Larry Hertzler: Finding Comfort in Discomfort Is Key to Professional Growth

In her Sept. 26 message to the AAMI community, AAMI President Mary Logan wrote about the need to get outside our comfort zones when facing professional challenges. I’ve been thinking a lot about that message. A former colleague often used to say that her goal as a leader was “making you comfortable being uncomfortable.” Her statement was a little about candor, but more about engaging employees to move beyond their comfort zones. Her statement reflects a belief that you need to challenge yourself to stretch and grow, and that you need to be willing to allow others to challenge you, especially when it is pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone.

Lately, my thoughts have been about how healthcare technology management (HTM) needs to get uncomfortable in order to advance. There are many who might not even recognize that they should be uncomfortable, and the ignorance-is-bliss scenario probably won’t end well for them. The field has a lot of folks looking to demand respect, but they have not taken steps to truly earn it. The fear is that “coming out of the basement” when not ready to do so actually could harm HTM, because it may demonstrate to some healthcare leaders that the basement is where it belongs. There are certainly many examples of HTM professionals doing this the right way, with very positive results for the individual, his or her organization, and HTM in general, but the concern is not about such individuals.

It is also interesting how different people react to the same stimuli. In her quarterly message, Mary quoted one speaker who had reacted to a medical device company’s invitation to provide input on a piece of equipment. That person had responded this way: “I’m just one clinician, and I could be steering them in the wrong direction.” I am sure for every person who responds like that, there are many more who take the position that they are the only ones with the right answer. Sorting through the opinions and fact is always the challenge. The ability to get to the “right” answer is more critical as risk increases, and in many cases there are probably several right answers. Of course, not being diligent enough can result in a bad decision. But you can easily get caught in the “analysis paralysis” mode trying to get to that one perfect answer. It’s vital that we get comfortable with this discomfort, and use solid decision-making processes. Along the way, don’t forget about a healthy dose of self-awareness. Always a balance.

Larry Hertzler is vice president of operations support with ARAMARK Healthcare Technologies.



One thought on “Larry Hertzler: Finding Comfort in Discomfort Is Key to Professional Growth

  1. I myself have “discomfort issues.” For me it’s the fact that far too may OEMs seem to have adopted a strategy of denying biomeds service manuals and access to service parts. I have great discomfort that our industry leaders seem to be taking this lying down. I fail to see why more industry professionals do not suffer similar discomfort.
    For every biomed who does not have a service manual, there is another biomed (or CE) who lets a vendor get a device in the door without making that vendor provide a service manual, so the device could be competently checked to the specification the service manual would contain. This is a great cause of “discomfort” to me. If this was a hard standard our profession could maintain, we would eliminate a great source of discomfort in our industry and improve the service we provide to caregivers and their patients.

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