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St. Luke’s McCall’s Sean McCallister: Care Through the Eyes of Our Patients

By Sean McCallister, News and Community
August 23, 2016

Sean McCallister is a newer addition to our St. Luke’s leadership team. He serves as the administrator for our St. Luke’s McCall hospital, and his perspective underscores just how important our work is. We are designing the healthcare system we want for ourselves, our family and our friends. Statistically, it is very likely that we or one of our family members will be treated by St. Luke’s. Clearly, this is not just a job for any of us – it is personal.

Here is Sean’s first guest appearance on the blog.

- David C. Pate, M.D., J.D.

Sean McCallister
Sean McCallister, St. Luke's McCall's site administrator

First and foremost, I want to express my gratitude for the opportunity to join St. Luke’s and to serve in McCall!

I came to Idaho from work in non-profit health care in Alaska, so I relate well to St. Luke’s resolute commitment to communities. Every day, teams of dedicated professionals animate our St. Luke’s mission to improve the health of people in our region.

I want to share some personal thoughts about seeing care through the eyes of our patients.     

Earlier this year, one of my sons needed an emergent appendectomy. My family and I are relatively healthy, so we’re not accustomed to accessing health care beyond routine checkups. You can imagine the range of emotions I felt, given that this emergency occurred while my wife was out of town.

Vulnerability, fear and worry flooded my mind. After years of managing hospitals, I was thrust into a paradigm shift – I experienced health care through the eyes of a patient, or in this case, a family member of a patient.   

Thankfully, my son’s procedure was successful and he was back to his resilient self in no time. He received state-of-the-art care and his caregivers treated us with compassion and respect from beginning to end.

I often reflect on that experience in my role as administrator in McCall. Since I don’t provide direct clinical care, it motivates me to ensure patients are at the center of everything we do. It influences how I approach hiring decisions, develop budgets, work with the local community board, prepare for our mySt.Luke’s electronic health records system, etc.

Ultimately, seeing care through the eyes of our patients requires objectivity and open-mindedness, important traits to apply in both our professional and personal lives.     

Empathy helps us understand the perspectives, needs and intentions of others. It’s a powerful phenomenon, but difficult to master, as it requires active listening, shared identity, putting a human face on suffering and creating connectedness with others.

How does empathy relate to us as a St. Luke’s team?

Given the complexity of providing health care in this modern and technology-driven era, patients might feel like objects or test subjects. They come from all walks of life, and experience varying degrees of suffering and pain.

In an empathetic culture, healthcare teams truly “tune in” to patients and families. We certainly strive to do so at St. Luke’s McCall by providing incredibly personalized care – I know, because patients often rave about it when I visit them. 

Developing empathy requires good communication skills. Research shows that effective communication improves patients’ emotional health, symptoms, physiologic responses and pain levels.

Within the communication process, listening is arguably most critical. All of us want and need to be genuinely listened to. Non-verbal listening cues, such as a warm smile, nodding and eye-to-eye contact, also go a long way.

Finally, we must approach and engage our patients and their family members without passing judgment, regardless of circumstances. Ultimately this means we desire and attempt to walk in someone else’s shoes.

St. Luke’s produced the following video several years ago. It shows many of the ways the St. Luke’s team keeps our patients at the center, and some of our many “whys” for working with our organization.

I challenge each of us to be empathetic in our personal and professional lives. Doing so will foster more meaningful relationships and positively impact our patients and their families. Let’s create an epidemic of empathy!  

About The Author

Sean McCallister was formerly the site administrator of St. Luke's McCall.