I've been a member of Rotary International for almost eight years, but recently experienced an event so mind-blowing I just had to write about it. Most people hear the word Rotary and picture old white men meeting for lunch and talking about how much money they made last week. Not exactly.
Rotary is the largest service organization in the world with more than 1.2 million members and 33,000 clubs in nearly every country. Rotarians are partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the World Health Organization to eradicate polio. They are the forerunners of providing clean water in developing countries, and their disaster response teams are often the first on the scene. Rotary International funds countless scholarships, including the renowned Peace Fellowships.
I just returned from Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) in Prescott, AZ. Some 120 high school students, including exchange students from Taiwan, Japan, Switzerland, Belgium, Ecuador, France, Germany, Chile, Brazil, and Argentina, gathered to learn leadership skills and to be exposed to other cultures. Students are chosen from a huge pool of applicants for their exceptional potential. They come from every economic background, but once they put on their RYLA sweatshirts, they were all on a level playing field. The experience is life-altering, not only for the young people but for the adults who participate as well.
Students are put through three 17-hour days that focus on ethics, public speaking, cross-cultural learning, diversity training, and physical challenges. They learn to overcome all sorts of personal, physical, and emotional challenges, and they forge relationships that last a lifetime. I could go on and on about this incredible experience, but the takeaway message is fully entrenched in the Rotary four-way test: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build good will and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Rotarians around the world try to live their lives and conduct business with the four-way test in mind. Imagine if emergency medicine employers and candidates did the same?
Is it the truth? What could be more important or more obvious? Employers who sugarcoat their opportunities with little white lies and half-truths are only postponing the inevitable. Emergency physicians may have varying levels of naïveté and be somewhat susceptible to a good dog-and-pony show (especially as graduating residents), but if you promise one job and deliver another, they are going to leave.
On the flipside, if you are an emergency physician selling yourself to a prospective employer, the shortcomings you don't like talking about will become obvious pretty quickly. How refreshing it would be if everyone just put his cards on the table? "The job isn't perfect because of this and that, but we do offer this, and we are working hard to make it better. You could be a big part of that effort." Or "I am a strong clinician and love the work, but I do have some things to learn about communicating with patient families. I think your work environment can help me achieve growth in that area."
Is it fair to all concerned? Look at all the angles, especially where can you make the deal a little more fair for everyone — hospital, ED group, physician. A little less "is it fair to me" and a little more "is it fair to all concerned" could produce some pretty astounding steps in the right direction.
Will it build good will and better friendships? The most stable and desirable emergency physician groups and departments are those where the physicians, nurses, and staff support each other and interact with respect and appreciation. Those physicians who play and work together enjoy a much higher retention rate than those who just work their shifts and go home. The more involved physicians and staff are in their hospital and community, the more committed they are to their department. Every ED in the country strives for that.
But how about building goodwill among your coworkers, other medical departments, and hospital administration? What about building goodwill among the people in your community? How can EPs contribute to the well-being of their community? Look at it this way: physicians, particularly those with families, are part of the community. What is beneficial for the community is beneficial for your family as well. It's all about looking at the bigger picture.
The happiest emergency physicians I know are often involved in community projects, do volunteer work, and have strong friendships with their colleagues. They care more about "we" than "me." Physicians need job satisfaction to branch out in this way, but sometimes they can find missing job satisfaction in a volunteer experience.
Will it be beneficial to all concerned? Isn't this the best possible scenario for health care? Isn't this the goal of everyone in health care? Patients, physicians, nurses, technicians, hospitals, groups, and vendors are all in this together. The prevailing objective in emergency medicine these days is more along the lines of will it be beneficial to the bottom line? Quality patient care and physician wellness appear to have taken a backseat to profitability. I'm not sure how to create a better emergency department experience for patients and practitioners, but I am certain a little more time spent looking at the big picture can result in the smaller picture becoming rosier.
I'm not expecting 5,000 doctors to sing Kumbaya around the campfire at the next ACEP Scientific Assembly, but it would make for an interesting conference if everyone showed up with the four-way test in mind.
© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
- Read more about the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards at http://bit.ly/RotaryAwards.
- Read all of Ms. Katz's past columns in the www.EM-News.com archive.
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