I have known and admired Erie Chapman, now the president and chief executive officer of Baptist Healing Hospital Trust in Nashville, for about 20 years. I have always been impressed by his intellect, candor and total commitment to the healthcare industry. He has strong beliefs about the way things should be, even if they don't always follow the prevailing winds in healthcare.
That isn't to say that Chapman is a maverick or a curmudgeon. Actually he is an optimist, even an idealist. What he has done is identify the way most top leaders in healthcare feel things should be but in most cases are not.
Chapman's ideals and thinking come about as a result of an incredibly diverse and dynamic career. He has served as a successful trial lawyer, night court judge, producer and host of an internationally syndicated television show, publisher of a healthcare magazine, newspaper columnist and radio talk show host. He also has been president and CEO of Riverside Hospital in Toledo, Ohio (at age 32); Riverside Methodist Hospital in Columbus, Ohio; and nine-hospital U.S. Health Corp. (now OhioHealth) in Columbus, before becoming chief operating officer of the publicly traded InPhyNet Medical Management Co., Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and Baptist Hospital System, Nashville. Chapman knows healthcare inside and out.
Did I mention he went back to school and earned a degree from the divinity school at Vanderbilt University, where he teaches on leadership? And he is also a poet, prize-winning photographer and music composer.
Now he has written a book that should be in the hands of every healthcare executive who truly believes in the core mission of taking care of others.
In the book, Radical Loving Care, Chapman discusses what he means by the concept of a "healing hospital." He challenges healthcare executives by writing, "The great unfinished business of healthcare is not curing, but healing. Most of America's healthcare leaders are living a lie. They are promising loving care to the public in mission statements and then making no meaningful effort to ensure that care is actually practiced.
"A healing hospital is about loving service to others. It is about recognizing something that has increasingly been forgotten amid the flood of complex technology and magic-bullet drugs that now dominate America's hospitals. It is about the compassion and skill that must accompany the use of this technology and these pharmaceuticals. And it is about the kind of leadership needed to support the underappreciated caregivers who staff America's hospitals."
One of the more poignant stories he uses as an example of a "radical loving care moment" in a hospital involves a housekeeper he observed cleaning a hallway. "Calls of confusion and anguish rise frequently from hospital rooms across America. They are often ignored. The staff are busy with other things."
In the example, a confused old man is calling out and begging for his absent daughter. "After a little while, as the man continues to cry out, the housekeeper does something very unusual. Instead of ignoring the call or waiting for a nurse to respond, she puts down her mop, walks into the old man's room and gently places his hand in hers. The old man calms down immediately and soon goes off to sleep. The housekeeper then returns to mopping the floor."
Something like that happens only when the CEO of the institution has created an environment in which a housekeeper would even think of making such a caring gesture to a confused and weak patient. After all, taking care of a patient's needs simply would not be in her job description, and I'm sure in many hospitals a housekeeper mopping the floors would be reluctant to offer this kind of help for fear she would be accused of interfering in patient care. But that is exactly Chapman's point-the patient should be everyone's focus.
Patients aren't just robots requiring a mechanical adjustment, he writes. "When people become patients, they are rapidly marginalized by the system. Patient gowns and IV lines seem to signal that the patient has now become something less than a full-fledged human. The hospitalized ill are often referred to with a variety of demeaning sobriquets such as the 'gall bladder in 5028' (a person with gall bladder disease) or the 'frequent flier' (a regular visitor to the emergency room) or the 'screamer' (a disoriented patient who groans a lot).
"I have heard every one of the above terms frequently in hospital settings. The use of terms like these not only marginalizes the ill person, but it seems to give caregivers the idea they can further degrade the patient by ignoring their requests and parking them for hours on steel gurneys in cold hallways."
I know what he means. I have experienced this kind of impersonal care in a hospital setting and it is something you will always remember because of the empty and helpless feeling you experience when you are treated as a number and not a human being.
Frankly, I couldn't begin to do justice to Erie Chapman's book (available at healinghospital.com). It is rich with examples of what a radical-loving-care hospital is all about, and it even gives a definitive road map on how to transform a hospital into a healing hospital that places the patient at the center of the system. Anyone who leads a healthcare organization of any kind should read this book.
Be a radical through caring,
360 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, Ill. 60601-3806
E-mail: [email protected]
Lauer is the author of two books, Reach for the Stars and Soar with the Eagles, and is an experienced guest lecturer available for public speaking engagements. For more information, visit www.chucklauer.com