It’s easy to point out the wrong in health care. It’s all around us. Despite the brokeness, there are
dozens hundreds of processes and moments that do work well.
Praise is limited for the on-time surgery with appropriate and accurate “time-outs;” reconciled instrument counts; providers utilizing the just-in-time stocked supplies that took months to pare down without impacting patient outcomes and negotiating sustainable contracts; post-operative nurses who self-scheduled to improve their own satisfaction while curbing rising staffing costs; pharmacy technicians who verify drug counts remain consistent from shift to shift and unit to unit; health information management teams who adequately code and bill for procedures as they weed through hundreds of thousands of data points; lab team members that quickly, efficiently, and safely process pathology specimens as dozens of additional patient body fluids and tissues whiz through the system; leaders who make time for people despite the tug of tasks; and on and on.
Everyday health care has its awful moments. In no way am I trying to minimize healthcare errors; they’re catastrophic – even fatal – in our industry. Yet, for every one of those you-didn’t-do-this-right notifications, there are myriad more wow-that-worked-awesomely instances.
Gratitude is potent no matter the route. What’s important is that it’s actually administered.
Some days I feel like all I do is smooth things out with team members, patients, providers, collaborators. I joke with others that I have a leadership “spatula” – an off-set one – that smooths the rough and bumpy places like a baker icing a large sheet cake. It looks daunting, but after enough practice, it only takes a few strokes to make creases and imperfections disappear into goodness.
Still, there is a dichotomy to this sheet cake leadership. Many, many days I stir and disrupt those same groups – like forming peaks on a meringue pie – for the benefit of everyone involved in health care at the moment or the coming future. Yes, the pie is already fabulous, but it’s the golden peaks that really make a meringue pie spectacular. This skill, too, is equally daunting, yet it can be developed to flow just as easily and seamlessly as the sheet cake leadership version.
Both kinds of leadership are necessary for balance and a healthy and innovative team.
It’s a beautiful word. I use it a lot in health care – to talk about professionals in their work in addition to encouraging professionals as they learn. We live and work in an immediate culture. We have to have and do and be everything – all at once - now. It seems as though there is little to no time given to individuals to learn these days, and I mean this as an expectation from both the teacher/supervisor as well as the learner. We set unrealistic expectations of ourselves and demand that we know everything on day one.
I know because I am the same way.
I picked up a phrase, a philosophy, really, from my brother-in-law, a pastor, about a decade ago. He always used to say, “Give people grace to grow,” meaning we all make mistakes, and we all learn from our mistakes; allow people to have time to make mistakes and learn from them. This has deep spiritual meaning for me in the workplace – in health care – today, and I frequently tell this to team members as they are orienting or learning a new system or process. I whisper it to myself at times, as well.
Grace to grow. Grace to grow. Grace to grow.
Growth takes time; growth takes patience; growth takes grace. Provide your life with some space – some grace…to grow.
I have a nursing bias. I know that. I consider it a strength. Not everyone shares my thoughts, though. And that’s okay. Diversity of thought is a tremendous strength of any organization.
People I share numerous meetings with and those that know me best can pretty much guess what I’m going to say or ask…Where are the nurses on this committee?…How does this impact the nurses doing the care?…Have you asked any frontline nurses what they think of this?…Let me get back to you; I need to talk to the nurses…I see an administrative leader and a medical leader involved on this group; I strongly believe we need a nursing leader involved, too.
Being the lone nurse in the room a lot of times is difficult, but it’s a tremendous honor and responsibility. I’ll never quit advocating for nurses, no matter how uncomfortable it is at times. And uncomfortable it can most certainly become; I remind myself frequently that if I don’t speak up now, I’ll have to answer for it later by looking into the eyes of nurses and patients asking the very same questions that are running through my head.
We’re the ones putting hands on patients; we’re the backbone of the healthcare system; we’re worth advocating for.
Sundays are lovely days. They “refill my tank” in many ways – spiritually, emotionally, and physically. I seem to “catch up” on a lot of things on Sundays, with reading being one of those. If you’re looking for some interesting bite-sized readings today, here’s a little bit of what I’ve been filling my head with lately:
What about you? What caught your attention this week?
Slow. Slooow. Slooooooooooow. Like a snail moving-in-molasses-on-a-cold-day slow. It’s painful. Especially to those who are accustomed to quick movements, stealth flow, and instant responses. It’s almost unbearable. And, yes, for some, it’s definitively unbearable and they must move on to save themselves. Adapt or die. This is true for the brain, as well.
I get that. I understand it. I know the feeling. I like strategic, quick moves and results. I enjoy bouncing from completed initiative to completed initiative. I really love seeing a strategic plan for a project in retrospect, and I’m one of those people that tend to push others to accomplish what seem like unrealistic deadlines and goals within tenuous timeframes. Funny thing – people end up reaching those deadlines and goals and astounding themselves…but I digress…
There are times when stealth just won’t cut it. The “yesterday” deadline is [yawn] over-rated, and the only way success is measured is inch-by-oh-my-save-me-this-is-painful-inch and moment-by-Really?-I-feel-like-I’ve-been-at-this-forever-moment. On more than one occasion in my career, I have had to readjust my pace for the health and well-being of my team. Sometimes I slowed down, and other times my team acknowledged it was ready to pick up the pace. In all matters, the organization, the programs, the quality of patient care propelled forward. Fast or slow. Why?
Because progress is progress. While it can be mentally strenuous for leaders, sometimes slow and steady is necessary and ends up leap-frogging others who traveled at break-neck speed. “Haste makes waste,” anyone?
Have you ever lived this lesson?
Copyright ant.photos via Flickr