When caring is not just a job.

I was recently interviewed by the New York Times. I lie, it was by a young school boy who needed to interview and entrepreneur. (I got you reading further though, didn’t I?) You could see he was ready to be totally bored, but while we chatted he really got in to the conversation and I think he loved my anti-establishment approach to life and my genuine love for what I do. He came prepared with some questions, but as the conversation carried on, he came up with some really good questions on the spot. We had a great time and one question in particular made me think.

He asked me how I conduct a job interview and then, how I make a decision as to whether or not I employ that person. The honest answer is that I am a particularly bad judge of character, and most future employees know exactly what to say in an interview (we are all hard-working, committed, get along with everyone ,fast learners, team-players, punctual and our only bad quality is perfectionism when in interviews). My very scientific approach therefore is to do a quick interview, check references and then I get them to work with us for two days. Usually by the second hour we know whether they will fit in or not.

It is the little things that make you realise someone won’t fit in to the culture. They might talk too loudly, be a little bit too rough, flirt or work too slowly. On paper they might be great, but in real life they simply disappoint. Other times (and this is especially true in a country where equal opportunities are not given) potential staff look average, or even completely underqualified, but when you put them to the test, they just flourish.

At the moment we are looking after a 94 year old lady who broke her pelvis. She has a soft toy (a sweet little elephant named Molly) that she adores and speaks to and if I touch her with my icy hands, she says she’ll put Molly on me. Last week, I went in to her room and noticed that Molly had a new friend; a fluffy bear with a bow. I did not recall any of her family bringing it. When I asked around, I found out that one of my relatively new employees went, after work, and got it for her with his own money. When I asked him why, he just said he knew it would give her comfort. How special is that?

One of my other staff surprised me by going on a specialised course in her spare time. She did not ask for more money because of her additional qualifications; she just wanted to improve herself so that she could offer a better service.

Often during lunchtime, I notice my staff wander across the street to Netcare Sunninghill where they go and see patients we have known or who are permanent residents in hospital. They do this with no prompting from me. They genuinely love the guests.

Maybe this is the key to the care: if you as a staff member genuinely love a guest, you automatically change your posture. It becomes a calling and not a job. It is not about your knowledge or your fancy education. If you genuinely care about the person, you do not let someone press the call-button only to ignore them, force feed them or rush a bed bath. When you really care, you never forget that the person’s dignity needs to be protected.. I love that my staff always have time to laugh with our guests. There is always humour and grace during every interaction.

To work alongside this team is something I will never take for granted.

Share this post