Tuesday, January 19, 2016

No worries? Not so good.

Every language or region has its colloquial response to "Thank you!"  In Spanish, we say, "De nada."  "It's nothing."

In the United States, we often say, "No problem."

Here in Australia, it's "No worries."

This is fine in casual settings, as among friends.  But, in health care settings, it's the wrong answer.

I addressed this about five years ago in a blog post, noting:

One of the things I learned in my hospital days was how to accept gratitude. A hospital can be an uncomfortable place for patients and family members. It is a strange physical environment, where people are anxious because of feared or actual medical conditions or forthcoming procedures or tests. In that situation, when you do something kind for someone, the person is truly grateful. It can be as simple as offering directions, or picking up a fallen object, or something much more serious.

When I started working in the hospital, when someone would say "Thank you" to me, I would often answer, "It's nothing," or "No problem." Wrong! I was taught that such an answer devalues the gratitude that the other person is feeling. A more appropriate response is, "It is my pleasure," or "I am so pleased I was able to help." That indicates that you understand their feelings.

Over the years, I trained myself to do this. Lo and behold, once I got rid of the "It's nothing" conversation stopper, people would jump in and continue the conversation even further. I was able to learn so much more about people's fears, expectations, experiences, and hopes and then help translate those into improvements in the clinical environment.

So mates, try this out in clinical settings.  You'll respectfully acknowledge a person's appreciation, and you might learn something new that could be helpful to the patient, family, or your own institution.


Anonymous said...


You'll like this. I had hit the immediate management because they didn't acknowledge any accolades. Finally I went up to the heads of the billion dollar corporation and said why is it you can't acknowledge good people that make up for the mess of X doctors?

It got attention. Not all of it, but enough I can keep hammering at them. I'll be adding your post to theirs, because profits before patients is a mantra I'm sick of.

Btw, I have a friend who was harmed in Oz. I'm sure she would be happy to know you are spreading the word down there.


stacey said...

Yes! This. Saying no problem to a patient gives the impression that their request or need "might have been a problem, but not to you".
You will also notice that the better restaurants train their staff to say
My pleasure or you're welcome, as well.
It is not, "nothing" to a patient, to get what they need.

Marilyn Mann said...

The assistant for my family member's doctor always says "pleased to assist." That always gives me a good feeling.

stacey said...

I've been taking my cues from Downton Abbey lately... When someone comes into the servants' hall, they say, How can I help? And when someone thanks anyone, lord or servant, they say Glad to be of service! Which I do modernize to something like, I am always happy to help. Let me know if you need anything else.

Carole said...

Mr. Levy
Picking up on that as small as it may seem, is huge for those who care about other people's feelings and always wants to consider them.
Again you gave me something else to think about and learn from, thank you very much :)