NOTE: My statements are not necessarily my opinions. I often post point-counterpoint essays in which I strongly take one side of an issue and later counter that with antithetical views. This intellectual exercise helps me see the merit in opposing opinions and augments my creativity.

A personal message to the hospital CEO doughboy

When I was in the ER at your Top 100 (oh, what a joke!) hospital, I was there to hold my Aunt's hand and comfort her any way I could. I wasn't there to be an ER doctor, but some glaring mistakes on the part of your staff made me realize they were not adequately attending to someone who was needlessly suffering while dying. I asked for help in a nice, low-key, matter-of-fact way—not screaming and carrying on as I've seen so many people do in emergency departments—and in return I got a nurse with a bad attitude who struck me.

Earlier that day, I'd seen my Aunt projectile vomiting so much blood that I began to cry, instantly realizing this was the beginning of the end. I knew what she would face, but never could I have imagined that a simple request for oxygen for someone gasping for breath would result in an assault or a callous administrator—that's you, John*—brushing me off as if striking a visitor were acceptable behavior for a healthcare professional.

* not his real name. I will publish his full true name, hospital name, and other sordid details after one of my friends leaves the hospital. When I publish that info, John, you will be searching for a new job. Hospitals don't like scandals, and we have enough dirt to fill a book. That exposé will blow the lid off your hospital in such a way that its readers across the nation will have an unparalleled understanding of why hospitals make so many mistakes year after year.

The one thing you do exceedingly well, John, is sweep problems under the rug so the local community and the fools who award Top 100 status don't realize what's going on in your facility. When the dirt comes out, John, no hospital will want to have anything to do with you. I'm going to pillory you and your hospital in a way that makes you a laughingstock and poster child of incompetence. The problems that persist year after year have fundamental causes that you either can't see or aren't bright enough to solve. Patients pay the price for those ongoing nightmares. If you solve those problems, John, the book I write about you will put you in a favorable light. Instead of being a boob who lets problems slide, you will be the one who finally struck at their root cause. Can't think of those roots or how to eradicate them, John? Ask me.

I didn't ask for the nurse to be fired. I wanted his anger-management problem addressed, and I wanted a chance to ask him why he struck me, and how on Earth he could justify it. Was he an angry alcoholic with a chip on his shoulder? Was he going through a divorce? Did he hate all doctors? Was he so touchy about his seemingly exiguous medical knowledge that an obvious commonsense suggestion turned him into an out-of-control maniac? And you condone such behavior, John? Knock, knock, hello!

One of the keys to harmonizing with people is to put yourself in their shoes, so I did this when I wrote to you, realizing that you were bound to be skeptical about whether the nurse struck me. You could have verified that by following the procedure I suggested in the letter I sent. If you had common sense, you would have realized that I never would have made such an accusation unless it were true. If it were not, the nurse could have sued me for defamation and potentially won millions of dollars. I wasn't asking for money, just a chance to understand why he felt justified in striking me and a chance to receive a heartfelt (hopefully) apology that would have been good for me—and the nurse. I also wanted him to get the help he so clearly needed. Any nurse who'd strike a family member is a ticking time bomb.

So, John, when you consider what I wanted and what I could have lost by reporting that he struck me, you would have strong corroborating evidence suggesting that what I said was true. If it weren't true, it would have been utterly meaningless to ask for what I did, and it would have been utterly stupid to ask for that and risk losing everything in a defamation suit. However, as you know, he didn't sue, because what I reported actually happened. Thus, your hospital not only employs a dangerous nurse, but it is led by people such as yourself who have fundamental problems in complaint resolution and logical analysis. Or if your brainpower isn't exiguous, perhaps you are just bereft of ethics and lack a conviction to do the right thing, replacing it with a determination to do whatever you can get away with. I think your complaint resolution process is just a sham designed to sweep problems under the rug and minimize risk to the hospital even if that means covering up illegal and unethical behavior instead of equitably resolving matters such as the one I reported to you.

John, did I ever tell you about a phone call I received from a friend? Not long after she and her husband retired from a very successful local business they owned and sold, he went into your hospital for something that should have been routine, but one of your overworked staff managed to kill him.

My friend said she never received a bill from your hospital, although she was expecting a large one. You and I both know what that means, John: in an attempt to pacify her, your hospital tacitly admitted culpability for his death by not sending a bill.

She could surely afford to pay the bill, so I know you did not write it off as you do for some impoverished patients. She lives in a luxurious home on Lake Michigan, with a view of the bay that most doctors cannot afford. Hence, her husband was hardly a charity case.

Years ago, I'd walked into their business simply as a customer, but it didn't take long for me to realize these were two very special people: one-of-a-kind gems who truly warrant the saying about “When they made him (or her), they broke the mold.” Such folks are priceless and cannot be replaced—something I discovered much too early after my friend's premature demise in your supposedly Top 100 hospital.

I was so incensed by his death and your hospital's other many mistakes that I spent months digging into the hospital award business because your organization loves to boast about its awards. Such awards were, I concluded, just cleverly obfuscated scams indirectly purchased by hospitals to make them look good, and to help their brass justify ever-larger salaries and bonuses for themselves. No doubt that's why you feel entitled to be paid so much money, right John?

Saying that your hospital is one of the Top 100 Hospitals is like saying that you or I are one of the Top 100 hunks in the country. It's utterly preposterous!

John, I could fill a book with mistakes I know about at your hospital, which are surely just a small fraction of the total ones. Most of your staff are not incompetent, so what's the problem? Perhaps it is something as simple as what I suggested in the article about how you are mandating the influenza vaccine: your employees work at a breakneck pace that endangers patients.

Taking good care of patients takes time. Some patients are hard of hearing, some move very slowly, some take forever and a day to respond to even simple questions, some are not cooperative, some have demanding families that make workers want to pull their hair out, and on and on.

There is an obvious solution to this problem, John. Since you're so well-paid and have such a lofty opinion of yourself, you can figure it out, correct? Let's hope you do before more people die, but you probably won't. If you could, you would have done it long ago, and my friend—and many others—would likely still be alive.

So John, keep on blaming the employees if you must, but they likely are not the problem. The problem is an administration led by you, who are too tolerant of perpetuating a system that needs improvement, stat. Not only can you not solve those problems, John, you seem too obtuse to even recognize some of the major ones.

John, you've done a good job not in solving problems, but in cowering your employees, many of whom are afraid to speak up, fearing dismissal. For example, the rocket scientist in your administration who hired a certain nurse manager didn't realize—or care—that he has a substandard education. I heard that he enrolled in college seeking to remedy his educational deficiencies, but dropped out because he couldn't handle the coursework or was too lazy to do it. Not very impressive for a Top 100 hospital manager.

That manager is loathed—not respected—by many of his employees, some of whom suspect he has incipient Alzheimer's disease. However, they gave him glowing reviews because he is a vindictive bully who loves to threaten people—likely to camouflage his incompetence. The workers feared the reviews could be personally traced to them (something very easy to do, given the poorly conceived review process, so their fears of being fired for criticizing Mr. Alzheimer's were not unfounded).

That manager hired others to help him out; those surrogates are just a crutch for his marginal brainpower. Many cognitive deficits are not obvious to laymen but can be readily evinced by cognitive testing. Thanks to grade inflation and kids who fritter away too much time on Facebook and with their iPods, college is easier than ever. If Mr. Alzheimer's can't compete with those people, he will likely flub the cognitive testing. Oh, John, wouldn't that make for a scandalous headline: Top 100 Hospital Fires Demented Nurse Manager.

Well, better late than never, right John?

Related articles

Infectious disease hazard of transvaginal ultrasound

Phlebotomist error in a Top 100 hospital

Magnet status: What it is, what it is not, and what it could be

Code of Ethics for Nurses


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The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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