Health care: the long and the short

In the short run, we reward figures of authority. In the long run, we reward people who create the most value.

In the short run, top-down management wins. In the long run, front line workers are empowered to create change.

In the short run, we treat health problems after-the-fact. In the long run, we prevent health problems before they happen.

In the short run, we invest millions of dollars in hospital care. In the long run, we invest in the resources that keep people out of hospital.

In the short run, we manage the urgent and emergent problems. In the long run, we do the important work first.

In the short run, we fit in all the way, keep our heads down and do what we’re told. In the long run, we stand out and lead.

Short runs are selfish. They waste money and time and human resources. And they cause unnecessary suffering.

The nursing crisis in Quebec is proof that short runs don’t work.

It’s easy to blame the government for our problems. But the truth is, we’re all responsible.

We know people suffer when they shouldn’t. We know people fall through the cracks, and wait too long for care. We know people don’t get the time and attention they need.

So why do we keep allowing this to happen?

Because we’re afraid. 

We’re afraid of what people might think if we say something. We’re afraid of losing our licence to practice. Of getting fired. Of being judged. Of failing.

The prehistoric structure in our brain that saved our ancestors from wild animals is the same one that stops us from challenging the status quo of a health care system that’s not working.

The Resistance, Steve Pressfield calls it, is this powerful force inside each of us that holds us back from doing uncomfortable work. It’s the voice in our heads telling us we’re not good enough. That we can’t make a difference. That it’s not our responsibility. That it’s someone else’s fault.

The Resistance is why we’re stuck with a system that doesn’t work.

What we all need to realize is that health care will only improve when enough people are brave enough to stand up and demand a new way of doing our work.

When we agree about the purpose of health care.

When we no longer tolerate wasting resources doing things that don’t make sense.

And when we’re able to dance with the fear of making change happen.

With the right amount of persistence, different education, and a collective willingness to create a better future, the long runs will get shorter and health care will change, one day at a time.