In my estimation various elements of the industry are more divided than ever, and unless there is some way of re-integrating the various silos with common goals, incentives and values, we are in for some calamitous times.
Look around you: Physicians are not particularly happy and in many cases have opted to go their own way and compete with their former colleagues. Harried and tired hospital administrators are prematurely retiring just as they have gained invaluable experience and insight. Nurses are no less restive for myriad reasons. It shouldnt be this way. We should all be rallying together for the good of the patient.
Cunninghams column is entitled, A reason for living in the past: A better time. He starts by writing, I suppose the reason one spends less and less time, as the years go on, wondering about the future, and more and more time remembering the past is simply that one is increasingly aware of the fact that the future is a diminishing quantity and the past a constantly growing one. Young people dismiss us elders because, as they often tell us, were living in the past.
In the article, he goes on to bemoan what had happened to hospitals over the years he watched the industry. During most of the years that Ive been looking on, and into, the halls, rooms and offices, the hour-to-hour tasks were done with hands and heads guided by, or in any rate motivated by, an emotional tone that consisted of some combination of charity, generosity and love. This quality was felt the moment one entered the building, and it was especially evident on the patients floors, where it was transmitted to the patients by its principal messengers, the nurses.
One can still feel this quality in the hospital, especially if one is a patient on a floor where a gifted nurse is on duty. But the emotional tone of the entire hospital environment is notably different from what it used to be. Charity, generosity and love have lost ground to efficiency, systematization and speed.
Hospitals are hardly alone in this, he writes. Wherever one looks today, the milk of human kindness is curdled. In streets and stores and stations, the curt answer to the innocent question is standard practice. The shocking thing about finding it in hospitals is that human kindnesstender, loving careis the hospitals business, what the hospital is there to provide.
In a later paragraph Cunningham advises us, The basic cause of the change in our time is that hospitals today are no less profit-minded and profit-seeking than gas stations and department stores. The hospital business, however, is not just another business, and well keep on losing as long as we keep on pretending were something were not. Calling ourselves CEOs instead of hospital administrators comforted us and made us feel like big shots. But it didnt make us business big shots ... or even little shots, so we might as well go back to calling ourselves what we are, which is hospital administrators whose business is not business but healing sick bodies and comforting sick souls.
Ive talked to lots and lots of C-suite executives in this business over the years, and many would agree with Cunninghams sentiments. They feel as he did back in 1989 about what has happened to healthcare, but they have also had to face the realities of todays environment in order to keep their institutions viable. Reimbursement isnt what it used to be, and they also face the challenge of keeping up with new technologies and issues such as worker retention and unhappy physicians. Still, we seem to forget the honorable mission to heal the sick and tend to their psychological needs as well.
Go back to learn.