We don’t talk… any more

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In the rapid-paced landscape of a hospital ward, multitudes rush hither and tither doing their best to provide great care or treatment. Hierarchies, built upon historical, organisational and traditional structures dominate.

Usually, the doctors are on top. If someone isn’t going to wash their hands or apply the alcohol gel, you can bet, it is usually the doctor – they have special powers of immunity to viruses and bacteria, their skin is often protected by a magical aura – a cloak of cleanliness, if you will…

That however, is not the point. The point is communication. Talking to each other, exchanging information and ideas as equals, as peers who each bring something special, novel to the table, are able to contribute in different ways at different times from different perspectives.

Within healthcare there exists a hierarchy. This is not unique to hospitals and clinics, in fact, it is something inherent in organisational life, no matter how big or small, there are the ‘tops’, the ‘middles’ and the ‘bottoms’ as described in the Oshry Systems Model.

Creating a successful environment, workplace, ward or clinic, it is critical, essential – as important as the air which we breathe, to overcome this hierarchy; for people to treat each other as people, no matter their experience, their role, their salary or occupation.

Only when we have achieved this flattening can true team-working start to emerge, can we benefit from the ‘collective intelligence’ that belongs to the group, the bringing together of my ideas and yours and yours. One person’s thoughts are pretty ineffectual in the global scheme of things, two people’s thoughts are something, but add and add and bring the collective ideas of the team to the fore and you have something amazing, something generative that can take you places that you would never have imagined.

In healthcare we are stuck in a rut – increasing demand for ever better quality matched against decreasing resource; the only way out of this morass is through collaboration, harnessing the people-power, the collective initiative to address the challenges we face.

We have all the answers before us; as the bible says, ‘there is nothing new under the sun,’ equally, under the sun, there are infinite variations and possibilities. Never before have there existed so many human beings on planet earth, never before have we had such an opportunity to address the challenges we face.

My request therefore is, let’s talk. Let’s get rid of the custom and the practice and the reticence that keeps us apart. Let’s, as I heard today at a meeting in Leeds, let’s lock the doors, stumble around and find the answer.

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