‘Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes…’ by @Rosgray

Ros G 1

I remember reading a paper a few years ago now that said (something along the lines of) when thinking about the strategic direction of your organisation, you can focus on customer needs and experience, or you can focus on staff needs and experience. It doesn’t matter which, as long as you focus on one, as the quality of the service you deliver will improve. You just need to focus!

As a staff member I get the point, and as someone who works for the public sector it also feels right to put our focus on the needs of our customers.

So there is a lot of conversation in health and social care just now about the concept of asking patients and others “What matters to you?”. It is generally agreed that it can help us understand their needs and maybe understanding of the position they find themselves in under our care. In some cases it has fundamentally redefined the way the service is delivered and often in ways that health care teams might never have dreamed possible.

Ros G 2The newest Scottish hospital has integrated a systematic approach to delivering ‘what matters to me’ for every patient…


But all this got me to thinking – if I was a patient today, what would I put on that board?

I have a small family, a daughter’s wedding imminent, I am an only child so no major significant others to accommodate, so I guess they would need to be on there.

But what else would I say?

Reflecting on a fairly recent hospital admission, I had great confidence in the clinicians (a given…) I wasn’t so confident about hand hygiene; I wasn’t eating much so I was really interested in getting hot soup…

Ros G 3So would my WMTM board say – that your hands are clean (and show me how); I like my soup hot; and ask me about my mother of the bride outfit?


But the important thing is that it would give us the opportunity to explore what was underneath those words and begin to consider the differences between asking ‘What’s the matter’ and ‘What matters’ and to understand the patients concerns and goals for clinical outcomes and managing life limiting, long term or indeed any conditions.

Ros G 4

Some say you absolutely cannot walk in someone else’s shoes. Our history makes us who we are; our perspectives, our successes and failures, our experiences. We cannot put ourselves in someone else’s position in exactly the same way, at best, we can be open, to listen and truly hear, to get more information and be better placed to understand and be prepared to do things in a different way.

And that can be tough.

It can be tough on us as professionals trying hard to deliver a service in increasingly challenging times.

But I suggest it might also be rewarding, bring back the reason we went into this kind of work in the first place, and make that work more enjoyable, knowing that we are engineering a different approach to care delivery that is focused on what matters to our patients. Delivering the care to them as we would the ones we love.

So let me leave you with time to reflect…

What would be on your ‘What Matters to Me’ board?

How will you develop ways to ask your patients about what matters to them?

And how will you use that information to deliver the service differently for them and others in the future?

Because that could be you and yours…

While I accept we cant walk exactly in someone else’s shoes, some of our healthcare colleagues in the USA have attempted to open our eyes a little with this short video.

‘Could a greater miracle take place than to look through each others eyes for an instant?’ Henry David Thoreau


Ros Gray is Head of the Early Years Collaborative for the Scottish Government

One thought on “‘Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes…’ by @Rosgray

  1. A great blog! We’re in the run up to a webinar on use of service user experience with speakers from across public services as a result of work from our health audit team (www.audit.wales/events/how-service-user-experience-can-improve-strategic-direction-and-services in case it’s of interest). I’ll share this with them. Cheers!

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