Saturday, July 14, 2007

What teammates do

In the early hours yesterday, a nurse in the emergency department praised a resident physician who, after a busy night, was still at the desk writing orders for patients. “He’s been just terrific,” the nurse said of the resident. “We’ve been swamped. There were 15 admissions overnight, and he never complained. He just did what was necessary for the patients.”

It’s a small thing, acknowledging a good play by a colleague. Or is it?

You find plenty of “attaboy” moments in professional baseball. When the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants, 9-1, yesterday, the Dodgers lined up on the field to congratulate one another. There’s a photo on today’s major league baseball website, showing Luis Gonzalez high-fiving teammate Andre Ethier after the win.

As second baseman Brandon Phillips touched home plate yesterday, his Cincinnati Reds’ teammates Ken Griffey Jr., Ryan Freel,[1] and Adam Dunn were there to celebrate his grand slam at Shea Stadium. The Reds went on to beat the Mets, 8-4.

Some baseball players make minor rituals of their celebrations with choreographed series of slaps, waves, and fists. But players support their teammates with more than congratulations. They offer consolations too when performances are less than stellar.

Everyone has a bad day now and then, and athletes know it’s important to keep up their teammates’ spirits for the next time they take the field. The players are saying, in effect, “You’re good. Don’t worry. You’ll do better tomorrow.”
At yesterday’s Texas Ranger game, catcher Gerald Laird consoled pitcher Joaquin Benoit with a gentle fist to the stomach as Benoit prepared to leave the game in the ninth inning. The Los Angeles Angels beat the Rangers, 2-1.

How do we support our teammates? Do we high-five their achievements? Do we encourage them when they’re down?

A patient was promptly transported to the floor? “Way to go!”

A nurse took the time to show kindness to a confused or angry patient? “That was very nice of you.”

The environmental services staff responded appropriately to a spill? “Very good. Thanks!”

The room set-up took too long in the OR? “Hey, we’ll do better next time!”

Peer congratulations and encouragements are hardly unique to baseball players. They are the daily life of all athletes, amateur and professional. And they should be part of our daily life in health care too.

[1] Ryan Freel played for the Syracuse Chiefs in the years 1998-2001.


Rob said...

How about this:

Good for you for having the courage to leave yourself vulnerable to the vagaries of the internet. Nothing teaches humility faster than a hundred people convinced you're wrong, whose entire worlds are caught up with making sure you know how much you're wrong, and who won't listen to your explanation.

The hard part is listening and not giving up listening, not once, ever. Once in awhile, they're right.

Tom Quinn said...

I received the following message, via e-mail, in response to “What teammates do”:

From: A, July 17, 2007

I took time out of my busy schedule to read the newsletter that you had posted. Some good points were made, but to compare nursing to professional baseball is a bit of a stretch, or should I say a foul ball. We as nurses do work as a team and a tight knit one at that. We do respond to our coworkers with gratitude and thanks when deserved. I felt that the newsletter made the point that we are not nice to one another or even our patients and their families, which I took great offense to. We are here because we care, not for the money, like some professional ball players. We are stretched to the limit and stressed, but we put every effort in to perfrom what is needed for our patients. We are here for them and our collegues. It is very rare that I don't get a thank you from other coworkers. The rarity comes from the "Higher Ups." We are never told "You did a good job today," or "Thank you for staying late." I remember when we used to get a meal ticket when we did a good job on a terrible day, now we don't even get a smile! So instead of stating that nurses aren't working together, I think the point should be that the whole hospital is not working together.

My response:

I am sorry that my words offended you. In writing about the rituals of baseball, I did not mean to imply (and I don’t think I did imply) that hospital employees do not work as a team or that we do not encourage one another. Only that we should do more of it. Please note that the first paragraph of my message begins with a nurse offering kudos about the work of a resident physician. The message was meant as encouragement, not criticism.

Anonymous said...

I will be interested to see how long you will actually keep this blogg up and active. As said previously... hearing you are wrong by the population over and over.... As an employee of CGH I can say there are great benefits to working here. But Management and their listening skills are NOT one of them.

Dr. J said...

As a life-long baseball fan and former player, I truly appreciate your baseball analogy - harking back to the good ol' days when the little niceties and shared teaming signals helped make your day after a tough game.

I had visions of the CGH OR surgical team jukin’ and dancin’ and high fivin’ after a successful hip replacement - and the mental picture of a surgeon making sure not to step on the baseline (a.k.a. the cracks between the floor tiles) like Danny Murtaugh, the manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates, used to do out of superstition back in those good ol’ days.

The little things that teammates, managers and coaches do and/or say to convey "Thank You" and "job well done" at the end of the day are so meaningful. There truly is no difference between a baseball team, a medical team or any other work-related team. We should all be happy with the little things in life that make us feel good and happy with our lives. "Life is good" - and we should all share that sentiment with one another.