Difficult Conversations Podcast
Lessons I Learned as an ICU Physician
Episode 102 | August 4, 2020
I'm Here - Communication and the Patient Experience
Author, Healthcare Speaker, CPXP
The two most compassionate words any human being can say to another person is “I’m here.” Today’s episode is a story of tragedy, triumph, and success. My special guest is Marcus Engel, who was hit by a drunk driver, every bone in his face crushed, has permanent and total sight loss in both eyes, and endured over 300 hours of reconstructive facial surgery. Yet today, he is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Notre Dame, author of three books, certified patient experience professional, and certified speaking professional.
Marcus takes us through his uplifting journey from the beginning. It starts in 1993, as a college student driving back from a hockey game with friends when the accident happened and what has transpired throughout his life and career. There are two women he encounters in the hospital that forever changed his life. The first one is a Patient Care Tech, named Jennifer, who held his hand when he first arrived at the hospital. The other one is Barb, his first ICU nurse after his very first 25-hour major facial reconstruction surgery. Both of these women said special words to him that was so genuine and humble, and these words deeply impacted his life and helped him realize that simple human presence is the cornerstone of caregiving and it’s the foundation of our humanity. Amazingly, two decades later, after speaking at the Barnes-Jewish Hospital, he finally got to meet Jennifer, hold hands with her and thank her, at the very hospital that saved his life. There are more stories to be told. If you’re looking for some extraordinary, uplifting inspiration today, download this episode now!
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Marcus Engel (3s):
It was just the bare-bones type of information. That was all I could really take. But what was even more
important was that as she held my hand, Jennifer just kept repeating the two lowest compassionate words
that I feel any human being can say to another. And those words are here. She held my hand and she just
kept saying over and over Marcus I’m here.
Welcome to difficult conversations lessons I learned as an ICU physician with Dr. Anthony Orsini. Dr. Orsini
is a practicing physician and president and CEO of the Orsini wet as a frequent keynote speaker and author.
Dr. Orsini has been training healthcare professionals and business leaders. How to navigate through the
most difficult dialogue each week, you will hear inspiring interviews with experts in their field who tell their
story and provide practical advice on how to effectively communicate whether you are a doctor faced with
giving a patient bad news, a business leader who wants to get the most out of his or her team members or
someone who just wants to learn to communicate better t his is the podcast for you.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (1m 10s):
Well, welcome everyone. This is Dr. Anthony Orsini, Welcome to difficult conversations. Lessons I learned
as an ICU physician today is a very special day because I get interviewed one of the most amazing people
that I’ve ever met. His story is one of tragedy, triumph, and success. And I promise you, by the end of this
podcast, you will truly be inspired. But just as importantly, whether you’re a healthcare professional or a
patient, you’ll have a whole new perspective on what healthcare should be all about.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (1m 42s):
And what patient experience really is through my years of teaching communication techniques to healthcare
professionals, I of course, had heard about Marcus, this story and the great work he was doing. So when a
mutual friend told me, I think about three years ago that she knew Marcus, I immediately jumped at the
chance to meet him. We talked on the phone for awhile and I was honored, but Mark has accepted my
invitation to attend one of my patient experience workshops right here in Orlando. And I got to say, I was a
little nervous speaking in front of someone with Marcus, his reputation, but let’s talk more about Marcus as a
professional speaker and author Marcus angle is considered an expert in communicating the patient’s
perspective and inspiring healthcare professionals towards excellence.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (2m 24s):
Marcus speaks from personal experience like few others can, after being blinded and suffering catastrophic
injuries at the hands of a drunk driver, he endured years of hospitalizations, rehab and recovery blending,
personal narratives with evidence-based research. Marcus helps put an unforgettable name and face to the
patient experience movement. Martin’s holds a BS in sociology from Missouri state university and a master’s
in narrative medicine from Columbia University. He is currently an adjunct faculty member at the University of
Dr. Anthony Orsini (2m 55s):
Marcus has authored four amazing books, which are being used by scores of nursing schools, med
students, and allied health care programs to teach strategies for excellent patient care. He’s also a certified
patient experience professional through the Beryl Institute and certified speaking professional through the
national speakers association and in 2017, the Philadelphia college of osteopathic medicine, awarded
markers and honorary doctorate for his contributions in the field of healthcare Marcus lives in Orlando, right
near me with his wife and his seeing eye dog Elliot.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (3m 29s):
Well welcome Marcus. Thank you so much for coming on.
Marcus Engel (3m 32s):
Thanks for having me, Dr. Orsini and thanks for all of the incredible work that you’re doing in the realms of
patient experience too. Thank you. I didn’t know that you received an honorary doctorate from the
Philadelphia college of osteopathic medicine. I don’t know if you’re aware. That’s my Alma mater. Excellent,
wonderful. Yeah. This was actually the branch that is in Georgia, but still part of the same college. Yeah.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (3m 53s):
You know, as I got into the communication world and training doctors on communicating and patient
experience, I started to really think about my time at PCOM because PCOM, even back then when it wasn’t
the most popular thing, really pushed compassion to medicine. I mean, osteopathic medicine does that as
you know, but I didn’t realize when I was learning it, but I think it really shaped who I am now today, and it’s a
very special place. So when I saw that, when I was doing my research and I saw that, I thought, wow, what a
Dr. Anthony Orsini (4m 24s):
That’s really great. So if you don’t mind, I think, you know, I know so much about your story and so
many people do. I really would like to start off with you just telling everyone out there, your amazing story of
tragedy and triumph. And then afterward, I’d like to, you know, this is about difficult conversations and no
one’s had more than you and your book is so insightful of how those conversations can affect you both in a
positive, negative way. So if you don’t mind, you just tell your story. I think it’s an amazing story. And I want
everyone to hear it.
Marcus Engel (4m 55s):
I’ll give you the cliff notes version. And currently I’m 45 years old. I grew up in st. Louis, Missouri actually
grew up in Ferguson, Missouri for the first 10 years of life. And then what I, my parents moved to the rural
farm land of Missouri, where I really consider my hometown to be high Hill Missouri, nice little wide spot in
the road with a population of less than 200 now. And I grew up a typical red blooded American Midwest kid. I
was in all the high school activities, played football national honor society.
Marcus Engel (5m 30s):
And I decided that I wanted a big college experience in contrast the small town that I grown up in went to
Missouri state university and six weeks into my freshman year of college. I came home for the weekend. It
was my first weekend home from college. And on Saturday night, I drove into st. Louis to meet up with three
friends who were also all 17 and 18 years old. We ended up going to a st Louis blues hockey game.
Marcus Engel (6m 2s):
That night had a great time at the game. And on our way home from that game, our car was struck
broadside by another car. This is at an intersection in South st. Louis. There were four people in the car that
I was riding in. I was riding shotgun, front passenger seat, and the car that struck us hit directly where I was
sitting. So there was just a piece of thin Toyota metal between 50, 60 miles an hour.
Marcus Engel (6m 32s):
And my self not only did that crash, crushed every bone in my face, I’ll afford three fracture, but also caused
permanent and total sight loss and both arms. I can remember laying in the street. I can remember, you
know, just the most enormous pain. I think any person could experience having all the bones in my face
crushed. And I remember laying in the street and not being able to see, but I, I just thought it was because I
had been knocked for a loop.
Marcus Engel (7m 6s):
I didn’t realize that that was permanent blindness. Luckily that crash site was only maybe two or three miles
away from a level one trauma center at Barnes Jewish hospital, Washington university’s med school. And
they pulled me into the emergency room that night. And that started my journey to recovery, which as you
stated was extensive, it was long, it was detailed. It was painful, not only the physical recovery and literally
hundreds of hours of surgery, but then also the adaptations to a totally new way of being a totally new life
Dr. Anthony Orsini (7m 49s):
That’s quite a story and your books, and we’ll talk about them later on, but your books really detail your
journey. And it’s really amazing. You have some practical, really advice that we’ll get into later on. I also saw
a while back something that happened to you. So your accident was in 1993, correct? Correct. Yeah. So
there’s something that happened to you in 2013 with meeting someone. And I wonder if you would share that
story because that’s also amazing story.
Marcus Engel (8m 20s):
Sure. So as you can probably imagine that night that they rolled me into the emergency department, my life
was hanging by a thread. I had been cracked in the street by paramedics. That’s how extensive the facial
damage was. And you know, they pull me into the emergency room. I remember just little bits and pieces
about that. First night. I remember pain. I remember darkness. I remember terror, but what I remember the
most was the fact that there was a female who held my hand the whole night in the emergency room.
Marcus Engel (8m 56s):
And she would just, every time she could tell I was conscious, she would say, Marcus, my name is Jennifer.
You were in a car accident, you’re in the hospital. And it was just the bare bones type of information. That
was all I could really take. But what was even more important was that as she held my hand, Jennifer just
kept repeating the two most compassionate words that I feel any human being can say to another. And
those words are I’m here.
Marcus Engel (9m 27s):
She held my hand and she just kept saying over and over Marcus, I’m here, I’m here. And I have been going
around the country for the last gosh, at least 15 closer to 20 years talking about the experience that brief
encounter with Jennifer and I, gosh, I’ve written books. One of my books is called I’m here, compassionate
communication and patient care. But the truth of the matter is after that night in the emergency room, I never
knew anything of Jennifer.
Marcus Engel (9m 58s):
Again, I’ve never known her last name. I’ve never known her title or her physician in the emergency room.
Even my close friends and family had to ask the question, you know, was Jennifer even real? And there’s
every chance I could have hallucinated her that. So in 2013, I just graduated from Columbia’s narrative
medicine master’s program. I was continuing to speak around the country and I got the invitation from the
very hospital that saved my life Barnes Jewish hospital in st.
Marcus Engel (10m 33s):
Louis. And while I was there keynoting for their patient experience efforts, I had my mind absolutely blown
when I got done giving a keynote speech and the director of the patient experience department came up to
the front and she said, Marcus, we’ve got a surprise for you. We found Jennifer. And first time in two
decades, I finally got to hold her hands again.
Marcus Engel (11m 3s):
I finally got to say, thank you. And I finally got to learn the other bits and pieces that I didn’t remember. And I
learned that at the time Jennifer held my hand. She was just 20 years old, just year and a half older than me.
And she was a patient care tech in the emergency room. And today I’m just honored that I can call her. My
friend and Jennifer has gone from being a patient care tech at 20 years old in st.
Marcus Engel (11m 33s):
Louis till just a year or two ago, she accepted her first job as a chief nursing officer of a 500 bed hospital in
Nashville, Tennessee. Fantastic. Wow. It’s amazing. The lies that have been laid out over the years. So
that’s a great starting point. I’m here. And when I Talk about difficult conversations and I’ll talk about my book
in a second, but we talk about difficult conversations. I was listening to an old video of dr.
Marcus Engel (12m 4s):
Rabbi Cushner. I’m sure you might know. He is the person who wrote what bad things happen to good
people. And his story is that he had a child who had a disease called progeria, and he’d found that his child
was going to die very young. And he talks about something called the bushes effect, which means he said
his neighbors didn’t know what to say. So when he drove home, after he had had the bad news, his
neighbors would jump in the bushes because they didn’t know what to say to him. And his answer to just
say, you’re sorry. And then shut up is what he said.
Marcus Engel (12m 35s):
But a lot of people don’t know what to say. And this young woman who was only 20 years old, had to have a
very difficult conversation. And all she said was I’m here. And that changed how you felt. And so the point is
conversation doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be complicated, just has to be done with
Dr. Anthony Orsini (12m 58s):
And I’m guessing that you felt that compassionate in her voice
Marcus Engel (13m 1s):
When she said that, certainly, certainly. And holding a hand. I know that we’re in COVID times right now, the
idea of shaking hands, much less holding hands is a little not acceptable, but boy, just holding a person’s
hand during such a tragic time of their life. It communicates as much as words can. And I always say that
that I’m here. Those are the two most compassionate words that any human being can say to another
because it can’t change anything, but it means that I am willing and able to sit with you in your suffering and
just be present.
Marcus Engel (13m 42s):
Just give you the gift and the magic of simple human presence.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (13m 48s):
Exactly. And exactly what you said is just saying that I’m here and being there. And when I train physicians
and nurses on how to provide a better patient experience, how to be more compassionate, I tell them, start
by sitting down and show them that I’m not in a rush. And you’re the most important person there. I want to
share something with you personally, if you don’t mind, I saw you, I think two years ago at the Berlin Institute,
you probably don’t remember, but I mentioned to you, Marcus, I’ve been writing this book for three years.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (14m 24s):
I have both of your books, but I’m really afraid to read them because I don’t, I don’t want to accidentally have
any of those things in my mind. And so my teaching and communication to physicians and compassion pain
from years of research and I interviewed probably almost a hundred patients about death and dying and their
experience, et cetera. And so took me few years to write the book. The book came out in March, it was
published. It’s called it’s in the delivery, improving healthcare, starting with a single conversation.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (14m 55s):
And you were at my workshop that the book is based on and I’m giving it from a physician’s point of view, not
from a patient’s point of view. Although I got it from patients, I read your book for the first time a few weeks
ago, the one I read to them, the other end of the stethoscope and I’m here, and my wife came into the room
and I gotta be honest with you. I was choked up crying and she said, what what’s going on?
Dr. Anthony Orsini (15m 28s):
And a lot of what you said in that book is what I teach. And I actually got choked up because it validated
what I was teaching. And I wanted to just share that with you, that I felt, thank God I’m teaching it the right
way because Mark has lived it. And I just want you to know how much that meant to me. I was really moved.
I’m like, thank God I got it. Right. I’ve been teaching the right stuff.
Marcus Engel (15m 55s):
You’re sharing that. And thank you for reading my stuff too. I always try to come at this from the angle of
what we’re talking about with communication. It’s not rocket science, but it does take being vulnerable and
intentional in your communication. And Jennifer was very much that way to me that first night. And as you
bred, I had many other caregivers who I don’t want to say that they would humble themselves, but to a
certain extent they would, because they would move into a place of vulnerability with me to let me express
what I needed to express and then not to take it personally.
Marcus Engel (16m 36s):
I’m not a clinician, but I feel like a lot of times with clinicians, we have to come back to the idea that this
individual is hurting, right. There are patient and sometimes hurting people, hurt people. And I very much
hurt many of my physicians mentally and emotionally. And you know, the day that the ophthalmologist told
me that I would never see again, I wanted to hurt them physically. And that was a difficult conversation. And
maybe that’s a, that’s a good jumping off point for us.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (17m 8s):
Yeah. I try to tell physicians when I speak about that, what the terms that the phrase I use is it’s not about
you, if that, and you spoke about it in your book, if that patient needs to yell at you now, as you know, I’m a
neonatologist, so my patients don’t speak, but the parents do. And it’s the same thing. And if a parent needs
to yell at you and scream at you, and that’s the way that they can get through this, take that on, on your
shoulders and think of it as a gift. There’s no reason to take it personally, or your concept of one, a couple of
the other things that you were just discussing is how people humble themselves or the people that you were
Dr. Anthony Orsini (17m 44s):
I call that being genuine. Don’t be just the doctor. Be Dr. Orsini who likes the New York Yankees and is also
treats me like a person and sitting down. I want to talk about the person in your life named Barb that you
speak about, because I think she epitomized to me from the book being genuine and being a person. Can
you speak a little bit about her?
Marcus Engel (18m 7s):
Sure. So Barb is a nurse for life. Barb was an ICU nurse and after my first major facial reconstruction, that
was a surgery that took 25 hours. I was put into the ICU post-op and Barb was my first nurse post-op and it
was also about, you know, that was, I don’t know, 10 days or two weeks after the trauma. So I was kind of
starting to come out of the fog of pain and morphine and loss and all that.
Marcus Engel (18m 41s):
And I remember my very first conversation with Barb. She set the tone for the rest of my hospitalization, just
with the way that she communicated. And you have to keep in mind at this point in time when Barb was
communicating with me, I’m TRAPed. So I have to write everything out on a pad of paper, but Barb came up
to me in my room. She shook my hand as if there was nothing wrong with me. As if every day she’s taking
care of patients that just went through 25 hour facial reconstruction, she introduced herself and she said, my
name is Barb.
Marcus Engel (19m 19s):
I’m a nurse here in the ICU, and I get to take care of you for the next eight hours. And when she said that
word, I get to take care of you. It really laid out the foundation of this person when we get to do something
right, we’re, we’re fortunate. We’re lucky, we’re privileged. And by Barb using that little three letter word, it
showed me that she actually wanted to be there invested and intentional taking care of me.
Marcus Engel (19m 51s):
Barb also asked me questions about previous surgeries that were not really relevant to why I was in the
hospital now, but it showed a genuine, as you said, genuine deep humanity for wanting to know this patient
as a person, not just a room number, not just a diagnosis or prognosis, not just as a procedure, but as a
human being, I fully functioning human being. And one of the things that are did as well, she asked me, what
do you want me to call you in that first conversation?
Marcus Engel (20m 26s):
What you want me to call you now, even a Barb could pick up the chart at the end of my bed and read it.
She didn’t. She asked that question, what do you want me to call you? Do you want to be called Marcus or
Mark? So she wasn’t just seen that, Oh, this is a three patient. She’s actually getting down to the
personal human connections that I have preferences and opinions and likes and dislikes, just like any other
human being would. And by her asking you that question, what do you want me to call you?
Marcus Engel (20m 57s):
It really showed me that she thought of me as a human bar became, she was my primary nurse over the
next several weeks of hospitalization. I was initially hospitalized for about six weeks and then back and forth
once or twice a month for more surgery for the next year. Barb just retired last year, after 42 years, working
on the same floor at the same hospital, that big rarity and anyone who knows Barb knows just what a
fantastic person she is.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (21m 34s):
That’s a great story. And you know, one word can change something, right? So I talk about that all the time.
So she said, I get to take care of you. You notice that. And I think as physicians from the other end or nurses,
can we get task oriented, right? We just, we get moving. We forget. We also, aren’t very educated on
communication and we don’t understand how one word makes a difference for decades. Many, many years,
I was taught because that’s the way everybody else introduce themselves.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (22m 4s):
As I’m Dr. Orsini, I’m one of the pediatricians. And when I did my interviews with dozens of family members,
more and more of them said to me, when you say you’re one of it kind of means like you’re not really taking
any responsibility for me. And I’d love to hear your comment on that. When you say I’m the pediatrician,
who’s in charge of your child today, all of a sudden they’re relaxed. I have a face of someone and a voice of
someone who’s taken responsibility.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (22m 36s):
And interestingly enough, we did a little poll and I asked parents what makes you more comfortable? I’m one
of the pediatricians, or I am the intern. Now, most of the parents knew that interns are right out of med
school. They don’t know anything. Right. They actually felt more comfortable with the intern just by changing
that word. And I said, you know that they don’t know anything. Right. And they said, yes, but that’s my
Marcus Engel (22m 60s):
Yeah. Yeah. Taking ownership, right? They feel a bit of ownership over the situation. I would say, especially
in pediatrics. Now you have to keep in mind. I was a bit of a different patient because I was just five months
past my 18th birthday. So I was on an adult floor while my friend who was driving in the car, went to a paeds
floor near opioids. And I’ve always found that kind of, I was walking that line between adulthood and
childhood, but my parents certainly needed that comfort to know that this was dr.
Marcus Engel (23m 34s):
Jones. He is Marcus’s plastic surgeon. He’s not a team member. He is the guy. He is the guy. And I feel like
when parents are in such a difficult time of having a child hospitalized much less hospitalized in the ICU, you
have no control. Right? You realize how little control that you have and how much you have to trust in the
physicians and the surgeons, and then in the care team and just in the process itself.
Marcus Engel (24m 6s):
But whenever you can build that trust in where parents feel a little bit of control, I think that’s giving them a
great gift when everything seems so out of their ability to control anything.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (24m 21s):
Exactly. And that is part of the patient experience, knowing that this person nowadays we’re in medicine is so
sub-specialized, you know, you have how many doctors, my goodness, I can’t even imagine how many
doctors you had, but you need kind of a captain of the ship, right? You need somebody to know that’s my
doctor. And sometimes people don’t know who their main doctor is. And it’s important for them to know that
as physicians. And you know, when I say that the physicians, they go, wow, that sounds great. I’m going to
use the from now on. But it comes back from 20 years ago. We, as physicians were taught to be, act like a
Marcus Engel (24m 54s):
And that’s important too, but you can do both, right? You can say I’m in charge of your care and act as a
team. But back to your book, when you give some practical advice, one of the advice you give you talk about
you’re in the best place and that’s teamwork. I’d like you to talk about that. Sure. So that’s a Barb story too,
that when she asked me, you know, Marcus, this is at our first introduction, you know, I’m still coming out of
the recovery room. I’m still very, very doped up. And she asked me about if I had had any previous surgeries
before this terrible car accident.
Marcus Engel (25m 30s):
And I wrote out on my pad of paper, yes. Why is I’ve had hernia surgery? And she said, Oh, okay. Well,
made conversation, ask where those surgeries were done. What was the hospital? And I told her, and she
said, well, you know, that hospital is a great hospital. She said that now, Marcus, you need to know that you
are in the best hospital. And she went down the list of just a few different accolades and awards and
recognition that the hospital had received.
Marcus Engel (26m 3s):
And what does that say to the patient? It tells the patient that they’re in good hands, that they’re in a quality
competent facility that has been recognized for its quality and competency. I think it’s not only important to
build that amount of trust that the caregivers that are going to be laying hands on the patient are quality, but
also that the entire facility is trustworthy and has been recognized or how well they do things.
Marcus Engel (26m 35s):
I think that’s a really good way that clinicians can help patients and families feel more secure in the patient’s
Dr. Anthony Orsini (26m 46s):
Yeah. I mean, I think that’s really important. I go out of my way to tell the parents two things. One is I’m going
to treat your child as if she were my own boop and you see their shoulders kind of drop a little bit with
relinquish. And the other thing is, if this were my baby, this is where I’d want him to be. And I think that’s so
important because no one wants to be in a hospital. That’s not the best. Right. So you don’t want to hear
that. I want to talk about one more thing from your book and then get some advice from you because it
Dr. Anthony Orsini (27m 16s):
And I love this title of this chapter. Screw your policy because I talk about that all the time. And just a little bit
about that. I really want to hear what you have to say about that.
Marcus Engel (27m 27s):
So screw your policy, boy, that came from a night that, okay. So my university ride started off at college was
three hours away from st. Louis, where I was in the hospital. And I had several of my best friends from high
school had also gone to another state university that was two or three hours away from my hospital room.
And as you know, college kids don’t always keep normal businessman’s hours. So my friends showed up at
nine o’clock at night.
Marcus Engel (27m 59s):
And this, you know, this is back in the early nineties when there was a lot more restriction on the visiting
hours and how many people can be in the room, et cetera, et cetera. And I remember having one of my
clinicians or caregivers said that my friends, they just arrived. They didn’t get there until nine o’clock at night,
visiting hours stop at 10. And they wanted to shoe my friends out of the room. They wanted them to leave.
And gosh, especially you think about from a teenager’s perspective, their friendships are, you know, the
most important thing to them, friendships and relationships with peers and I, I was hold well, it’s a hospital
policy that visiting hours end at 9:00 PM.
Marcus Engel (28m 47s):
And I remember saying, screw that policy. I want my friends to stay. And where was the teaching point in this
is that clinician actually let my friends stay. After hours provided that we were quiet and we kept the door
closed, didn’t interrupt in it, or, you know, bother any other patients. It made it feel very personal to me that
the clinician could take into account. This is not a normal situation. They looked at it as an individualized
personal situation, and then they acted accordingly so that there isn’t a, they weren’t necessarily following
the rules, but they were helping bend the rules for the benefit of the patient, which I think when we’re
benefiting our patients and families, that’s ultimately what we’re there to do, right?
Marcus Engel (29m 37s):
That’s ultimately what clinicians and care teams are there to do. I, and I always say that
Dr. Anthony Orsini (29m 42s):
Words, policy and rules should really be avoided as much as possible we can. And when you do bend the
policy or bend the rules, it goes a long way. I’ll share a quick story with you. When I moved to Orlando, my
inlaws were both in their upper eighties. They came to visit me and for no fault of my own, they both ended
up being hospitalized within the first week. My mother-in-law had congestive heart failure. My father in law
fell and hurt his knee. They were both in the hospital at my hospital at the same time. So my brother in laws
were called, what did you do to my parents?
Dr. Anthony Orsini (30m 15s):
I’m like, I swear I didn’t do anything. But so my mother is on the 10th floor and she’s in the cardiac unit. My
father goes downstairs and he’s an orthopedics. And the one of the nurses came in. It was, she was in
charge and I was doing around and she knows that my father in law was very sad, even though he’s kind of
always generally happy person. And she asked him and he said, well, to be honest with you, today’s my, I
don’t know, 50th anniversary. And it’s the first anniversary. I’m not going to scream at my wife. And she
spoke to him a little bit.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (30m 45s):
Didn’t really say much. And then about 10 minutes later, an orderly came in and when the wheelchair, and
he said, you know, cardiac units, not supposed to have any visitors, but I have been instructed to take you
down to the gift shop. And he grabbed his wallet. He bought a Rose and he brought her up for 15 minutes to
be with his wife. Well, it does not matter from that point on, it did not matter if anything went wrong with the
hospitalization, they could have forgotten to feed him for days, no matter what happened.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (31m 19s):
My hospital was the greatest hospital in the world to him because somebody took a moment just to do
something extra. And so breaking that policy, I think just having your friends visit probably meant the world to
Marcus Engel (31m 31s):
Yeah, absolutely. Again, anytime it’s a, a patient’s needs can be looked at individualistically and personally
you’re going to make such a great impression with patients and families.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (31m 43s):
Yeah. That’s just great advice. So in closing, being such a patient experience person, and I want this too,
you’re such an expert on it. I’d like you to go and speak to both dot both clinicians and to patients and what
made I’m putting on the spot. What’s just a few sentences of advice that you can give to physicians, nurses
first about how they can make being in the hospital as least horrible.
Marcus Engel (32m 10s):
I always say, and this is something that I teach my students at Notre Dame to my premeds, that human
presence, simple human presence is the cornerstone of caregiving. And you can convey that presence with
those words I’m here, but you can also convey that this is the, it’s not just the cornerstone of caregiving
presence is the, it’s the foundation of our humanity. So whenever you’re using those words, I’m here with
Marcus Engel (32m 43s):
You’re not just speaking compassionately. You’re speaking to them, human being to human beings. I just
always love for clinicians to remember that, Hey, you’re in the hospital, you’re in the assisted living facility or
in the rehab center. It may be an average day on the job for you. It’s just the Tuesday, but it could very well
be the worst day of that patient’s life. I literally keep that in mind that we have the opportunity to provide
compassionate, personalized care on the worst day of someone’s life.
Marcus Engel (33m 19s):
I hope that keeps us more aligned with our personal mission, visions and values to, to be the best, most
quality, compassionate caregivers that we can be. Patients. Boy, what is my advice for patients? Do what the
doctors say? Let the doctors say, I always want patients to, to remember that they are the focus. They are
the focus, but it does have to be mutual effort of clinicians and the patient working towards the same goal.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (33m 52s):
So sometimes I think patients get the idea of, well, I’ll lay here and you guys will fix me. You, clinicians, will fix
me, but there has to be some forward motion in the patients. I don’t want to say their treatment of him or
herself, but in their care process to where they’re putting one foot in front of the other to get better. That’s
great advice. So, well, I can talk to you all day long, but you’re a busy man. And I just want to thank you
again for coming on this podcast, taking the time out of your busy schedule.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (34m 25s):
It was really truly an honor. If you want to book Marcus to speak or get in touch with him in any way, or you
could reach email@example.com and that’s E N G E L, just to be clear and his books are still available.
If you enjoyed this podcast, please hit the subscribe button, leave a review. Reviews are really important to
get the word out. And if you’d like more information about your senior way and communication training, or
you’d like email me personally, visit me at dot com. If there’s a topic that you’re interested or you
want to nominate someone for this podcast, please let me know.
Dr. Anthony Orsini (34m 58s):
And finally, if you want to learn more about communication, remember my book just came out in March.
Marcus. I’m going to, if you send me your address, I’ll be happy to send you one. The book is called it’s all in
the delivery, improving healthcare, starting with this single conversation. And you can get that on Amazon
Kindle and Apple books. Thank you, Marcus. And thank you for all you do, and for being such an inspiration
to me and everybody else. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me and, and continued success when
bringing this notion of compassionate communication
Marcus Engel (35m 27s):
To all clinicians. Thank you. And I hope to work with you soon. That was great. Thank you.
Announcer (35m 32s):
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Dr. Anthony Orsini