It was a 15 minute walk from the hospital’s registration desk to my son’s bedside every day through four long corridors. We passed nurse stations, wards, patients’ rooms and offices, and a small, sunny chapel. We also passed framed prints on the walls with the Loma Linda University Hospital’s Values and Mission Statement, which reads:
‘We are committed “To make man whole,” in a setting of advancing medical science and providing a stimulating clinical and research environment for the education of physicians, nurses and other health professionals.
‘We promote an environment that reflects and builds respect for the diversity of humanity as ordained by God. We seek to serve a worldwide community by promoting healthful living, caring for the sick, and sharing the good news of a loving God.’
They weren’t just pretty statements in frames. We experienced these values every day in the attitude and actions of all the staff, every one of them – the senior doctors (the ‘attending’), junior doctors, therapists, nurses, assistants, cleaners, everyone. At one stage of unconsciousness Vince thrashed about so much that his bed had to be remade at least eight time a day, and nurses did it cheerfully. That’s just one example. And everyone was accessible. On one occasion, when we were worried about a particular possibility, the nurse emailed a doctor who emailed back to say he would call in in about 20 minutes time. He happened to be on the same floor and he did, without making us feel a nuisance.
After Vince came home I emailed the President and CEO of the Loma Linda University Hospital to thank him. I said that for the past six weeks Vince’s wife and I had been blessed by the treatment and care he received. ‘Staff are more than competent – they are excellent. They also reflect the values and ethics shown in the statements on walls. They were never abrupt or hurried, but always understanding and compassionate. There were many kindnesses over those weeks.’
I added that we know that Jesus Christ is our Healer, but He also equips people to do His work. For example, when He called Lazarus from the tomb He instructed the people standing by to unwrap him. (John 11: 38-48.) Loma Linda’s dynamic of ‘Spirituality’ puts them alongside Him.
I said I recognised the importance of corporate values as I work for a 215 year old Christian charity that also knows their power.
The President/CEO replied, thanking me and saying that, ‘To know our professional staff have exemplified our values is gratifying,’ adding ‘May our God bless you in your important work for your UK charity.’ The family of God is truly a wondrous thing.
Our experience throws into sharp contrast the experiences of many in our NHS. The latest example describes an incident where a 61 year old man with excruciating spinal pain was left in agony on a trolley for two days and the day after admission was told he would be discharged by a consultant who had only glanced at his notes and not examined him.[i] Journalist Judith Wood concludes that her brother-in-law’s gain (in obtaining treatment by mentioning that he was a lawyer experienced in medical negligence) ‘is predicated on someone else’s loss in a sclerotic system that is held together by nothing more than goodwill and a misplaced sense of loyalty to “our” tax-funded NHS. It is failing. For the distraught parents cradling stillborn babies and the cancer patients dying long before they reach the top of the list, it has already failed.’
It is incredibly sad. Many of us would not be here were it not for the NHS. We know that lack of compassion is not true of many staff, but if one extremely busy trauma hospital can get it right why not ours?
While I’m deeply grateful to God for the kindnesses at the Loma Linda University Hospital I find myself praying for NHS hospitals here.