A Greater Purpose
Today I started a new job at a cancer hospital. I’ve never worked at a place with such clear and focused purpose and I have been really curious about how things would be. Having read Daniel Pink’s book Drive, I am all in to the three factors that motivate us - autonomy, mastery and purpose. I have experienced the first two mostly and always have a sense of purpose in serving customers but never really experienced a place with a higher purpose.
I took a sizable pay cut and a lower title and was super scared that I might regret this. I also left a lot of amazing people who I loved working with. Over the past few weeks, I’ve definitely wondered to myself and out loud at times - “what did I do?”
I was also nervous about the environment. Could I do my job of building healthy teams, cultivating autonomy and being the champion for risk-taking at a hospital who’s clear focus had to be clinical compliance and avoiding errors and infections? How do those things come together?
But what an amazing day it turned out to be! Within the first hour, I wrote down the following notes from what the presenter was saying:
break the rules
the spirit here is indescribable
I was floored. A hospital with whole departments focused on safety and compliance and this is where we started?
As the day went on, I learned that they look at everything through the lens of the patient and their family. Nothing was what I expected. No canned training modules, no heavy regulatory talks.
Everything was what they called patient and family centered care. We talked about the growing parking issue as the hospital and university grew in size. And we were reminded of how important it was the patients could park as close as possible and that we not take up the provided valet parking so that they could serve patients better. OK, so parking is about our patients…
I expected the diversity talk to be as boring as ever — we care about diversity, yada, yada. But they shared that diversity was not just about having representation for employees. African Americans still have a 25% higher chance of dying of the same cancer of equal occurrence as white Americans. We were reminded to constantly look at our own biases in patient care and that it was the hospital’s goal to change those numbers as part of our diversity goals. OK, so diversity is about our patients…
The patient identification talk had its own slant too. Of course if we made identification mistakes we could erroneously give a patient incorrect medicine and cause them harm for sure. But what if we sent a patient the wrong bill? Seems harmless, doesn’t it? Unless that patient didn’t win the fight and their grieving family now had to fight the hospital on erroneous bills. Imagine being that family member. Or the patient was returning from particularly harsh treatment and now had to think through billing errors. OK, billing too is about our patients…
Everything focused on helping the patient and their family and every employee’s part in it. Every piece of the puzzle could ease someone’s burden or make it so much worst. We were reminded at every step of the way that all of our jobs were to help the patient and their family, no matter how removed our job seemed from patient care.
Almost everything was clearly focused around the folks who directly care for patients. It felt a little alienating to be so far removed from what seemed important to the hospital, the researchers, clinicians, nurses, etc. But we finally made it to my part. And digital care is identified as one of the three pillars for our 10 year impact strategy. They understand the need to innovate around data for direct patient care. And I too understand the need for me to help enable those capabilities through my work with technology teams.
I was left in tears as the last employee spoke about his journey. He had once been a news reporter whose wife got cancer 12 plus years ago. They came to to the hospital for care. She didn’t make it but because of the care they received, he left his chosen field to come work for the hospital and continue the work in her name. His hope was that we’d all be sitting around a table together in some years talking about how we’d have to find a new purpose because we’d found a cure.
I hope he is right. For now, I will bask in the awe of working with so many people who have a greater calling and do my best to take care of them so that they can care for our patients.
I don’t know how my work will manifest. I am curious and fascinated. There’s a strong will to innovate and take risks to find cures and treatments. It must be balanced with patient safety and care. My role will further evolve, I can’t wait to see what it looks like a year from now.
In honor of my friend, Annette who last month lost her battle with cancer but won the hearts of many. This year I’ve personally lost several to cancer - Miguel, my cousins’ father and Robert, my best friend’s husband. May they all gaze down and know that we are still fighting the good fight.
I am walking in the Miles for Moffitt 2018 walk in December. If you’d like to donate to the cause, please visit my page here. Thank you!