Valet Supervisor Khadda El Bouazzaoui (right), with one of the hundreds of patients he helps each week, Miriam Mack

Tears began to fill Khadda El Bouazzaoui’s eyes as he reflected on a time when he stopped to pray with a patient’s wife who came to the Brigham to visit her husband.

El Bouazzaoui described it as a “small act of kindness” for a family he had gotten to know through his interactions with them as a Valet supervisor at the 75 Francis St. entrance. But in light of the stressful time they were going through, the gesture was exceptionally meaningful.

“I want to give hope to every patient and family member I encounter,” El Bouazzaoui said. “If I can take a minute out of my day to do something small that makes a big difference for someone else, that’s all that matters.”

Every day, staff at the Brigham who perform seemingly minor, often unnoticed acts like this make an enormous difference in the experience of our patients, their families and visitors.

“We are a community of helpers, and to see that warmth and empathy on display each day – in ways big and small – is one of my greatest privileges,” said Brigham Health President Betsy Nabel, MD. “Never underestimate the profound impact that a smile, kind word or a helping hand can have, especially on someone who is having a difficult day.”

The culture of kindness is not limited to patient interactions. Staff care for each other every day, too.

From left: Nurses Stephanie Andy, Sheila Broderick and Janice Childs display a positive-peer-feedback poster at 850 Boylston St. that encourages staff to “throw kindness like confetti” and recognize colleagues for everyday acts of kindness. The colorful dots, representing festive confetti, contain handwritten contributions from staff.

Earlier this week, hospital leadership, along with staff from Food Services, delivered hot chocolate to Valet staff during a frigid afternoon. Nabel, along with Ron M. Walls, MD, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Brigham Health; David McCready, senior vice president for Surgical, Procedural and Imaging Services, and Facilities and Operations; and George Player, CPE, FMA, vice president for Facilities and Operations, visited with Valet staff and thanked them for their hard work and dedication.

Over at the Endoscopy Center at 850 Boylston St., staff recently launched a positive-peer-feedback board to provide team members with an opportunity to give kudos to colleagues for the daily acts of kindness that co-workers display to each other.

‘Pass Along the Love’ 

Jacquie Williams, an Ambulatory phlebotomist, said she’s been practicing compassion her whole life: “It’s in my nature. It’s who I am.”

Without prompting, Williams stuck around after her shift to escort an older patient, who had been experiencing back pain, to the front desk after his appointment. She gently took the patient by the arm and walked him down the hallway.

“I see every patient as a human being first,” said Williams, who has worked at the Brigham for the last 15 years. “I pass along the love whenever and wherever I can, and hope others will pass that love along, too.”

Melanie Abdelnour, a patient at the Brigham for the past 18 years, knows firsthand how a personal interaction can significantly affect a patient’s well-being and overall experience. Abdelnour, who visits the Brigham weekly for treatment for cystic fibrosis and often wears a protective face mask, said patients like her can feel particularly isolated in the hustle and bustle of a busy hospital.

Patients notice and deeply appreciate when a staff member passing by on the Pike or elsewhere pauses to acknowledge to them, she said.

“Please don’t forget to give a smile or say hello to those who wear masks or oxygen cannulas or who are in a wheelchair,” Abdelnour said. “We have feelings, and, under our differences, we’re just like you.”

Reaching Out

Eileen Keough, an administrative assistant in Emergency Nursing, has always tried to perform small acts of kindness wherever she goes.

Keough remembers how her mother, who was a nurse, emphasized the importance of reaching out and helping others. A strong believer in the power of touch, Keough said she’ll often hold a patient’s hand or give them a warm blanket. She recalled one time when she held a patient’s hand and noticed he began to cry. “He appreciated that I recognized him and reached out to him,” Keough said.

Keough even keeps a stash of coloring books, crayons and colored pencils in her desk and will offer them to children who accompany their parents in the Emergency Department. She encourages BWHers to think of small ways like this to provide additional support for patients.

“It only takes a moment to make a difference,” Keough said.

Matthew Williams and Abby Argaw of Valet services are two more BWHers who understand the power of graciousness and hospitality.

Argaw, who works as a Valet cashier, said she’s shared both laughter and tears with patients over her 11 years of working at the Brigham. Understanding that patients and their families oftentimes experience many different emotions while inside the hospital, she strives to do what she can to make them feel better, whether it’s getting them a cup of coffee or giving them a hug.

Williams, who works at the 45 Francis St. entrance as a Valet supervisor, said he’s always trying to make a meaningful connection with patients and their families: “The people I meet and greet every day at the Brigham are an extension of my family,” he said.

Understanding that our valets are frequently the first people that patients and their families encounter at the Brigham, Williams said he always has a smile on his face when he’s at work.

“As soon as I open their car door and they step foot onto hospital property, I want patients and their families to know that no matter what life may bring, they are loved, valued and respected here,” he said. “At the end of the day, that’s what really matters.”

2 Responses to “It’s the Little Things: Small Acts of Kindness Have Big Impact at BWH”

  1. Lauren Averill

    I was greatly touched by your article about “Small Acts of Kindness” having a big impact at BWH. It has been several years that my daughter has had numerous trips to the Emergency Department and admitted as a patient at the Brigham each time. One of the bright moments of my daily trips to visit her has been the smile, hug and huge welcome shout , “Lauren!” when Khadda sees me arrive. During her last hospitalization this past weekend, I asked the Valet cashier for Khaddah’s name, since I had forgotten it and was embarrassed because he always remembered mine. She wrote it down on a piece of paper for me, and believe me, I will never forget it now. Thank you for the beautiful tribute to Khadda El Bouazzaoui, and other BWH employees with big hearts who pay it forward daily, and make a true difference in the lives of so many people.


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