What are your hopes for healthcare in the future?
SD: I have three overarching goals.
Goal number one is I wish that in 2016 ( 2017 before too long) our approach to behavioral health would evolve. There is still such a stigma around mental health diagnoses. People do not have good access to care and there is a general lack of understanding or empathy around mental health illness. I really believe that if we could change the stigma, improve access to good care and build understanding there would be fewer suicides and lower cases of mentally ill related homelessness.
If we could make these changes, people could feel safer getting the care they need. It sounds idealistic, but the world would truly be a better place.
My second goal is to have every provider ask themselves one question. “If I am a patient, how do I want to be treated?” We would probably find we all agree that respect, care, understanding and empathy are important. If we could stay focused on our common purpose, we could embrace our patients with the dignity they deserve.
My third wish is that we learn to focus on the positive. Healthcare is riddled with a focus on the negatives, what the problems are, what went wrong, what didn’t happen. If we could take stock of the many successes, the many things that go right every day, we might learn to celebrate and learn from the positives.
Many thanks to Sharon Dills for sharing her experiences and insights. To learn more about Sharon Dills please visit her team page by clicking here.