Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Giving Thanks

As we approach Thanksgiving, I am sure we are all most thankful for our families and friends, the loved ones who support us each day as we continue on life’s journey. However, for those of us in health care, I am sure that a close second on the list would be our thanks for being called into health care and the ability to serve those in need. However, as in any profession, our work has its share of clouds and sunshine—there are successes and failures, and there are opportunities and challenges. Those of us who work in health care, physicians, nurses, and all the support teams including the people who park our cars, cook our food and keep our patients’ records, we must demonstrate a continuous positive outlook and be resilient when challenges loom ahead.

How do we create this optimistic outlook and the ability to climb the highest mountains and run the most difficult marathons? First and foremost, we must celebrate our incremental victories.

As I have observed the health care industry for over the last 40 years, I have come to believe that health care improvement is never linear, but rather is incremental, with the slowest improvement seen in the earliest part of the initiative. Consequently, frustration can occur when we pause and evaluate just how little progress has been made over an extended period of time. But knowing that a tip-point will be reached when improvement will be accelerated gives one the ability to pause when each incremental improvement is made--however small--to celebrate what I have called the “incremental victory.” It is in this celebration, whether it be a mere thank-you note, an ice cream social, or a pizza party, that our Associates and physicians will find the energy to journey to the next success point on the improvement schedule.

Secondly, our resilience must come from reminding ourselves each day that we are doing sacred work. Our work is not necessarily sacred in the sense of religion, but sacred in the sense that every day, people turn their lives over to us. Knowing that people have put their most precious gift into our hands—the life of their child, mother, etc.— means to me that they must trust us explicitly. This knowledge should energize us and create in us a total commitment to our ministry and to ensuring that every miracle moment that we create for our patients and residents is of the highest quality possible.

Third, we should be creating for our Associates and our physicians the very best place in which to work. This means that we should be providing to the best of our ability, the latest equipment and knowledge to help them carry out their work as effectively and as efficiently as possible. But even more important, we must be hiring and retaining the right Associates and physicians—those who have a strong commitment to our mission, vision and values and who prioritize teamwork over individual performance.

Yes, this Thanksgiving is a time when we can express sincere thanks for being called into the health care profession. We are doing sacred work, we can create incremental victories and we can be a strong member of a team that ensures that the trust which our patients and their families place in us each day is well-deserved. And hopefully, they, too, will be giving thanks that when they needed help, they discovered CHRISTUS and its people.

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