August 22, 2019

Take Defining Personalized Care — Listen to Understand


by Jill Clendening

Being a great listener is essential to being responsive and empathetic to others, and this month Vanderbilt University Medical Center employees are completing a new segment of a multi-year education initiative, Defining Personalized Care — Elevating Our Culture of Service, which focuses on sharpening our engaged listening skills.

“Listening is one of the most powerful communication tools we have, and being an engaged listener helps us build trust, show we care and create meaningful connections with others,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Health System Officer for VUMC. “Completing this service education and applying what is learned is an important way we can better deliver personalized care through exceptional service.”

Building on VUMC’s Mission, Credo and the Patient and Family Promise, the Defining Personalized Care — Elevating our Culture of Service initiative began in October 2018. Over the course of two years, a new segment will roll out approximately each quarter through the Learning Exchange.

“Listening effectively, as opposed to hearing, is a learned skill that will help us all better serve each other, our patients and their families,” said Cory Colton, executive director of HR Learning and Development. “We already have people across our Medical Center doing a great job with engaged listening, our hope is by sharing best practices on how to listen to understand, we will enhance our ability to deliver exceptional service to the person right in front of us.”

“Listen to Understand” was developed to look and feel like a smartphone app and takes about 10 minutes to complete. It incorporates scenes from movies, games and interactive exercises to make the learning fun and impactful in five distinct sections:

1) The Power of Listening reiterates the connection of engaged listening to word choice, body language and tone that was introduced in the first Communicate Effectively (Basics) segment. It also presents the concept of “sponge” listening and “trampoline” listening, where the key learning is that trampoline listening amplifies, energizes and clarifies communication.

2) Rate the Listening shows clips from movies and TV shows, which are then rated by learners. Communications tactics such as restating to ensure clarity and asking clarifying questions are covered.

3) Check Your Filters illustrates the idea that how we filter information changes how we understand a conversation. It introduces a tip to “stop” or “pause” before responding to consider distractions and other tactics to listen with empathy to fully understand the speaker’s message.

4) Boost Your Service uses short video scenarios to help us “listen up to level up” for exceptional service and specific tactics to reinforce engaged listening. It includes tactics such as expressing empathy to reduce stress and asking open-ended questions for clarity.

5) Leader and Participant Guides include resources to download with activities and fun exercises to promote discussion and reinforce key learnings. These items can be easily incorporated into team meetings and huddles and help promote discussion on how these concepts can be personalized to your area.

“Although we may think we are always great listeners, I believe we all can improve,” said Paul Sternberg Jr., MD, Chief Patient Experience Officer. “We are very proud that more than 80% of our institution has completed the Defining Personalized Care service education segments that we’ve already rolled out to employees. It tells us that these topics are important to all of us and we’re on this journey together.”

On Aug. 14, VUMC leaders received an email invitation from Dr. Pinson inviting them to complete “Defining Personalized Care: Listen to Understand.” Staff will be enrolled in the training on or around Aug. 21. The goal is for everyone to complete the 10-minute training by Oct. 31.