A Respiratory Department Needs Fine Tuning
I always wanted to be a musician. Actually, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an astronomer. I spent hours outside at night looking at the stars. First, it was just with my eyes, then a pair of binoculars, then a telescope I won selling seeds. But underneath it all, I wanted to play music.
I sang in every choir I could find (turns out a bass is a hot commodity). In my bedroom, I directed big choirs and rock bands with a pencil when no one was looking. I took two piano lessons. I quit because I couldn't play anything. So, I taught myself the piano; a project I still work on now. In the Army, I took up the harmonica. It fit into my rucksack, weighed virtually nothing (very important for an infantry man), and passed a lot of time in a fun way. Now, it's the guitar. I don't have the fingers for it. All of my fingers have been broken at least once, with several broken multiple times. I don't hear well enough to play any way but really loud. Still, there is something about the guitar that makes my soul come alive.
A respiratory department is a lot like a guitar. As a follow-up to my "jerks" blog, I thought we could explore how a tuned-up guitar is like a good department. Many of you chose to personally e-mail me your thoughts on bosses who are jerks. That makes sense, because some of you work for them now, and if they read what you wrote, you would probably be unemployed now. The overwhelming theme in your e-mails, however, were the other "jerks" in your departments. The folks that make the department look bad, that discredit the profession, and that are just a pain to be around for eight or twelve hours a day.
When a guitar is new, it either has no strings or the strings are not tuned. You, as the department manager or a member of "guitar central," must do this yourself. You spend hours, sometimes days, getting each string to the perfect pitch. You twist and turn, strum, turn some more, strum some more, until it finally sounds just the way you want it, much like a department manager does with people in the department. When everything is how it should be, the six strings become one, making a pure sound that stirs the listener. A department is the same way. When all members of the department work in harmony, it's a beautiful thing to behold.
Yet there always seems to be one string that just isn't right. One string, or in a department, one person, that just isn't in tune with the rest. You strum and strum, but the sound is not right. It sounds ugly, awful, and throws off the other five strings. You work on your fingers, you try to adjust the bad string or the other five to produce the sound you want, but it just does not happen. Perhaps you even replace the bad string with a new one, hoping that it was the string itself that was off. Still, the sound you get is not the sound you want. Perhaps the string breaks, and now the six-string masterpiece you had is a five string heap of garbage.
In my opinion, it is only when all six strings are tuned and played correctly that you get the sound you seek. In our departments, it is only when all the people in the department have the leadership, professionalism, ethics, values, and mission the others have that a department can distinguish itself from the pack. One bad person, or one bad string, throws everything off.
Departments are made of strings, waiting to be plucked and strummed to do good for the community. If the musician is incompetent -- or the manager in this case -- the sound will never be right. It is only through time and practice, trial and error, patience and high standards, that a department or a guitar can be used to produce the results sought.
As many of you have pointed out, one bad person in the department, one person who is not in harmony with the others, can produce a workplace that is combative, impersonal, mean, worrisome, and a burden to withstand. We have all had them. They are like an infection that spreads throughout our organizations. Tune them up! Work on them. Make them a part of your otherwise great team or shed them like the broken string on the guitar. It is only then that you can hope to produce the results you seek.
That's just my opinion,
Jim Thacker, MHA, CRT, AE-C