As you read this blog on a regular basis, there probably are some of you that say “Nice theory, but really?!?! Along that line, I wanted to share with you a conversation I had with a surgeon just last Monday.
To set the stage: This surgeon is a combat veteran having served as a surgeon during the Vietnam War’s Tet Offensive. He still has an active practice and is sought out as a go-to surgeon due to his decades of expertise. However, you might imagine that age, the surgical culture during his training and his military background does not lead to a warm-fuzzy approach to a lot of things.
So when he told me this story I knew that I had to share it in this blog:
His words as I best captured them and I share them with his permission:
Just last week I was doing an extremely complex case. Cutting out the cancer in delicate areas. It was a long surgery, over seven hours. As luck would have it, I had a new nurse — someone who had no idea what she was doing and was going extremely slowly.
This would have sent me over the edge in the past. Even if I hadn’t said anything, my tone or my body language would have not been positive, to say the least.
However, instead, I stepped back and said “This is a tough case. It is a tough case for me, and I imagine it is a tough case for you. I just appreciate that work that you are doing.”
I could visibly see her relax. All she said was “Thank you”. But do you know what? She worked faster and better after that”!!
And how do you think I felt after that? I could have levitated!! Not just because she was working better, but that I had done the right thing!!
The world is small, so I won’t give any more details. However, this surgeon had every reason to keep on doing what he was doing a couple of years ago regarding OR leadership and communication. Age, tenure, level of practice. Instead, he saw a better way and he took it.
And for those that insist that harshness, disguised as “directness” increases patient safety? I would ask – who do you want at your side – someone intimidated and humiliated, or someone relaxed and engaged?
Something to consider. A lesson for us all.