Monday, May 9, 2011


If we are honest with ourselves there are times in our career where we grapple with the business verse human aspects of our products. We seek balance. We balance making money with helping people. We balance “marketing messages” and big picture vision with everyday life in the weeds. We balance heart and commitment to being the change with the work that must be done.

On the 3 year anniversary of Sphere3, I find myself evaluating the balance of building a start up and staying true to my commitment to Make Life Better for Patients AND Caregivers. Today – I focus on the Caregiver.

There were two blogs that caught my attention over the past few weeks. One blog was noted by Paul Levy called “Medical Margins” by Josephine Ensign. Josephine tells the story of a RN who had made a medical error – her blog blasts the hospital for the inequality of discipline levels between Docs and Nurses. Really what struck me was Kimberly Hiatt – a veteran RN with all in all good approval ratings – was dismissed for her error of administering a lethal dose of medication to a fragile NICU baby. After which she committed suicide. (Note there is no public information about linking her suicide to her dismissal)

I struggle with the balance – a bad day for me is I publish something on the blog that irritates someone or my team misses an internal development deadline.  (which is really a bad day for them) A bad day for a RN is someone could be seriously harmed or die. Do we expect perfection? Are we being realistic to apply “lean six sigma” principles to a human based profession – patients are not cars and clinicians are not assembly line workers. The patient advocate side of me really wants to drive every ounce of error out of existence. What if that error was my child – what if that “bad day” affected my parent? Aperum™ was created to identify when workload balances are too great. Is it enough? Do we find that self reporting based EMR systems and other gadgets and gizmos really make a difference in the day of the RN?

When my brain went into over drive trying to grapple with it all another great blog was posted – this time by a Nursing Student named Jennifer-Clare Williams of my home state Missouri. Her heartfelt desire to be the super hero that “saves the world one patient at a time” brings back the sovereignty of unadulterated hope. The blog is beautiful – showing her true desire to be a help to those in need.

I replay my mistakes (“No wonder your patient was uncomfortable—you put the bedpan under her backwards!”), I cry more than I ever have in my life, and I continuously wonder how on earth I will ever learn everything I need to know.

But there is good news. I’m surviving. And I’m learning that perfection is unrealistic. That nursing really is a fluid profession: things are constantly changing, and that’s a good thing. That there are very few things that I’m going to master on the first try, or heck, even the 10th try . . . but that’s ok. I’m learning that the patients who are, let’s just say . . . unkind . . . are not launching a personal attack on me, but are facing a difficult set of circumstances and are unhappy with the situation.

The inspirational heart of this young woman pushes me forward that every nugget of information we can provide back in a visual meaningful way can make a difference to improve her ability to provide care. The S3 team has made linkages to reduce readmissions, show documented improvement to patient satisfaction scores, reduce fall rates and errors, and do all the big picture money saving things that we need to do to sell a product. That’s not what drives me – and technologist – EMR person – industry specialist – big picture lingo laden with catch phrases shouldn’t be what drives you either.

What drives me should be the thought that today – we made life better for Jennifer because we were able to identify that her workload was so great that she may make an unintended mistake. What drives me should be that today we were able to provide information to the charge nurse that over stimulation was increasing the propensity for medication error beyond capacity – so she can engage and make sure her clinicians are in an environment where they can care and not run. What is your “today” statement? What did your product, software, service do today to Make Life Better?

For a moment, stop and focus on how you can make life better. Stop thinking about selling the next big deal and start thinking about the people you are affecting.

Thanks to:

Josephine Ensign’s “Medical Margins” Blog

Off the Charts AJN Notes of a Student Nurse: A Dose of Reality written by Jennifer-Clare Williams

1 comment:

  1. I think this is one of the best blogs you have written, but for me, it hits close to home. You have hit on the reason I changed my path from nursing to healthcare management. When a patient committed suicide in a shift in which I was working, being trained, I felt responsible. And I was not the nurse or PCT, I was training to be a clerk/monitor tech. But I felt like I should have seen a change in the monitor, or I should have noticed there was no activity in his room, or I should have seen that the window was open. If I felt that way I could only imagine how the nurse felt. Even though it is impossible to keep your eyes on your patients at all times, the burden of responsibility is typically always placed on the caregiver.

    I admire Jennifer and her determination, but can relate to the guilt felt by Kimberly. This is why I come to work every day and try to open my eyes to the things I don't always understand. If what we are doing helps even one person not go home feeling as if they failed their patient, we have accomplished something. And if even one patient can see the difference in the stress level of their caregiver, we have made a difference.

    So to you, I say thank you. Thank you for caring enough to step out into the unknown and for allowing me to work with you.


Thanks for Posting on Clinical Transformation!

Kourtney Govro