A note from Visante CEO Jim Jorgenson on how we can lead the way in practicing decency as healthcare professionals.
In the dictionary, the word “decency” is defined as: “That which is proper or becoming; the quality of conforming to standards of propriety and morality; the quality of being polite and respectable; seemliness; hence freedom from obscenity or indecorum; modesty.”
Charles S. Lauer was the publisher of Modern Healthcare for more than 30 years and a regular columnist. Sadly, Mr. Lauer passed away in 2017. But before leaving us, he wrote a tremendous book, called “Decency,” which I reread often. The book was spot-on for the time it was written in 2005, but it is even more relevant today.
Mr. Lauer notes that there isn’t enough decency in the world, and people are too busy or distracted to practice the good manners they hopefully learned as children. The social respect that binds people together as a community has broken down, and we all have an obligation to do what we can to help restore civility and compassion in our society.
The author points out that we all come from different cultural, religious, economic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. We have very different views on world affairs and national politics. We come from different generations and dress differently and listen to different music and watch different shows. But despite all those “differences,” we all still share the same communities, cities, states, and countries with others. He believes that our very differences should lead to respect for those around us, and lead us to be more aware of what an interesting and complicated world we all live in.
Decency must also be something we practice in the workplace, and this is especially relevant in healthcare. But it is becoming increasingly difficult with pressures such as rising supply costs, labor shortages and associated costs, demands for more and newer technology, facility needs, increasing regulation and shrinking reimbursement. Due to the resulting emphasis placed on the business side of healthcare, the author points out that the needs of patients can be sometimes lost in the shuffle. What makes healthcare special is caring for people when they are at their most vulnerable. When patients believe they are anything less than the center of the healthcare mission, something is wrong, and this is as true today as it was in 2005 when Mr. Lauer first wrote it.
The book is a wonderful compilation of Mr. Lauer’s columns over the years, each one a quick five-minute read. One of my favorites is “Compassion in Healthcare.” He shares this piece used by the University of Minnesota School of Medicine to help stress the importance of compassion to their medical students:
“When I asked you to listen to me and you started giving advice, you have not done what I asked. When I asked you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I should feel that way, you were trampling on my feelings. When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problems, you have failed me, strange as that may seem. So please just listen and hear me. If you want to talk, wait a few minutes for your turn, and I promise I’ll listen to you.”
Most certainly our world could use a big dose of decency right now. As healthcare professionals, we have a critical opportunity to lead the way and set the example.