I was glad to flip the calendar to April this weekend. Travel, conferences, and a couple of big projects have had me hopping.
Other than going to HIMSS, I get to stay close to home this month. In addition to work responsibilities, I’ve had a couple of big projects at home and was able to put one of them to rest this weekend. Of course, there are always more things to work on, but it was a good feeling to know that it was done and I could move on to something else. Unfortunately, the project I picked up next turned into a bit of a mess. I was hoping to have it done before next weekend, so I’ll be working double time in the evenings to try to get it done.
To the positive, I discovered that the book I’ve been hustling to finish in time for tomorrow’s book club isn’t actually due until the following month, so that was an unexpected bonus. The book, “Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver, is one of the most challenging books I’ve read in a long time. It’s fiction, but a big part of the plot revolves around the growth in high-volume prescribing of opioid pain killers and the resulting devastation across parts of the US. The book features a broad cast of characters – the pharmaceutical representative who assures physicians that the medications aren’t addictive to patients with legitimate pain, the well-meaning country doctor who prescribes liberally, the drug dealers who take advantage of patients who have become addicted, and the family members who have to cope with the aftermath.
It’s also a scathing portrayal of the foster care system and those who abuse not only the process, but also the children in their care. Those sections were difficult to read and I’m sure they would be triggering to many. It’s also the story of a child in crisis who grows up to be a teen who encounters crisis after crisis, and just when it looks like he’ll make it out the other side, tragedy strikes. As a physician who has cared for patients in some of the situations portrayed, I can’t imagine what it would be like to be confronted with so many and in rapid succession. Although I feel a sense of accomplishment at having finished the book, I’m not sure I would have read it if it hadn’t been chosen by my book club.
From a healthcare IT perspective, it’s always a slow news time in the lead-up to HIMSS. Companies save up their news to release it at the beginning of or right before the conference, when there is always the potential that it will get lost among other “big” news stories.
I don’t have a sense of how large HIMSS will be this year. The organization is notoriously quiet about discussing its projected attendance and I haven’t even heard any rumors this year. Last year’s event was a shadow of itself, and after attending some of the competing conferences, I understand how they are more attractive to attendees than the granddaddy. At least this year I haven’t seen HIMSS promoting its less-than-useful Accelerate platform in the lead-up to the conference. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve heard anything about Accelerate at all in the last year.
Last Thursday was National Doctors’ Day in the United States. It dates back 90 years to its first celebration in Winder, Georgia. Although the day was designed to recognize physicians for their work with their patients, their communities, and society, it happens on March 30 as a commemoration of the date in 1842 when Dr. Crawford W. Long used ether anesthetic for the first time. It became a national holiday in 1991.
This year seemed different for many of my physician colleagues, with little recognition even after the difficult years of hard service during the pandemic. One of my emergency department friends found it ironic that her hospital distributed the Doctors’ Day snacks via a lounge that the ED physicians were unable to access because they didn’t have the right permissions on their keycards. That contrasted mightily with the week of celebration that one of our mutual friends experienced, with breakfast on Monday, lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday, a dessert buffet on Thursday, and gift baskets of Girl Scout cookies on Friday.
As far as tangible gifts are concerned, it seems like most of the people that received something physical received an item with the hospital name or logo on it, including umbrellas, backpack coolers, and some less than thoughtful items like stress balls. One colleague posted a picture of the elegant wooden cutting board she received from her hospital, which given its 12×17 inch size, seems like an interesting choice. Other celebratory options included chair massages, gift cards, aromatherapy supplies, and the always popular visit by the therapy dogs. Several of the physicians I talked to said they planned to pass on some of the gifts to their staff members, who don’t often get recognition if they’re not nurses or other professionals with designated recognition days.
My hospital solicited patients to give financial gifts in honor of their care teams, while giving the actual physicians zero recognition, not even an email. I realize that I’m a community physician and not employed by the hospital, but I thought it was tacky that I received the solicitation email (I’m also a patient) but not any other kind of greeting. Several of my residency colleagues reported having a similar experience, although two eventually did receive emails but they arrived well after 3 p.m., making them seem like an afterthought.
I was surprised that I didn’t receive emails from some of the big hitters that should be celebrating physicians in the US, like the American Medical Association or even my own specialty societies. In an informal poll in one of my physician-only Facebook groups, less than 30% received any recognition at all. That’s surprising given the number of physicians who are thinking about cutting back or leaving the workforce.
The bottom line is that it’s not about the gifts or the meals or the puppy petting zones. For many physicians, it’s about feeling like their hospital administration appreciates them and the work that they do for patients. Each person in the hospital – whether they’re in engineering, housekeeping, food services, supply chain, pharmacy, or any of the numerous other roles – has a critical role in helping patients and it’s important to make sure that everyone feels like their organization appreciates them, especially after the struggles of the last three years.
What would make you feel like your organization appreciated you? Leave a comment or email me.
Email Dr. Jayne.