Cultivating Inexplicable Healthcare Miracles
"He'd been dead for 20 minutes. We got him back inexplicably. He calls me every year."
- Esther Choo, Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Public Health, Researcher, OHSU
I saw this fantastic quote on Twitter. I'm not a physician, although my company works on culture, resiliency, and leadership, with healthcare organizations, physicians, and other caregivers. I don't know Dr. Choo and I don't know her story apart from its testament to her skills!
To me, the above quote is at the heart of healthcare. Physicians and other caregivers are bringing people back to life, helping families bring life into this world, and being there for those who are leaving this world and life. Healthcare is about life.
But I also love this quote because it gives a glimpse into the old saying that medicine is part science, part art. "We got him back inexplicably." Doctors on TV always seem to know what is happening. They're all-knowing unless their addiction problem or their affair is the focus of the drama that week and distracts them from their profession. But in talking with real doctors, nurses, and other people working with patients, they share that things happen that healthcare professionals don't always understand. Of course, physicians and clinicians have years of training and are continually learning, so they are not flying blind, but there are still moments when they make decisions from their gut, intuition, or what I would call inner wisdom. The doctor or the nurse has a feeling or the sense of something and may take action on it.
"I'm a rationalist and a scientist, but there have been many instances when I've had a deep sense about a patient that is not informed directly by lab tests.
It is a gut sense."
- Jerome Groopman, M.D., Second Opinions: Stories of Intuition and Choice in the Changing World of Medicine.
So how can we use and cultivate out gut sense or intuition?
Our intuition is a quiet voice like a wise but frail grandparent who you sometimes have to ask to repeat what they say. Our to-do list, our goals, and our ego have no problem speaking up. They are the whiney kids who want "dinner now," or the uncle or aunt who always drinks one too many on holidays and needs their drink "freshened."
2. Slow down.
When we go from one task to another, pleased with all our accomplishments and our doing, we can't hear that quiet voice. When we slow things down, wait before responding to the email, go for a five-minute walk rather than catching up on Twitter, or take a few deep breaths, we can hear that voice.
3. Be curious.
Our intuition may direct us to something that doesn't make sense. When it does make sense, it is often not that quiet voice speaking. But instead of saying, it's nonsense, crazy or just nuts, ask some questions, reflect on different answers. Something may come up that you haven't thought of that is perfect.
Intuition and gut sense is not a replacement for logic, evidence, and training, but it can be a vital tool that used carefully, can help caregivers, and even save lives, just as maybe Dr. Cho did with this patient who called her every year. Take time to listen to your gut. You'll be glad you did.