Last week, my family returned from a vacation in Jamaica. The kids had spring break and it was great to get away with them. Upon returning to the U.S. and after clearing passport control, the customs agent said “welcome home.” No doubt they are trained to say this; I hear it every time I travel internationally. Nevertheless, those words always warm my heart and make me smile. They reflect for me a national culture, a set of values and beliefs about how we will behave. Welcome home to the U.S. reminds me that we live under the rule of law, that we are all afforded due process, that we have freedoms to voice our concerns, to practice our religions, to vote.
As we drove home, we rounded the corner and our house came into view. Again warm feelings flooded me. Seeing my home, I reflected on the deeply held beliefs of love, of support and nurturing, of forgiveness, of warmth and comfort—the culture of our home.
Two days later, on Monday, I returned to work, starting as the attending physician in the ICU. As I walked into the ICU, I thought about the culture we have created there, the sets of norms and beliefs that govern behaviors, my largely hidden assumptions about the organization and my colleagues.
Clinicians, when you walk into your clinical or hospital, what kind of culture are you part of? Is this a place where patients are the “North Star,” their needs guiding all of your work? Is it a place where clinicians’ egos are put aside and they focus on what is right rather than who is right, where we commit to practice evidence-based medicine, to work as a team, to continually learn and improve? Is it where staff seek to identify and mitigate patient safety hazards, respect the wisdom of frontline workers and empower them to improve? Is it a place where we see our differences as strengths rather than weaknesses, where we support each other, hold each other’s hands when we are down, laugh and cry together?