It’s easier to be clever than kind

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Recently I participated in a Rapid Process Improvement Workshop (RPIW) aimed at reducing the length of time that low-acuity patients (CTAS 4 and 5) wait to be seen by an Emergency Department physician after they’ve been triaged.  It was great to have this opportunity, as I’ve frequently visited the ED with my son Matthew; I know first-hand what it’s like to be a “non-emergent patient” who needs care that can be provided in the Emergency Department.

Not surprisingly this RPIW was similar in many ways to other improvement events I have been involved in over the past 12 months . This recent visit to the gemba reminded me how fortunate we are to have such clever and capable health providers working in the ED.

I was still reflecting on this a few days later when I stumbled upon a fantastic commencement speech by Jeff Bezos, creator of Amazon. If you have 11 minutes and need an injection of inspiration, I highly recommend it.

His key message — cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice — brought me back to one of my lasting impressions from those 5 days in Emergency as part of the RPIW.

I’ve seen and experienced many examples of kindness and compassion in the ED.  But I’ve also witnessed judgment crowd out that kindness, especially when “walk ins” show up in Emergency. During the RPIW, a health provider shared this powerful insight:  “It may be not be an emergency in our eyes but it is to the patient.  Ours is not to judge but to choose how we respond.”

As the caregiver of one of those “walk-ins” and participant on a team working to improve this experience for others, my hope is that our health providers always choose kindness.

What do you think? Why is it sometimes easier to be clever than kind?

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2 Responses to “It’s easier to be clever than kind”

  1. Corinne Haack
    June 20, 2013 at 10:08 pm #

    As a self confessed frequent user of the ED sometimes as a CTAS 4 and 5, I appreciate the quote. It is an emergency to me, my daughter and my family. I appreciate every time the staff treat my daughter, never turn us away and allay my concerns that we came to ED instead of elsewhere.

    Your commitment to making a safe and quality experience has not gone unnoticed and is another showing of your commitment to us the patients and families. Thank you to you and all the ED staff for making this commitment to Lean and Kaizen.

  2. Eric Eggertson
    June 14, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    Well said, Bonnie. I’m sure compassion fatigue sets in at times, but it never hurts to have a reminder that one person’s heavy workload is another person’s family.

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