Archive for the ‘Leadership’ category

Communication: It Can Make or Break You

March 8th, 2011
This might be one of those blog posts that you cut and paste to forward to your friends, family, peers or boss …or you may forget that you read it as soon as you have finished it. My experiences in healthcare leadership have placed me face to face with thousands of people who communicate in remarkably different ways. It has been my experience as a non-medical, non-scientific professional that the majority of the communication problems that exist in the workplace seem to be rooted in the nuances between only two of the four basic personality types.

We often hear statements like “He just doesn’t understand me.” “We are talking about the same thing, but she is on a totally different wavelength.” “I just don’t trust him. He embellishes the truth.” “What do you mean by the word, ‘is?’” Although we might drive the same make of car, live in somewhat similar homes, read the same newspapers (whether in print or on an LCD screen) and even enjoy Lady Gaga, we sometimes really have challenges with communication.

Bridging the communications gap - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - HealingHospitals.com
These differences can come from the styles of training, education, or upbringing that we’ve had. Whatever the case, it is real, and honestly, it can be maddening for both sides. One personality type sees the world as completely filled with opportunities. Of course they recognize that there are mountains to climb, but they also embrace the fact that there are hundreds of different paths leading to the summit, and that no one way is the absolute right way to get there. These are people who, when given all of the reasons in the world why something won’t work, can find ways to legitimately avoid those obstacles and make it work. Remember, “There’s a pony in there somewhere.”

Like the creator of the DiSC personality profile, let’s call these people the high “I’s: Initiative, influential, inspiring, impressive, interacting, and interesting.” They tend to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and “Don’t mess with Mr. In-between.” They often do not embrace exact detail because to them it usually doesn’t matter. Theirs is a broad picture painted with pastels that blend easily into one another.

If you are a very meticulous person, both intellectually and emotionally, it is not uncommon for you to want things to be as perfect as they can be. This does not mean that neat people or conscientious people should be categorized in any way because multiple types can have these traits, but if you notice your neighbor on his stomach hand trimming the grass blade by blade with tiny scissors, be worried, my friend, be very worried. Let’s call these people the high “C’s.” They are conscientious, cautious, compliant, correct, calculating, concerned, careful and contemplative. They are the detail people. These are the folks who can discuss the use of one word in a sentence for hours. They represent the Faculty Senate, so to speak.

Without stereotyping anyone, let’s consider the person who made straight A’s all through school. They sometimes become obsessed with those A’s, and would go to almost any length short of cheating to make them. To a valedictorian, an A minus can represent a form of failure. How does this perfection addiction impact their thinking over a lifetime? Where do communication points break down with this type of “no one can do it better than me,” souls? When is enough enough as points are made and subjects are explored. If we don’t know the grading scale, we must continue to push the topic until we feel that it has been completely exhausted. This type of perfection can drive the “We live, we love, we die” people absolutely crazy.

In order for things to make sense to the “Cs,” everything must be linear; your sentences, your thought patterns, your decision making must all be orderly and logical. Black and white and perfection are usually the only things that will bring them comfort. Even with that, they many times will revisit the issue, question it again and again, and then let the person with whom they are attempting to communicate know that they are at fault because their communication techniques don’t match their C needs.

Another trait of these individuals is that they are usually risk averse, and, if you don’t answer them based on their detailed perfection level, some will consider you foolish or untruthful. So, how do we find the common ground?

Let’s face it. Communication can make or break a company, can ignite relationships …or end them. Neither group are bad people, we are just different, and goodness can and does come from both personality types. So, what is the answer to these communication problems?

First, we must recognize and then celebrate these differences. It is absolutely critical for us to find comfort zones and then to celebrate them. An “I” personality answer like, “We’ll figure it out,” may not be what the detailer is seeking, but it certainly is a valid answer. On the other hand the I’s could go that extra step to try to provide the “C’s” with what they feel will meet their needs (in as complete detail as possible).

And if you’re on the other team, make a solemn vow not to avoid the dreamers because a lot of science emanated from science fiction, and they are often times our creators, our artists, and our miracle workers.

So, as we “embrace the differences,” remember that it does “Take Two to Tango,” and that one of you can be creative while the other can strive for perfection. A team like that will never be caught short. As Steve Jobs said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

In closing, it was Einstein who said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge…” So, let’s all imagine a better world, a world that is not run and controlled by the economists, but one that embraces the passions of our hearts and our emotions.

We really can have it both ways.

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Finding the Cure…for Bullying

January 21st, 2011

No workplace bullying - Nick Jacobs - healinghospitals.comThis week, NBC’s Today Show featured another story about bullying. As I have have mentioned in previous posts here and elsewhere, I believe that bullying is the quintessential cancer on our lives in places of business, in the military, politics, and relationships of all types.  The good news – actually the very good news –  is that there has been some incredible work being performed on this topic through the efforts of Dr. Matt Masiello at my former place of employment, the Windber Research Institute in Windber, PA.  Grants through the Highmark Blue Cross Foundation of Pittsburgh have fueled this initial effort and the academic and quantitative analysis being done by Clemson University has documented this work.  I believe that this joint effort is a magnificent  example of what can be done to change the future course of events currently being controlled by bullies.

The Today Show story that I saw featured the Massachusetts school where, due to cyber-bullying, a young girl committed suicide last year.  Apparently, another girl is now having the same experience at the same school. With the help of programs like this comprehensive anti-bullying program, the former Secretary of Education from PA, Jerry Zahorchak, (now Superintendent of the Allentown PA school system), embraced the effort to quell and discourage this type of destructive behavior.  And the program, under the direction of Dr. Matt Masiello has successfully been introduced across the  entire State of PA. (Matt had started the Allegheny County’s Goods for Guns program in 1994, when he was the head of pediatric intensive care at Allegheny General Hospital. To date, this program is responsible for collecting more than 11,000 illegal guns from the streets of Pittsburgh.) Matt has had the same success with this anti-bullying program. Now, both Massachusetts and Maryland are looking into embracing this effort.

This anti-bullying program is based on a European program with which Dr. Masiello had become familiar.  This is a school system-wide effort that is very well documented and results in tremendous awareness and reduction of bullying at all grade levels.

The trainers bring a group of teachers and administrators together in the school system, and then “train the trainers” as to how this effort can become part of the philosophy of the school.  They start the training in the spring, typically launch the school wide effort in the fall and run it for at least a year. During that time, detailed records are kept measuring outcomes.

Matt Masiello, MD - Windber Research Institute - Nick Jacobs - Taking the Hell OUt of Healthcare

Matt Masiello, MD

Matt is a wonderful physician, a truly giving person and a saint of a man who is the only U.S. representative on the board of the World Health Organization’s Health Promoting Hospitals program. I hired him before I left Windber Research Institute, and he has worked tirelessly to address both this problem and the problems of childhood obesity.

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (Olweus.org on the web, @Olweus on Twitter) has impacted more than 400 school districts and 20% of all school-aged children in Pennsylvania. It has also had up to a 50% reduction in student reports of bullying …and bullying others.

For more information, please contact me or Dr. Matthew Masiello at the Windber Research Institute.

Michael & Marisa’s anti-bullying song – “The Same”

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Light Up Night

November 20th, 2010

50th anniversary Light Up Night - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - HealingHospitals.comMy apartment is about two blocks away from Pittsburgh’s Cultural District and the same distance from the Sports District where the theaters, stadiums and plenty of restaurants are all nearby. Last night was the 50th anniversary celebration of “Light Up Night,” when the Holiday trees, choirs, and seasonal celebrations begin. Literally tens of thousands of people make their trek into the City for this special night. Zambelli puts on its finest fireworks display of the year, while lighted, horse drawn carriages, food vendors, and music fill the city. It is intended to be a special night for families, and last night was no different. Except for a few distractions.

Because my place is on a main drag and literally one apartment up from street level, activity sometimes feels like it is taking place directly in my living room. Most of the time, this reminds me that I’m alive and it is stimulating, exciting and always evolving. Last night, however, things were somewhat reminiscent of a war zone. Literally a block away, the Clemente Bridge was the staging point for some magnificent fireworks and the crowds were everywhere.

Not long into the celebration, however, it began to feel like Chicago during the filming of the Blues Brothers. Sirens were raging past my apartment at the rate of one a second to what could have been a gun battle. Instead, it was one gun and one victim with plenty of other potential participants standing by ready to mix it up. Then, a few minutes later, another burst of sirens went in the other direction toward an Irish Pub about a block from my apartment. There, another man had been shot. When the news came on, it was apparent that every available policeman in the City had been called to the Wood Street scene to attempt to keep things from boiling over as young men were escorted in handcuffs toward waiting police vans.

I am NOT a sociologist, but it seems very clear that this is just the beginning of what could literally escalate into a form of anarchy as we continue to pursue our current philosophy of greed in this country. While working on a grant a few months back I saw a statistic that was mind numbing. Young African American men in what are considered high crime areas of this city are experiencing an unemployment rate of about 75+ percent. The national average for young black men is about 45 percent and in Pittsburgh, with a few point differentiation due to my sometimes less-than-precise memory, that more global average jumps to about 55 percent.

This week, however, we heard that unemployment compensation would probably not continue to be extended, and last week we heard that education was only one of the potential targets for domestic budget cuts. Not unlike the hospital employees who consistently take all of the premium parking spaces so that their walk into the building is the very closest possible, there seems to be a breakdown in logic. If we don’t correct the problems that we have in our education system; if we don’t help people who have, for no reason of their own become jobless or disabled; if we stop caring about the middle class, and stop helping the poor to establish themselves; where will it lead as a nation?

My personal belief is that we can cut both domestic and military budgets; we can delay some gratification, and we can tweak some of the laws that allow profits to benefit the one or two percent of us who are clearly now in the elite class of protected citizens. The question is, can we do this in a way that does not destroy those who are struggling to survive? Take away the parking places, and you discourage patients from using your hospital which leads to lay-offs. Take away the safety nets, and we might soon have an out of control population that will cost us more than any of the tax breaks or safety net cuts give us. Let’s cooperate in repairing this mess. PLEASE.

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<a href=”http://www.michaelmccumber.com/” class=”michaelmccumber-title”>Courtesy of Michael D. McCumber Photography</a>
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On The Road Again

November 2nd, 2010

I’ve been living in hotels and airports lately speaking at and visiting Planetree hospitals in places like Colorado, Alaska and Iowa.  I’ve had some really fascinating and also some creepy experiences. For example, a few weeks ago, I was eaten by bed bugs in Denver. My legs looked like they were Thanksgiving dinner for someone. I was so freaked out from that experience that I threw away my suitcases and kept my clothes in the dryer until they could fit my granddaughter’s Ken doll.  I’m happy to report, however, that I’m bedbug free now. The down side? I really haven’t had a good night’s sleep in any hotel bed since then.

1919 Classic American Root Beer - Nick Jacobs - Healing Hospitals blogWhat else have I observed?  Last week, while traveling in Iowa, I learned about a drink called 1919.  I thought that it was a stronger version of a 7 & 7, but it turned out that it was root beer —Classic American Draft Root Beer.   Also, for the first time in years, I noticed that every table in almost every restaurant had Thousand Island salad dressing. Everyone seemed to like waffle fries, too; these are French fries that are cut to look like little waffles. By the end of the week, I was saying things like, “I’d like a salad with Thousand Island dressing, a plate of waffle fries, and a 1919.” (Sorry, Dr. Ornish. )

This hospital in Waverly, Iowa was incredible.  It was beautiful, warm, and filled with really friendly, competent employees.  Iowans also claim the honor of being the fourth windiest state in the union, but I think that notoriety only came after my speech.  They can claim Johnny Carson, Buffalo Bill Cody, Herbert Hoover, Ann Landers and John Wayne as theirs, too.  The very most interesting find?  The Quaker Oats factory is in Cedar Rapids.

The week before, while making a speech at Central Peninsula Hospital in Alaska, I noticed that everyone’s eyes had left both my presentation and me and were focusing on the scene that was taking place outside of the panoramic window behind me.   Imagine, gorgeous, snow capped mountains with glaciers tucked in between them feeding a glacier lake.   One of the employees explained to me that a seal had emerged with a halibut the size of a Volkswagen hood in its mouth while several bald eagles swooped down at the seal and grabbed bites of the halibut right out of its mouth.  It was like the Disney movie, “Seal Island,” or maybe it was like “The Muppets Kitchen?”  Anyway, it was fairly amazing to watch, and I was glad I was NOT the seal, but even more delighted that I was not the halibut.

Photo credit: http://www.alaska-bear-viewing.net

Photo credit: http://www.alaska-bear-viewing.net

After the meeting was over, two of the administrators in attendance were taking a small fishing boat to some island nearby, and then, were going hiking into the woods where they planned to go deer hunting among the bears. Read that line again; they were going deer hunting with the bears, the very big, grizzly bears.  The up side of that trip is that the deer there are very BIG. The down side is that the bears are bigger.  These guys explained to me that a lot of time, the bears decide to try to eat both the harvested deer and the non-harvested deer hunters.  It’s at times like that when being able to run faster than your hunting partner is probably important.

Where to next?  Pittsburgh for a panel for the American College of Healthcare Executives at Station Square, then a panel for the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine in San Diego, and finally, Fort Myers, Florida for work on a bio-tech center.

I’ve decided to carry a very large flashlight and a very small bottle of bourbon, with some sand.  I’m thinking that the bed bugs will get drunk and try to stone each other to death.

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What’s Wrong With This Picture?

September 9th, 2010

American Healthcare Magazine - September 6, 2010 - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - HealingHospitals.comThe Modern Healthcare edition of September 6, 2010 has a cover headline that reads: “Passing the Buck,” and the descriptor goes on to explain that “Yet a new report says workers’ share of benefit costs is skyrocketing.”  The actual opening line of the article starts with “Workers are shouldering more of the costs of health coverage than ever before amid stagnant wages and a weak economy”…

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Patient Advocacy, a subject about which I am passionate. So, this blog is about patient and employee advocacy that also provides additional resources for hospitals to help them address the current economic challenges.

Every year when we looked at our medical insurance costs at my hospital, a politically incorrect friend would jokingly suggest that we begin an annual, required participation August Tennis Tournament for our high-utilization employees, but only after the temperatures reached at least 95 degrees.  “It would be a thinning of the herd,” he would jokingly say with an elf-like smile on his face.  We would then get serious and dig into a long list of creative ideas aimed at helping contain these costs so that we would not have to lower benefits or pass the charges on to the employees.

Included in these lists were some rather simple ideas such as offering, in a structured manner, the wellness options covered under our health insurance umbrella and generally rewarding our employees for taking better care of themselves.  We significantly reduced fees for the workout facility (1/3 of the regular cost ), provided personalized counseling from our dietitians, had a weight loss contest and gave rewards for taking classes on stress management, smoking cessation, diabetes control and exercise.

We offered psychological counseling for our employees who were suffering from stress related issues.  Our food service vendor, CURA, made sure that “no transfats” were a part of the hospital’s meals, that there were always low-fat vegetarian choices on every menu, that snacks were reasonable and that our vending machines had healthy choices. We also celebrated life and work on a regular basis.   We had cook-outs, off-stage break rooms, massage, aroma, Reiki, pet and music therapy.  We provided drum circles, non-denominational spiritual services and meditation classes; kick boxing, Pilates, pool therapy, and employee parties.

So, short of forced tennis matches, how else can we control these costs?  The following is a summary of a program that SunStone Consulting is currently offering with two other business partners, CBIZ and InforMed.

Over the past 6 years, the average annual health insurance cost increase for InforMed-supported patient advocacy programs has run at 4.5%, compared to the 10-12% trend for all employers.  In the case where a hospital with 1,500 employees is paying out about $10,000,000 a year for employee health insurance, a 5% savings over a three year period would generate $3.3 million in savings.  Let me repeat that:  By lowering those  premium increases by 5%, there would be over three million extra dollars available for hospital financial needs and co-pays and deductibles for the employees would not have to continue to escalate by 13 to 15% annually.

The Patient Advocate logo (California) - Nick Jacobs, FACHEThe care management “engagement” rate of all the major insurance companies is about 30%. That means that the insurance company-based “help programs” are about 1/3 effective in even reaching the employees.  This non-insurance company based program, however, has a 70% engagement rate of identified large claimants, more than double the insurance company’s rate, and with over 1 million employees in this program, they produce a 98% patient satisfaction rate.

By employing local, trained, patient advocacy nurses, paying physicians a monthly stipend out of the savings to help manage these patient/employees, and then helping those high utilization patients legitimately navigate through the nine to fifteen physicians with whom they interact on an annual basis, health systems are seeing tremendous savings.  (Kind of the Best of Managed Care scenario.)

These are clear, actionable items that will positively change a bottom line quickly and permanently without having to increase the financial burden on the employees.

Why not try it?  It works.

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The Problem with Experience, Intellect and Self-Assurance

September 3rd, 2010

I received this quote from a friend today:

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little.
His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.

But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side,

if he does not so much as know what they are,
he has no ground for preferring either opinion.”

–John Stuart Mill, British philosopher from his classic On Liberty, 1859

Man Looking in Mirror - Recursive - Nick Jacobs, FACHEMy new friend, Dan, has been helping me by holding up a rather small mirror, and suggesting that I explore me in that looking glass.  For the past two years, my patterns have not changed appreciably.  My work day starts very early and typically ends very late.  During those working hours, it has been my custom to continue to pursue those imaginative, creative inventions, ideas, and interventions that can help to change lives, businesses, and futures in a very positive way.  My enthusiasm for these discoveries, however, seems to get me into trouble, because I’m always trying to provide answers before anyone asks me questions.

Everywhere we go people are selling us something.  We are being inundated with opportunities to try something new, something different, something wonderful that will change our lives. We not only become callous to these approaches, we become cynical and sometimes very negative toward them.  Hence, when I try to explain that there really is plenty of money available to us to add those services and to create the type of environment that we know the Baby Boomers and their kids would love, the push back begins.

In fact, Dan held up his hand and said, “Put your hand against mine.”  Within seconds we were pushing on each other’s hands.  It’s a natural thing.  We see the hand and begin to push back on it.  Our experiences, our intellectual capacity, and our self-assurance all work against us as we assume that “we have the answers,” and that no matter what is on the table, you have experience and knowledge that allows you to counter its winning characteristics.

Dan suggested that I begin to approach things differently. He suggested that I stop telling people all of the details of my incredible discoveries and allow them to tell me where their pain resides. Allow them to tell me what hurts. Then, suggest some of the marvelous potential cures that have been so much a part of my research over the past few years.  Maybe we should all listen to Dan?

As CEO’s (and former CEO’s), we all know a lot. We’ve experienced a lot, and if we weren’t fairly self-assured, we wouldn’t have gotten the job in the first place. So, maybe, just maybe, instead of always trying to fix everything before we really understand the details, maybe it would be good –really good to just listen for awhile.

Early aircraft listening device, Bolling AFB 1921

Early aircraft listening device, Bolling AFB, 1921

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Modern Healthcare’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell”

August 1st, 2010

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The July 19th edition of Modern Healthcare had a very revealing article by Melanie Evans entitled “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” The cut line under that title was “A third of physicians in a  study don’t feel obligated to report impaired [fellow] docs.”  Ms. Evans went on to describe the fact that the word impaired refers to drugs, alcohol or mental illness.  The study was from the Journal of the American Medical Association and it queried nearly 1,900 physicians.  Having been involved with the management of hospitals for over two decades, the results of this study shocked me.  Not because I didn’t believe it was possible; not because I didn’t believe there could be a problem but because it was clearly not my experience.  Yes, there were impaired physicians, administrators and staff members, but the programs available to them were comprehensive, thorough and unending.

If the question was posed, “Is there a problem with drugs, alcohol, and mental illness among physicians?,” my answer would have been  yes.  The same, however, is true of administrators, staff and employees.  None of those exposed to an environment that intersects with life and death issues on a daily basis and that requires the incredibly long hours necessary to keep the  proverbial “wheels on the bus” is without risk of these problems.  Add to that the relative ease of going  from one “friend” to another to get the prescription that is needed, and we have created a potential formula for disaster.

The seriousness of the outcomes derived from this series of questions is not something that any of us “in the business” is in any way ignoring.  It is real.  It definitely could result in injury andor death through medical errors.  So, the question becomes one of management, monitoring and self-policing.  The airline industry pays very close attention to the impairment of their pilots. Why?  Their crashes are typically not between one pilot and one passenger.  They are large, emotional events that impact literally thousands of lives.

When will the medical community begin to embrace the same standards as the airline industry?  It seems to me that we are currently “on  the move toward that objective now,” and as the public and government put more and more pressure on the healthcare industry to be transparent, it will become harder and harder to hide those shadow surgeries that went wrong  or those mis-diagnosed cases that could be traced back to impaired professionals.

Image credit: Edie Falco as Nurse Jackie - (c) Showtime Networks

The Modern Healthcare article ended with the statement that doctors “need more education on programs that evaluate and manage treatment and monitoring for impaired doctors.”  I agree . . . in this case, more is better, but how many “Nurse Jackies” (i.e., the hypothetical impaired employees) do we have flying low throughout our facilities as well?  The healthcare industry needs to pay attention to all of its impaired at all levels.

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Big Bird vs. The Status Quo

June 4th, 2010

Feeling “funny,” is something that would describe me pretty well today. Not ha ha funny, stomach ache funny. I’m thinking that Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, John Wayne, Amelia Earhart, and even Hawkeye Pierce from MASH may have ruined me. They stood up for what they believed, right or wrong, left or right. They had chutzpah, nerve, and . . . well, you know.

So, what’s making me feel funny? It’s those darn birds. Those birds have touched my heart. Tell me this; how can you not feel empathy for the baby birds being oiled down in their nests, and how about the tiny little birds that are still flying around a few feet from the oncoming disaster with absolutely no clue as to how bad things are going to be in a very short amount of time. I’ll admit that, unlike my mom, I’m not a passionate bird lover, but those big, oil soaked birds are really getting to me.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m allergic to shell fish, and even though, according to some oil company spokesperson, “Louisiana isn’t the only place that has shrimp,” according to my memory, their shrimp was some of the best in the world. So, if you’re not a big bird fan, how about a big shrimp fan, or a big fan of places where people live? How about a big fan of being able to sit on the beach or of jobs; fishing jobs, tourism jobs, even oil jobs? What will it take to get our leaders to show some real passion? I’m thinking Sesame Street.

We all know that getting the kids involved has helped remind us to start wearing our seat belts and bike helmets, to stop drinking and driving, and now texting and driving. Maybe we need Sesame Street to get our country to finally scream out from the top of their lungs, “S-T-O-P it.“ Could you imagine Big Bird or better still the President of that oil company dressed as Big Bird all soaked in oil being pushed out into the Gulf and gasping for air as he slowly is washed away forever? It would make the time they did the “Mr. Hooper is dying thing” seem tame.

One of my favorite sayings is “The problem is never the problem,” and the problem here is, once again, the status quo. It’s that philosophy of “don’t change ANYTHING because I’m personally comfortable with my life.” Just this week, a group of scientists who literally have brought 44 people out of deep, irreversible comas; soldiers, policemen, firemen, coal miners, and little boys and girls had their federal grant blocked because the status quo scientists and doctors involved said that “It was not the traditional methodology for treating coma patients.” Yikes, tell that to the people who lived, many of whom are back to leading functional lives. Come to think of it, that would be a good Sesame Street show, too. Oscar the grouch in Critical Care with tubes, the Cookie Monster administering the Last Rites, and Bingo Bango he’s awake and grouchy again.

Is it possible that no one wants to stand up for what they believe in and take it on the chin anymore? Somewhere there still must be some lines, some sacred requirements that we must meet in order to qualify as human beings on this planet? Could you imagine how different those John Wayne movies would have been? “It’s okay, pilgrim, let ‘em rob the bank. We need their support for re-election.” How about Neil Armstrong? “You want me to do what?” “Are you crazy?”

I still feel funny. Where the heck is Big Bird and Hawkeye when you really need them? We’ve had seagull management in this country for far too long now as they “Fly in, squawk, poop on our heads, and fly back to D.C. “ Pelicans UNITE!

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Speaking This Year

May 20th, 2010
Nick Jacobs, FACHE - F. Nicholas Jacobs - Healing Hospitals - Sunstone Consulting

Nick Jacobs, FACHE

As some of you may have noticed, last year was a tough year for education, travel, and some forms of consulting. It was “the economy, stupid.” A number of our major public speaking engagements were canceled or postponed, because hospitals stopped sending employees to educational conferences. In fact, at one of the leadership conferences where we spoke last year, there were only 90 people in attendance. The previous year, there had been nearly 500.

Well, thank goodness, things have picked up a bit, and we will be speaking a few more times over the next several months. The following is an up-to-date list of locations, dates, and topics currently scheduled:

  1. Lake Erie Regional Cooperative/Amerinet Conference, Toledo, OH, May 7th, 2010
    “Redesigning the Patient Experience”
  2. Risk Management and Patient Safety Institute, Lansing, Michigan, August 27, 2010
    “Blogging and Transparency -Increasing Patient Satisfaction through Web 2.0″
  3. Planetree Conference, Denver, Colorado, October 8th, 2010
    “Navigating the challenges faced while transitioning to the Planetree model of care”
  4. Central Peninsula Hospital, Soldotna Alaska, October 14, 15th
    “Planetree”
  5. Waverly Health Center, Waverly, Iowa, October 20-22,
    Topic: To be announced
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Jacobs in Wonderland

April 16th, 2010

Back in 1969, a famous singer by the name of Peggy Lee came out with a song entitled, “Is That All There Is?”  She sang about her lifetime experiences of having her house burn down, having attended and then realizing that she hated the circus, and then being dumped by her boyfriend.  After each one of those experiences she would sing, “If that’s all there is my friends, then let’s keep dancing.  Let’s break out the booze and have a ball.”

This song could only be described as a “downbeat song of disillusionment.”  It probably contributed to the creation of most of the new antidepressant drugs that we have today.  Now that was  a wonderful contribution to society that evolved that even Peggy could never have foreseen.  So, for an optimist, one must dream that “from trials and tribulations good things may happen.”  Or, if you’re the head of a pharmaceutical company, you might say, “from depressing songs we can make billions of dollars.”  (It’s a joke …relax.)

Truthfully, we all spend time each day kicking away the many disappointments that come at us as we work our way through the myriad speed bumps that come up during our own personal journeys.  This week was a week of observation for me.  I spent time observing what is going right and what is going wrong at all levels: personal,  business, national, and international for friends, fellow employees, relatives, other loved ones, companies, and politicians.   During my periods of reflection it became clear to me once again that “change is inevitable.”  In fact, change is life and life is change.   Those who can embrace it, deal with it, and make the best of it seem to thrive.

Leland Kaiser - Healthcare Futurist - Nick Jacobs, FACHE - Healing HospitalsThe challenge for most of us seems to be that of being able to get ourselves into harmony with what we want. Some days we have good thoughts, then not-so-good thoughts, and then the next day good thoughts and so on.  It has become clear to me that we need to reach a permanent state of believing without any doubt in exactly what we want to have happen.  Then, not unlike those 10,000 hours that I practiced my trumpet, it a matter of sticking with it until you get better and better at creating your own destiny, designing your own future.  Because as Leland Kaiser has said over and over again, “The Future is a Design Function.”

Dr. Denis Waitley, a positive mental attitude psychologist for the U.S. Olympic team, often speaks of positive self talk, but more importantly, he speaks of taking positive action. If  you don’t like what is happening, work to change it, but first you need to dig deep down inside yourself and determine if it is because you are truly offended by what is happening or if it is just change itself that you resent or fear.  Positive energy is not a “Jacobs in Wonderland” phenomena.  Rather, it is the movement that brings good things to life.

So, embrace healthcare reform as you try to figure it out.  Embrace nuclear arms reduction.  Embrace the fact that you are stranded in Europe because of a volcanic cloud.  It’s all good, or at least we can make it all good.  As long as we have life, love, and a will to succeed, it’s all good.  And, Peggy, the answer is, “No, that’s not all there is.”

There is nothing more fulfilling than living a purpose driven life, than contributing to the betterment of mankind in some meaningful way.   As I work with the International Brain Research Foundation to help them find support to bring traumatic brain injury (TBI) patients out from what were previously believed to be deep, irreversible comas: as I work with the fine people in breast cancer research to spread their work internationally; as I work in Patient Advocacy, and in finding resources for hospitals and physicians to enable them to provide even more superior care, I can tell you that “That’s not all there is.”   In fact, it’s just the beginning.

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