Healing Healthcare In America – Sacred Work

Stanley Hupfeld Speaks Out… Perhaps one of my most valuable life lessons was learned while serving in Viet Nam. My rank was lieutenant and my job title (MOS in military lingo) was Battalion Surgeon Assistant. In that role I was responsible for a platoon of medics.  These young men were the individuals who, with a company of infantry, went out every day with a cross on their chest and no gun, to confront the enemy.  My experience was that they performed brilliantly, often with great courage.

As part of their command structure I was responsible for making their difficult job as easy as possible.  I discovered if I worked hard, their role in the field of taking care of wounded soldiers could be accomplished with more precision.  In essence, even though I never touched a fallen soldier I could help those who did.  That experience motivated me to acquire a master’s degree in health care administration.  I’ve learned over the years, just as in Viet Nam, if I did my job reasonably well I could assist the caregivers in making a difference in patient care.

We in health care are indeed very fortunate.  The work we do makes a difference in the human condition.  As health care organizations we bring families’ children into this world and assist in taking their parents out of this world.  Health care professionals are there for every important event in the lives of those families.  This makes the work we do special.  It makes it, in essence, almost sacred.  No other endeavor touches our friends, neighbors, and community as intimately as the delivery of health care services.

While our cause is noble we should be careful to not confuse the business we are in with the work we do.  The business we are in is tough. It is competitive and in many ways cut-throat. Survival depends on generating significant amounts of capital. Hospitals are huge capital-eating machines which means cash flow is the preeminent need of all hospitals. Billing, collections, information systems, benefit costs and insurance negotiations are all part of a lexicon of our extraordinarily complex system.

While all this must demand the attention of health care leadership, it has little to do with who we are. It is the work that gives dignity and purpose to our endeavors. We take care of patients and their family members at the most difficult and trying times. Our people perform thousands of acts of kindness and compassion every day.  The work we do is a physician explaining to a family they need to prepare for the worst because the prognosis of their loved one is not good.  The work we do is a nurse holding a patient’s hand at midnight as they prepare for a critical surgery the next morning.  The work we do is a housekeeper bringing their personal bible from home for a sick patient to use.

While the work is sacred, the business is difficult.  In healing healthcare in America, we  must be very good at the business but to mistake the business we are in for the work we do misses the point.  The really good organizations excel at the business but never put it ahead of the work.

STANLEY HUPFELD, former hospital CEO dissects the ACA & exposes the fallacies & prejudices of both political parties explaining that, if we are willing to make hard choices, we can indeed cover the uninsured, control costs, & not bankrupt the country. Invite Stan Hupfeld to speak at your next event!