Donald Armstrong: Remember Your Purpose

Earlier this month, I returned home from another fantastic AAMI conference in Tampa, FL.  I was inspired by many new topics and further educated on several of the familiar subjects we cover from year to year. At the same time, there was one topic that seemed to intertwine almost all of the talks and sessions. Could you guess what it was? You might say it was security for information technology (IT) or maybe preventive maintenance (PM) strategies, and you would be partially correct. You might think it was patient safety or staffing issues, and again you would be partially correct. All of those are very important and topical issues, but the phrase that kept coming to my mind was Remember Your Purpose.

What do I mean by that? Just to qualify, I am biomed supervisor in the peri-op group at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center and have been a healthcare technology management (HTM) professional for more than 30 years. I have been focusing on PMs, repairs, and inventory issues for years. It is what we to do, right? I would certainly agree, but I have always felt we have a greater purpose.

This thought was further illuminated as I was listening to George Mills from The Joint Commission speak during one AAMI session on infection control. He mentioned that when his son was very young and had to visit a hospital, he was in a little red wagon being rolled around to his appointments.  During this visit, Mills said he had an epiphany. Unlike his professional visits to hospitals, this time Mills said he did not notice the environment around him in the hospital; his focus changed to the little boy (his son) in the little red wagon.  (Apologies if I don’t have the story exactly right.) This is why we do what we do. We keep PM rates up, and we repair medical devices the best was can—all for the people in the little red wagons.  A wonderful example of what our purpose is (or, at least, should be).

Our purpose should be as connected to patients and families as it is to the equipment we work on. If you have ever been a patient in a hospital or have had a family member or friend spend any time as a patient, you understand what an emotional and transformational experience a hospital stay can be.  And I am guessing you were thankful that all the equipment worked well and could pass an accreditation inspection, but I bet you were just as thankful for a warm smile or friendly interaction with a staff member of that facility. You notice I did not mention doctor or nurse, although they are the primary care givers. I am speaking about all staff members in a hospital, including biomeds.

We go into work every day and do the best we can at being HTM professionals. For our patients, however, it’s not just another day at work. This is likely the most important day of their lives, and we need to be sensitive of that. We play such a major part in the care our patients receive because of our technical prowess and equally because we care about them as people. We could be a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on (go ahead, it’s OK). I have even prayed with people in the ICU; I doubt I was breaking any rules. Remember Your Purpose: the patients.

Donald Armstrong, CBET, is a biomed supervisor with UCSF Medical Center. He is also a member of AAMI’s Technology Management Council.

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