The Polite Pause

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By Steve St. Angelo

Great Greeting program builds civility, accountability, and patient satisfaction

Howard County Nurse manager and team

Photos by Chris Hartlove | Nurse Manager Brandon Buckingham  leads a team huddle at the whiteboard. Below, a gentle knock before entering.

Civility counts. It’s right there on the whiteboard as Nurse Manager Brandon Buckingham, RN, gathers his team for the 1 p.m. huddle on Unit 2 South. The most recent audits are in, and while the results of a campaign to improve the patient experience are generally quite encouraging, Buckingham politely chides his crew over red marks (errors) where green ones should be.

the polite pause at HCGH

Welcome to the Great Greeting, a new protocol being rolled out at Howard County General Hospital that emphasizes the personal comfort of patients who by nature of their care must surrender much of their privacy upon arrival. “Too often in this profession we do the fly-by knock,” explains Buckingham of task-oriented nurses bustling into a room to efficiently perform their duties and not taking a moment to acknowledge and respect a patient’s space. The Great Greeting is that moment, in five simple steps: sanitize hands; knock (allowing 10 seconds for a response); pause (taking a breath before entering a room); greet patient by name; state your name and the reason for your visit. “Their room is their safe haven, their domain.”

Skipping any of the steps means a red mark (and perhaps a subtle nudge from a supervisor), and the person keeping score could be almost anyone moving among them as they go about their shifts, explains staff nurse Danielle Quigley, RN. Anyway, it’s not about spying—and no one is publicly called out at the whiteboard.

“Mostly, they throw themselves under the bus,” says Buckingham.

“Usually me,” Quigley jokes of a protocol that exempts no one. “There’s a friendly competition. We all hate seeing those red marks.”

More green marks very likely mean better scores on the Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems survey, which can attract customers and prevent reimbursement penalties. The Great Greeting also quickly builds patient trust, making for a better workplace, Quigley says, adding that patients soon simply call out, “Just come in, please. You are always welcome.” But a green mark is a green mark.

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