“It began with a lump in the throat,” recalled Kevin Clapp.
Kevin was six years old, growing up in north central Connecticut, the morning he awoke with a mass roughly the size of a golf ball lodged in his neck. An appointment with his pediatrician led to a visit with an ear, nose and throat specialist and a diagnosis: He had what is called a thyroglossal duct cyst, completely benign yet requiring surgical removal.
Today, this can be accomplished as a same-day procedure. But in the early 1980s, Kevin faced a multiple day hospitalization, an experience that unbeknownst to him would shape his approach to healthcare more than 30 years later.
As an Experience Coordinator and Internal Communications Specialist at Shore Medical Center in Somers Point, NJ, Kevin is a member of a multi-disciplinary team that helps foster and support a culture of inclusion for patients, loved ones and staff alike. Among his responsibilities is facilitator of Shore’s New Employee Orientation program, which welcomes new staff to the medical center each month. When he began leading orientation in 2014, he struggled to connect with the new arrivals, to appropriately communicate with them the impact they can have on their patients. Then he remembered his own story.
Thinking back on his four days in the hospital, he remembers nothing about the clinical care he received. Instead, the memories revolve around the experience:
Sharing breakfast with his father every morning;
Having a visit from a grandmother, his brother and two cousins, despite the hospital’s policy that prevented visitation by children;
Receiving a new roommate each day, and not always who you might expect;
And, most importantly, a simple kindness by a member of his care giving team that struck such a chord that it continues to resonate today.
In an era where the quality of care is largely comparable across the industry, the level of person centered care provided to patients and their loved ones is the new differentiator. It’s all personal, and as healthcare professionals we can tap into our own memories and experiences to guide us along a more empathetic path. The memory of his hospitalization guides Kevin in every interaction, helping him do his part to create a more person centered healing environment.
Like many stories, Kevin’s tale is not built not on the grand gesture but the small moments that have created a lifelong memory that leads him to pay his experience forward every day.