The Centrality of the Patient

I had the opportunity to interview a young man from India today. He has been at St. Francis Medical Center for many months, serving as an intern for our performance improvement team. As the interview came to a close, we began to talk about his experience here. He had many nice things to say about how welcoming our organization was to him, how impressed he was about our desire to do better, and he was thankful for the opportunity to be with us.

This is a bright young man. He is working on his Master’s degree in engineering. He plans to go on to get an MBA. He would like to move into healthcare administration.

As we finished off the interview, he reflected on what was the most important lesson he learned while he was here. Without hesitation he stated, “The passion for the best patient care is inspiring.” When I came here, he said, he was interested in experiencing health care. As a result of his exposure to our work, our passion for the best patient care, he now wants to invest his life and career in health care. We converted him.

The interview reminded me of a central truth; a truth that unites us – nursing, physicians, administrators, clinicians, technologists, ancillary staff – all of us. This truth is our passion to provide the best care to patients. Each of our professions and disciplines brings a valuable and necessary skill set that is leveraged for the benefit of the patient. Everyone has value, everyone has a different role, and all of us have the same goal.

If we remember this, much misunderstanding, cynicism, and conflict will fall to the wayside, and we don’t need spend a great deal of time or energy questioning other people’s motives. When we face problems, trying to improve our care, we don’t need to make our analysis about people, we can focus on processes.

As we move into new models of healthcare delivery, the role and responsibility of the physician will expand. We’ve always needed to be clinically astute, but the future will demand clinical acumen and systems thinking. We need to work with our patients to prevent and help them recover from illness and be able to diagnose and treat sick systems of care which may harm or deter recovery from our clinical interventions. The exceptional physician of the future will fully recognize the value of all those involved in the care delivered to patients and contribute towards developing, sustaining, and fixing processes that support their clinical actions.

Our common passion for the best patient care serves to bridge disciplines and silos. This passion for patient care is where we find our motivation, our shared vision, and our hope for continuous improvement.

Sometimes reminders about this central truth come at us from interesting directions. In this case, a twenty-something, non-clinician.

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