Amongst the fascinating, moving, brilliant stories of health care workers in Ireland, that I have come across during my work on our ambitious Viral Change ™ programme in the Mid West of the country, stories of people doing extra-ordinary things, one I remember most was about an elderly man, who was in bad psychological shape and was incredibly restless. He just wanted to see his cattle after so many days being away. And he went on and on, progressively agitated.
Taking patients to see their cattle doesn’t figure in any nurse’s job description, including rural Ireland. Doing extra-ordinarily kind things is not an official requirement to being a nurse anywhere.
But that nurse took him to see his cattle, on her day off. And the patient was grateful, and calmer, and progressed very well.
There are hundreds and hundreds of these extra-ordinary acts of kindness that remain fairly invisible or just known locally, that we are uncovering. These small, unexpected, un-planned, un-budgeted, un-trained, un-written in job descriptions, acts of kindness, shape the culture every day. Because of the fragile side of our humanity, being at the centre of a health care system, is a part of our society that is a permanent laboratory of care, compassion, trust and learning, to use the four values of the Irish Health System.
Nurse Catriona McCarthy taking Mr Flynn to see his cattle on Catriona’s day off, did not make the headlines of the tabloids. It will never make those headlines. There is no interest here.
And when something like this sees the light, it is often in the form of an anecdote, an heroic one, a statistical anomaly that deserves airtime. But these things, as I have learnt, are far from a statistical anomaly. They are very frequent, yet they remain largely invisible.
The Values in Action movement in the Health care system in the Mid West of Ireland, powered by Viral Change™, is uncovering hundreds of them in the shaping of a behavioural fabric that will sustain a better health service. And I am extremely proud of being associated with this movement.
But I am particularly grateful to Mr Flynn for insisting on seeing his cattle. That led me to learn about Catriona. And, you know what, Catriona? You took me to see my cattle too. And I will sleep a bit better, reconciled a bit more with our human condition.