Put Yourself In Their Shoes: Altru’s Behavior Standards Listen and Understand

Our days are filled with interactions and encounters with others. Some only last a couple of seconds, while others happen daily. Giving our full attention to every conversation with a patient or co-worker can be difficult, and sometimes feel burdensome. As Quint Studer says in the Great Employee Handbook, it is essential to “put yourself in their shoes.” In order to effectively listen and understand one another, we may need to view the situation from his perspective first.

Tying Your Laces
Before taking steps in another’s shoes, we first need to learn how to tie our own. As we all know, learning to tie shoes doesn’t happen overnight. Effective listening and understanding requires conscious effort. With time and dedication, the skills can be mastered.

For Janelle Porter, chronic care coordinator and medical home registered nurse, putting herself in patients’ shoes is something she has been practicing for quite awhile. “Often, we have to understand our patients’ journeys and the series of events in their life that lead to their diagnosis,” shares Janelle. Listening affirms to the patient that the medical home nurses understand what the patient is going through.

Photo of medical home staff

Pictured left to right: Nancy Brugemann (Dr. Makarem’s nurse in Internal Medicine); Andres Makarem, MD, Internal Medicine; Janelle Porter, Chronic Care/Quality Improvement Coordinator, Medical Home RN

A Team Effort
Altru’s medical home, also known as Patient-Centered Care, recently earned a 25 percent point increase in patients with vascular disease reaching optimal management over the past year, as reported in the Health Care Disparities Report (HCDR). Janelle says that all patient-centered care nurses throughout the region were influential in achieving the HCDR percentage increase. “We worked as a team and shared our ideas and successes to make the medical home program successful.”

As exemplified by this infographic, the patient-centered care team is a model of healthcare coordination centered on the patient. Janelle explains that through active listening and understanding, the patient-centered care team, “empowered patients to take control of their chronic disease and enabled them to make their own decisions about their care plan.”

Patient-Centered Care Infographic

Taking Steps Forward
Just as Janelle applied listen and understand to her daily work, we too, can utilize these behavior standards in our day-to-day interactions.

Listen: We will listen and seek to understand.

  • I will listen to show value and respect and make sure my body language is appropriate.
  • I will be intentionally present and focus my attention on the other person by removing distractions.
  • I will be patient while the other person is speaking and wait for my turn to talk.
  • I will put the other person at ease by asking open-ended questions and sitting down when possible.

Understand: We will seek to understand and respond genuinely.

  • I will take a step back and put myself in the shoes of others.
  • I will make sure others understand by explaining things in simple terms
  • I will ask questions to clarify understanding.
  • I will include the person in decision making by offering options.

So, how can we effectively listen and understand?

The answer is simple: practice, practice, practice.

After we become comfortable in our own shoes, taking a few steps in another’s will come much easier. When we are able to listen without focusing on what we are going to say next or understand without passing judgment, that is when we can truly begin to listen and understand each other.

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