Some of you know that my family just went through a very difficult week with my daughter receiving a new kidney donated by her husband. The surgeries took place at Stanford Hospital in Palo Alto, California. This is an amazing hospital with a world-class team of medical professionals.
Lindsay and Chris are both doing great; they are home from the hospital and in recovery mode. We are so very grateful to the medical staff, our family and friends, and the Lord whose hand was on the entire process. I don’t have words to express my feelings.
The day of surgery and those surrounding it on both sides were quite tense and full of emotion. Once the periods of crisis passed I had a chance to move into my analytical and observer mode looking at how this hospital worked. (Of course, caring for my daughter and son in law were still first priorities!).
Stanford is a premier hospital dedicated to seeing people get well. In their words: “The mission of Stanford Hospital and Clinics is to care, to educate and to discover. Our vision is healing humanity through science and compassion, one patient at a time.”
They do this by emphasizing: accountability, integrity, transparency and being trustworthy. See their Code of Conduct: http://stanfordhospital.org/overview/assets/SOM-Code-of-Conduct%2026July11.pdf
Now, those are all good words. Every organization trying to be hip has a mission statement. Churches and seminaries abound with mission statements and consultants make a whole lot of money helping churches and other organizations develop mission statements that all too often simply sit on a shelf without implementation.
Stanford Hospital is different. They truly live out their values. I was so deeply impressed. Here is what I observed:
- A flat organization with a limited sense of hierarchy.
- Physicians who were certainly well trained and greatly respected but who did not act with a sense of entitlement or divinity (!).
- Physicians who were referred to by other staff members and doctors interchangeably by their first names and by “Dr. …”
- Nurses who were seen as part of the healing team equally respected by the physicians
- Nurses who were empowered for the healing mission, who said to my daughter—You are my patient. You are my responsibility. I am here to help you get rest and to get well.
- Chaplains who are seen as an integral part of the healing team
- A sense of complete transparency with the physicians. We had no sense of being a bother, or that information was being withheld.
- Our surgeon the night before surgery made his pre-operation visit, fully explaining what would happen the next day and then said: “I believe in prayer. I hope you do too. I pray with my patients before surgery. I would like to pray now.” So we circled my daughter, held hands and the doctor prayer for Lindsay, for the surgery, asking for the Lord’s presence and guidance. Quite amazing. Here is a premier competent surgeon who acknowledges that more is going on in that operating room.
- Patients who were empowered for their healing and recovery
- Patients encouraged to ask questions. They were given a sheet each day with questions to ask and room for more
- Physicians and Nurses who explain what is going on.
- Medical staff talked slowly and lingered in the room wanting questions to be asked
- When a nurse’s shift ended, the next nurse was briefed on my daughter’s progress in her room, with my daughter and all of us listening in
- The hospital has a computerized medical library available to patients and family members
- A ruthless commitment to customer care and safety
- Hospital administrators who came to the room seeking out how to improve the experience
- The social worker who gives the clear sense of working for the patient first not the institution
- Access to free coffee and tea 24 hours a day
- Access to the kitchen on the floor 24 hours a day
- A zealous responsiveness to the needs of the patient and family members
- In my daughter’s unit, nurses have GPS devices attached to them so that their whereabouts are known every moment. (Even when they are taking a break in the restroom!).
- A paging /cell phone system that has the nurse in almost immediate contact with the patient.
- A mobile computerized workstation that keeps track of all procedures related to the patient. This workstation also allows immediate feedback to the patient when questions are asked.
- A red blinking light on the nurses mobile workstation that is turned on when medications are being measured and administered. That red light signals to others: don’t bother me now—I cannot be distracted.
- I could go on….
My dear friend Dr. Otto Austel who passed away recently would talk to me about the similar temptation for physicians and pastors. He called it “thinly veiled contempt.” It is a sense that we are so important, and patients/parishioners are just a bother. I learned from Otto to check that attitude in my life and ministry. Otto in his last days told me/confessed to me: “I could have done more. I could have worked more from my heart.” Otto did work from his heart more than most. I am confident that the Lord says to him—Well done good and faithful servant!
Lindsay’s dear friend is a physician working at Stanford in the tough field of pediatric palliative care. Her mission is caring for critical and sometimes terminal children and their parents and family. She said to me, “what no one should ever say in my unit is: there is nothing more to do. There is always something more to do—helping a child be comforted and comfortable, helping parents face the realities before them, expressing their grief and their shock, explaining any possible treatment, preparing for what can never be prepared for.
My doctor friend and Lindsay’s doctor friend both embody the best of medical practice—competent, caring, dedicated service.
And this is what we experienced at Stanford Hospital last week over and over. They have a mission statement and they live out that mission statement.
My question: how did Stanford do it? How did Stanford create a culture that was flattened and transparent:
- Where doctors are respected for their knowledge and the enormity of the task and their responsibility, and yet they don’t act arrogant or privileged
- Where all members of the staff—admitting staff, administrators, dietary staff, workers, security, nursing aids, nurses, physicians all see themselves as part of the healing team…all are respected and empowered
- Where patients’ health truly is the primary goal—and everyone works together towards that end.
Something is going on at Stanford—they are creating a healing culture that is outstanding. I would like to know how they are doing it. If it can happen at Stanford, maybe there is hope for pastors to step out of their place of privilege and repent of their sense of thinly veiled contempt. Maybe church cultures can be created and nurtured where everyone is empowered for the mission, and where we repent of our individualistic, consumerist, selfish ways.
If Stanford can create a new healing culture—I am convinced, with God’s help and our desire, we can see the church function in new ways in our culture.