The room was filled with the aroma of stale coffee. The anxious looking guests made idle conversation, averting their eyes so as not to look into the eyes of the person next to them. The folding metal chairs were arrayed in a circle. At the appointed time they sat.
A man with a hardened look stood to speak. “Hi. My name is John, and I haven’t spoken to a patient in four months.” As he began to sit, the others responded in unison, “Hi John.”
The rotund woman across from him rose and composed herself. “My name is Mary, and I haven’t spoken with a patient today.”
This same process occurred until all who wanted had said their piece. Hospital executives. Male and female. Some had earned their stripes caring for patients. Others, even though they were in charge, had never met one. Recovering clinicians and physicians.
The good news is that the program works. The longer the executive goes without speaking to a patient, the longer they are likely to go. The break-even point seems to be about two weeks, the same amount of time it takes to paint a house. Once an executive has gone two weeks without speaking to a patient, there is almost no chance of slipping into that nasty old habit.
When was the last time you caught one of your executives sneaking a chat with a patient? Probably never. Old habits aren’t so tough to break, especially when those habits never existed.