Relationship-Based Care and Oil Changes: A Lesson for Healthcare

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

By Susan Cline, MSN, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, Consultant at Creative Health Care Management

Last week I saw Relationship-Based Care in action, and I wasn’t in a hospital. Picture this, if you can. I took my truck for an oil change at Einstein’s Oilery in Boise, Idaho. I pulled up to the bay, and a young man in a shirt and tie, with neatly trimmed and combed hair, approached me saying, “Hi! I’m Mark! I’ll be taking care of you this morning. Please pull forward and stay in your car.” I stopped the car, put it in park, and turned off the engine. Mark approached the driver’s side window, and offered me a newspaper or an e-reader loaded with current magazines. I opted for the newspaper. Mark then offered me coffee or a soft drink and invited me to watch the television screen right next to my window. The split screen gave me four views of the work being done on my car. As the neatly-dressed staff ran around my car, they called out the work that was being done: “Two quarts of WD40 in!” The remaining team members then shouted, “Thank you! I appreciate you!” The guys continued to recognize and appreciate each other as they checked the fluids, changed the filters, and washed the windows. The energy was high, and I appreciated the great teamwork and big smiles. Mark, having finished his contributions to the work, came to my window and asked me friendly questions about my home, my work, and my family. He told me about his wife and new baby. When the work was finished, he reviewed all of the work that had been done on my truck, and reviewed possible current and future maintenance needs. He completed additional tasks at my request, and was absolutely respectful when I decided to wait on a few of the recommended services. As I pulled away, I was certain that this was the best oil change experience ever. In fact, I believe that this oil change was among the best customer service experiences that I have ever had.

Relationship-Based Care in Action

The young men at Einstein’s Oilery, without even being aware of it, are practicing Relationship-Based Care. They demonstrate self-care by bringing their best selves to the work, including smiles, polite and respectful behavior, and professional appearance. They care for each other by appreciating the contributions of their colleagues and publicly acknowledging their efforts. Finally, they care for their customers by making them comfortable, asking for their preferences, keeping them informed, and making a personal connection. This creates an experience where the customer is a person, worthy of making a connection, and more than just another car to service. I left Einstein’s Oilery feeling that I had been seen, heard, and valued.

What Relationship-Based Care Looks Like in Healthcare

Imagine, now, the power that practices like these might have in the healthcare setting. What if health care professionals consistently brought their best selves to the workplace, with high levels of expertise and professionalism, and an authentic interest in providing the best possible care? What if healthcare professionals consistently cared for each other, with respectful and appreciative behavior, in a manner that empowers everyone to be extraordinary? What if health care professionals consistently saw the person and not just the patient? What if they consistently developed therapeutic relationships with patients and families as the path to creating a healing environment? I whole-heartedly believe that if Einstein’s Oilery can do this for an oil change, we have a moral imperative to provide Relationship-Based Care for our patients and families.


Susan’s experiences as a Magnet® Program Director and front line manager have re-ignited her passion for her profession. As a consultant at Creative Health Care Management, her greatest joy is mentoring individuals, teams, and hospitals to develop their gifts in pursuit of a culture of excellence. Susan’s professional interests include mission and vision development, project management, and transformational leadership through effective communication in addition to the development of structures and processes to support a Magnet® journey. Susan can be contacted at

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