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More for Me to Learn

An early and enduring passion for me was—and is—mathematics and statistics. I was enough of a natural student of these things that, together with curiosity and the excitement of new insights and mastery, I didn’t mind doing the work required for learning.

Many deeper life lessons have not come as naturally to me. I find I know more than I’ll ever need about matrix algebra, but perhaps not as much as I should about compassion. I’ve been trying some deliberate activities to address this imbalance. One example of this is when I go grocery shopping, I watch for people helping others. I was surprised to find how often helping behaviors (or, at least behaviors I interpret as helping) happen at the grocery store. Not just the employees helping customers (although, to me that counts), but parents helping and teaching their children or adult children helping elderly parents. I’ve been shopping for my family for years and had never noticed. I now find shopping to be a more uplifting experience.

Recently, a few of us here at HealthInsight had an opportunity to visit hospital teams at a few sites around the country to learn about their approaches to improving care and protecting patients from harms associated with care. They shared important technical insights from their experience—things like strategies they’d tried, or problems they’d encountered and how they’re overcoming them. These teams were justifiably proud of the improvements they made, but none were satisfied that their work was done, and, in spite of the extraordinary results they had demonstrated—the reason we’d selected them for these visits—none of the teams considered their efforts to be anything exceptional. The people we had the privilege to meet included hospital leaders, program managers and front-line staff. They described the hard work and discipline required to be an expression of the best parts of themselves and their talents: perseverance, humanity and compassion. I found this to be an uplifting experience.

I appreciate the opportunities for deeper life lessons afforded by our work with such health care providers.

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