Make kindness your New Year’s resolution

Dr Bob Klaber is a consultant paediatrician and director of strategy, research and innovation at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. Here, he explains the value of kindness in delivering great care and how we’re cultivating kindness across our trust. This post builds on ‘Kindness: an underrated virtue’, an editorial published in the BMJ in December 2019 by Bob together with Suzie Bailey of The King’s Fund.

Sometimes, whatever our role, we can forget that simple acts of kindness can mean more to people than anything else.

It mattered to the intensive care patient at Hammersmith Hospital whose clinical team arranged for his horse, ‘The Footsy’, to visit him. It cheered our patients up during the festive period when our teams carefully put up Christmas decorations. And for our older patients who are living with dementia, it made them feel happier and less lonely during their time in hospital when children from local schools came to visit them as part of our intergenerational project.

Unlike many of the metrics that are used to measure our performance as an organisation, how people relate to each other, and how they feel, can be hard to quantify. This difficulty in measuring the impact of more ‘relational’ aspects of our work means we can fall into the trap of thinking of them as being less important. But in reality it is kindness that is right at the business end of healthcare. Why else would we all be working in the NHS?

Courage in kindness

Kindness can give us the courage to acknowledge our differences and to understand how each perspective is valid and important, and it enables us to empathise and be compassionate. Ultimately, it helps us care for our patients better.

‘Kind’ is one of our four organisational values at Imperial College Healthcare; it is the one staff mention time and time again as being the most important value for them. We see the currency of kindness as fundamentally important in what we want to achieve, and how we go about getting there.

Our leading change through vision, values and behaviours programme is helping us develop a shared and compelling sense of what we all want to achieve as an organisation, as well as how we want to go about achieving it. In the first half of 2019, more than 2,000 of our staff, alongside our lay partners, came together to work on refreshing our organisational strategy and create a new organisational behaviours ‘framework that sets out clear examples of behaviours that demonstrate when we are living our organisational values, and those that show when we are not.

We also sought to understand the barriers to living our values and three of the main themes we want to take action on are fundamentally about kindness:

  • proactively and positively address issues leading to poor relationships
  • role model and encourage the right behaviours in everything we do
  • stop to ask: “Am I OK? Are we OK?”

Living our Trust values

This coming year we will roll out our ‘living our values’ workshops – designed to help us all reflect on how we behave and what we can do to embed them in everything we do – to every one of our 12,000 people. We see this as absolutely critical to providing the best care possible for our patients and local communities.

So, if you have one New Year’s resolution, make it this; be kind to yourselves and to others, and think about how you can role-model this to everyone around you.

Share this post on social to join the conversation – you can find Bob on twitter @BobKlaber