Serving During Surgery

Portrait of medical professionalsNot long ago, I was once again was well-served by an outstanding medical team.

Over a dozen people at the Billings Clinic pooled their training and talents to repair a small hernia in my abdomen. From beginning to end, they cared for me with the utmost in professional skill and personal attention.

As a result, I’m mending quickly, with no infection, little residual pain, and an even greater respect for the men and women who serve in our medical community.

As Corlette drove me to the hospital at 5:30 am, I prayed that not only would the surgery be successful but also that I would have many opportunities to bless the people who would soon be caring for me. In particular, I wanted to live out the SERVE principle with each person I encountered that day.

  • Smile
  • Explore and empathize (show interest and compassion)
  • Reconcile
  • Value (express appreciation and admiration)
  • Encourage (put wind under their wings)

From the receptionist to the surgeon, I made it a point to greet each member of the team with a big smile and a cheerful “Good morning!” Everyone smiled warmly in return. Sometimes I had time to add, “Thank you for getting up so early today to take care of me,” which usually triggered  a chuckle and opened the way for conversation.

Exploring people’s lives takes so little effort and yet it’s so rewarding. “How long have you worked at the Clinic?” “What do you like most about your job?” “How many patients do you serve in a day?” “Why did you choose to be a surgical nurse?” “How do you feel after a successful operation?” “How can I make your job easier today?”

It’s amazing how much you can learn about people by showing just a little interest in their lives.

I love to tease, so when the technicians and nurses asked their long lists of standard questions, I looked for opportunities to catch them off guard. “Have you had anything to drink this morning?” “No, but someone promised me a coffee IV.” “Have you had any problems with choking lately?” “No, I haven’t done anything to provoke my wife that badly for months.”

Medical workers have trained long and hard for their careers, so they appreciate it when someone values their expertise. Whenever time permitted I asked members of the team to explain various processes and equipment. They seemed to genuinely enjoy sharing their knowledge, which gave me more opportunities to learn about their work and express admiration for what they do.

Of course there is no substitute for saying thank you over and over again. To the aide who wheeled me from room to room. To the nurse who inserted an IV so painlessly. To the anesthesiologist who explained every step in my sedation. To the surgeon who opened and closed me so flawlessly. And, most of all, to my lovely wife, who was watching over me throughout the process and has thoroughly pampered me ever since.

All of these people served me with exceptional care, and I’m glad God gave me the opportunity to encourage them just a little bit in return.

You can do the same with the many people you encounter every day. Whether you’re visiting your doctor or enjoying a family dinner, a business meeting, or a shopping trip to the mall, you can personally and warmly engage every person you meet.

Memorize the SERVE acrostic. It’s so simple. And just before you walk through the door to any engagement, turn on your relational antenna so you see opportunities to serve every person you meet, to show a genuine interest in their lives, to value who they are and what they do, and to encourage them in a way that puts wind under their wings.

– Ken Sande

Reflection Questions:

  • Who is one of the most encouraging persons you know? What is it that makes him or her so pleasant to be around? What qualities can you imitate to encourage the people you meet in the days ahead?
  • What are some of the normal circumstances of life that cause people to need encouragement? (e.g., lonely holidays, illness, job setbacks)
  • Describe some of the typical situations in your daily or weekly life that provide opportunities to SERVE others and put wind under their wings.
  • Describe a situation you’ll never forget when someone put wind under your wings.
  • Memorize the SERVE principle and practice it in every social setting. You’ll be surprised how quickly it becomes a relationship-building habit.

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2013 Ken Sande

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