This is a sad but true story. In high school I was on the varsity basketball team. We had a very good team ranked in the top 5 in the state. Part of the reason for our success was our coach, who to this day is a mentor to me, and our team chemistry. However, that team chemistry took a shot in the arm on the evening of January 23, 1996 when my teammate Brandon collapsed and died during a game on the court. The loss of Brandon devastated not only our team but the entire school and community. My teammates wondered how or if we could ever go back on the court.
We took three days of mourning and another day of funeral arrangements. We finallay decided that we did want to finish the season in honor of Brandon. Our next game would be against our cross-town rivals. My coach then told us something that I have never forgotten to this day. He reiterated to us that we had a tough couple of days, and that we had every right to skip the past two days of practices. He mentioned that no one would think that we were slacking off by missing those 2 days of practice. But unfortunately the pursuit of excellence does not accept any excuses. You may be able to reason with other people; you may be able to reason with yourself. But in the end, excellence doesn’t care why don’t achieve it.
Thinking back on that conversation with my coach helps me to analyze the position that some hospitals are in today. Hospitals are in the business of saving lives and healing people. But make no mistake, hospitals are a business. Hospital leaders must make decisions on a daily basis that will help generate revenue for the hospital and turn a profit. Some of these decisions involve the staffing levels of medical providers. Administrators must balance the number of revenue generating providers such as physicians, mid levels, and technicians with support staff such as RN’s and operations. When things get tight and the hospital is not making a profit the easiest thing to do would appear to be to cut the staff. Cutting the staff could allow a hospital to cut cost, and if the hospital operates efficiently they might be able to maintain patient care in doing so. But excellence accepts no excuses. And if a teenage boy dies after collapsing at a basketball game because the hospital was short staffed and did not have a intensivist on call the parents won’t care about the financial position of the hospital.
Please don’t think that I am speculating my friend died because of a hospital error because I am not. However, I do want to point out the fact that today some people do have a choice on what medical facility they use. If a close family member of mine was sick I would make absolute sure that they are in the hands of a hospital that accepts no excuses to achieve nothing but excellence.