3 life lessons from a broken wrist

You may have noticed that last week's FiercePracticeManagement was written by more of an ensemble cast than usual. That's because my second-favorite typing hand has been out of commission following a roller-rink accident that resulted in a fracture (technically two) that I will have surgically realigned and secured.

While this has been in no way an intentional research experience, I've learned a great deal about healthcare and more over the past seven days. One of my objectives here is always to spare you unnecessary pain, so here it goes:

  1. Anything can be done--with patience and creativity. Writing this post, for instance, is ideally a two-handed activity. And while a younger or not-self-employed version of myself may have seen this as an appropriate time to declare short-term disability or take an impromptu vacation, this older and wiser version is relieved to be able-bodied enough not to have to. Hunting and pecking at the keys with my right hand is slow and error-prone, but doable. I've also started a cheat sheet of long and recurrent terms (e.g., "Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services") from which to copy and paste. It may serve as a time saver even after I'm healed.
  2. Just because you can do it doesn't mean you should. Delegating doesn't necessarily make work easier. Although I've been teaching my six- and seven-year-old to carry some of the weight of the household, I hadn't been following through on giving them chores, as overseeing and correcting (i.e., redoing) is ironically labor-intense. But amazing outcomes happen when you take mom's left hand out of the equation. They can tie their own shoes (and mine, while they're at it); make their beds; together hoist a trash bag into the dumpster; and even "cook" dinner by way of arranging a spread of pre-sliced pepperoni and cheese, baby carrots and ranch dressing on a plastic plate. I don't mean to compare competent adults to children, but the phrase, "top of license" (ability) comes to mind nonetheless. I suspect we're all a little guilty of failing to let go professionally. Be honest. How much higher could your midlevels or nonclinical employees stretch if there were no other option? When do you actually have more time to invest in your team's potential--now or in an emergency? 
  3. Kindness is everything. The only period of this whole ordeal I lost control of my emotions (including the moment of impact) was when the receptionist at the specialist's office was writing down for me all of the information I'd need to obtain a referral from my primary care physician. I had not realized my insurance required me to take this step (and had been too distracted to anticipate as much), and for a split-second I thought I'd lose my much-anticipated follow-up appointment to red tape. This wasn't the case at all. She helped me get square with the administration work and get seen on time (by a physician assistant, by the way, who conferred with the doctor without him having to lose operating time). But even once I realized I would not need to reschedule, the tears continued to roll as the tension of the prior five days and its impact on my life began to release. The front-desk employee held paperwork still as I signed it, smiled and spoke in a gentle voice. Patients with all sorts of upper-extremity injuries were bellowing about their immediate needs everywhere, or so it seemed. I would have a hard time holding up my compassion in that type of environment for an hour, much less day after day, but this person stayed calm and caring throughout my own minor meltdown. It takes a special kind of person to remember that patients aren't just there for a doctor's appointment, but for answers, reassurance and relief of not-insignificant pain. I've been fortunate enough to encounter medical employees who get that, and wise enough to walk away from a few who don't. When it comes to hiring and fostering the right stuff in your staff, I can't overstate the importance of basic kindness.

If all goes well I should be two-handed typing sooner rather than later. Wish me luck (but please not a broken leg)! - Deb (@PracticeMgt)