Blog post by Joe Babaian
Striving to better, oft we mar what’s well. ~ Shakespeare
The best is the enemy of the good. ~ Voltaire
Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without. ~ Confucius
Now more than ever, the people of healthcare shine with their hard work AND successes. We still see the areas needing critical change, innovation, and redesign. Having it NOW was/is a rallying cry to save lives during the pandemic. What about other parts of healthcare where traditional measures of success might be a more complex understanding? Will we consider redefining success in ways that create more human outcomes?
We’ve found ourselves in a competitive environment. The drive to do more is the genesis of some of the most significant innovations ever seen. We begin to stumble when we feel we must continuously achieve more no matter what the consequences – when the outcome is all that matters.
Exacerbated during the pandemic, the horror of clinician suicide resulting from burnout and moral injury is just one side effect of the drive toward doing it all. Clinicians across the board have driven themselves to do everything humanly possible during the pandemic. Their training and compassion drive them to save as many people as possible. In non-pandemic times, many argue that this results from the drive toward efficiency – pulling every possible bit of value from clinical staff; in other words, perfect use of resources.
End-of-life experiences mirror this slippery slope. We’ve been conditioned to do everything we can to live without examining what type of living we want, or in the case of the treating clinician, what type of living the patient wants and needs. A powerful must-read article is “Letting Go. What should medicine do when it can’t save your life?” by Atul Gawande in The New Yorker. Of course, many will recognize this article as a precursor to Atul’s seminal work published a few years later, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End. If you haven’t read the book, stop what you’re doing and grab a copy!
In no way should our quest for success, however we measure it, be made feeble by dodging hard work in the name of avoiding the dangerous pursuit of perfection. Hard work, grit, and not a small dose of empathy and compassion are always required.
Let’s pause and take a look at how we can achieve success without melting our wings by flying into the sun. What are the ways this is important for us, our families and communities, as well as our patients and organizations?
Please join me on Tuesday, March 14, 2023, at 8:30pm ET for the weekly #hcldr tweet chat, where we will discuss Perfection in Healthcare.
T1: How you have been faced with the choice of pursuing perfection versus accepting “good enough” in your personal and professional lives. Did it turn out how you expected?
T2: What lessons have you seen from setting realistic goals and working towards them vs. pursuing perfection/”cure” at all costs?
T3: If working to avoid perfectionism, how can we ensure that cutting-edge innovation isn’t stifled? Is this a mixed message?
T4: How can patients, families, and clinicians work together to provide the best end-of-life experiences that reflect realistic and compassionate care versus “doing everything” at any cost?
Main Photo Credit: Jonathan Hoxmark on Unsplash