Hospitals are as complex and demanding as anything Puccini could come up with, and even more ambitious and creative
I'll be the first to admit that some semi-interesting stuff happened this year, like getting our first Hawaiian president and that panel that's going to make people commit hara-kari as soon as they turn 65. Things like that. But I think we can all agree that if 2009 will be remembered for anything by generations to come, it's the fact that I attended my first opera.
I know what you're thinking: Isn't this the guy who vowed he would never, under any circumstances, sit around and listen to a bunch of prima donnas bay at each other for hours on end? Well, after tuning into C-SPAN and watching members of Congress debate health care, I figured, how preposterous could a little Verdi be? Especially with a bag of peanuts and a couple of Pabst Blue Ribbons? What I discovered, much to my surprise, in addition to the fact that they don't have beer vendors roaming the aisles at the Lyric Opera in Chicago and that there is no such thing as a "little Verdi," is that I kind of enjoyed myself. In fact, I've been back a few times to what I think, though I can't absolutely swear, were different operas by different composers. I'm now what is known in opera circles as a "buff" and if I keep going I might even reach the level of "aficionado," which, assuming my Italian is correct, means "one who dozes with open eyes."
High drama and convoluted plotlines are something I'm sure every hospital leader can relate to. Life and death are the essence of what you do. People are passionate. Egos clash. The conventions, expectations and mandates imposed on you are byzantine. The cost of delivering a quality performance is climbing and the stage is crowded with competitors for your most popular offerings. It's enough to send anybody over the parapet.
But unlike so many of the histrionic heroes and heroines I've watched wallow in despair this year (albeit mellifluously), hospital leaders tend to be an optimistic bunch. Yes, the pressures are many and mounting, but the parapet is not an option. That fact was brought home when I learned about two rural hospitals in Kansas that helped organize a basketball game to benefit cancer care. They overcame state regulations, little if any seed money and their own extreme remoteness to stage an all-star spectacle that will fund local mammogram services for women who have been driving two and a half hours to Wichita for the exam. You can read more in my Other Voices interview with Ashland Health Care's CEO Benjamin Anderson by clicking here and listen to our podcast.
It's one example among many of the extraordinary can-do spirit hospital folks exhibit on a daily basis. This year, we here at H&HN decided to devote more of our coverage to stories like that. Of course, we continue to cover the weighty issues of the day, from finance to staffing to IT to the uncertainties inherent in health care reform. But we are striving to balance that coverage with stories that inspire and encourage others in the field. Last January, we launched a regular feature called Extra Mile to do just that. If you have stories to share with us and with our readers, I'd love to hear from you. E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And as we opera buffs like to say, bravo and pass the peanuts.