Wednesday, September 9, 2009
The Pen is Mightier than the Sword
Okay, it is a keyboard rather than a pen and I rarely use a sword so I do not have comparison data. Nonetheless, I can attest to the power of the written word. Ok, the walls of Jericho didn’t come a tumblin’ down, but it is a coup.
UCSF, like any ginormous institution, is a hierarchy of interconnected corporate departments. While the medical care is delivered in an efficient manner, the behind the scenes work of keeping the medical center operating, compliant with laws and efficient takes an army of people. Of course, changing anything or getting anything accomplished means endless meetings and justifications. Unless you get to the right people first. Two of my blog posts Maggie World: Access this! (January 9) and Maggie World: Friends in Tight Spaces (july 29) [not sure if these links are working] made their way to the right person who in turn sent them to the department heads who can make a difference. It was those department heads who came to the meeting last night. These are three corporate bigwigs wanting to hear the issues first hand.
In the beginning of the meeting, we introduced ourselves and explained our role on the council. There are both family members and staff on this council. The family members have children with a variety of issues, from the occasional hospitalization to the chronic and ongoing issues to those whose children have passed away. It is sobering for anyone to sit at the table and listen to our collective experiences. By happenstance, I was seated next to the biggest of the three wigs and was the last to introduce myself. I told them that Maggie was a frequent flyer, she had undergone more than 70 surgeries, had hundreds of admissions, and then said, and I may be the reason all of you are here tonight. I joked that I have had many wonderful experiences at UCSF too, and I have even written about those, but the bad ones make the rounds.
They listened with interest and concern to the stories several parents shared about difficulties with both access and attitude toward our kids in wheelchairs. One gave somewhat corporate answers initially, (a reflex, undoubtedly) but when called on that, started dealing with the parents on a more human level. When she spoke of the general decline in service in the world, she was reminded this is a HOSPITAL, not Exxon. People arrive at a hospital in a heightened state of emotion and the non-medical staff needs to be cognizant of that and of their role in either exacerbating or easing those emotions.
Of course, we heard of the difficulty in finding the space necessary to make everything accessible, and I completely understand that. In my own home, I have to climb over furniture to get around Maggie’s wheelchair half the time. My thought, and that of many other members of the council, is to work on the attitude of the employees while the physical/structural issues are being addressed. Can you teach manners and etiquette to adults who did not learn it from their parents? Maybe and maybe not; but they can be held accountable for job performance. Interpersonal skills should count in a service-based organization. If they did not learn them as a kid, they better learn them now, or suffer the consequences of not meeting job requirements.
Because if they don’t that one crazy lady with the blog will just write about it again. But, if writing about the bad experiences helps make changes, or even get the right people talking about it the experiences are almost worth it.