Budd Farley is a big believer in the power of conversation.
Farley, 62, is a patient transporter at M Health Fairview University of Minnesota Medical Center
. It’s his job to guide people to and from surgeries, appointments, scans, and procedures. Often, this means helping people with a wheelchair or IV pole as they navigate the hospital’s many hallways and elevators.
Along the way, Farley talks. He might quiz you about the Three Stooges, ask you about home, or tell you a story about his days playing in a band. It sounds like small talk, but to Farley and the patients he meets, these conversations are anything but ordinary.
“I meet people who might be in crisis and I’m gentle and helpful to them,” Farley said. “I’m not Patch Adams. I don’t think it’s going to change their life or anything, but I do think a conversation can take them from a place of despair to a place of feeling more normal.”
People like Farley are part of the “glue that holds the hospital together,” according to Kristi Nardiello, who helps supervise patient transport operations in the medical center. On any given day, the patient transport team fields 300 to 400 transport requests for hospitalized patients. A single transporter like Farley could take 20 or more assignments during a shift.
Most of those trips are only a few minutes long, but they can have a big impact on the people the transporter meets, according to Nardiello.
“Anybody can move a patient from point A to point B, but interaction with the person is the most important part,” Nardiello said. “I think it makes them feel safe and it makes them feel heard.”
Farley agrees. For years, he worked as a professional musician before becoming a graphic designer and then a role in IT sales. After several other stints in manual labor, Farley joined the medical center transporter staff six months ago because he was drawn to the emotional component of the job.
“I’m truly interested in trading a little space and time with people,” Farley said. “It’s not what you own, it’s not what you drive, it’s not how lavish you live. It’s the relationships you have.”
That philosophy is part of the reason Nardiello chose to hire Farley. The brief but heartfelt interactions that Farley and other transporters hold with patients are comforting for families, Nardiello added, but they also teach the patient and immediate families to be self-advocates.
“It can make [patients] feel more comfortable talking to a doctor or talking to a nurse,” Nardiello said.
Farley can’t help but draw comparisons to his work as a transporter and his work performing music.
“Musicians really do lift people’s hearts and souls,” Farley said. “If I could touch somebody’s soul with a song, well it’s the same thing here.”