Recently, I was asked what I considered the “cornerstone of my success” within my organization. After hemming and hawing for a moment, I said that I believed that communication was, is, and will continue to be the cornerstone of my success. As I step back and think about it a bit more, I’m convinced that communication can in fact be a cornerstone that many healthcare technology management professionals can use to be more successful if they so choose.
How often have you thought of yourself as a “jack of all trades, master of none?” Healthcare technology managers, clinical engineers, biomedical engineers, biomed techs, biomedical equipment support specialists, and nearly any other name (or acronym) used within our field often have one tested skill in common. You often work across many areas, and are able to communicate in two critical ways: with the clinician who may lack technical expertise and with the OEM or service organization that seemingly only speak in technical jargon. This value of this skill—the ability to mediate and translate such conversations—cannot go overstated. In fact, I would offer this skill, if further developed and exercised, can propel nearly anyone to success.
In my experience, most skills diminish significantly over time if not utilized. Communication, whether written, spoken, or both is no different. Particularly in an environment where many find themselves hiding behind an email (whether intended or not), communication skills seem to diminish, residing in 140 characters-or-less responses devoid of strong convictions or fact-based opinion.
So, taking time, or even going out of your way to use these skills, can be of huge benefit. A few examples of methods I have used with some of my teams to try to both “exercise” the skills while also improving others include: weekly presentations to the department, write ups at the conclusion of a major project, or participating in grand rounds, morning reports, or other similarly styled meetings. In each of these cases, it’s easy to simply brush off the work of a presentation or the effort of memorializing a project, but there can be significant value. As the supervisor or leader of a group, be mindful that if you’re going to conduct these activities, make sure they’re done well. A presentation that lacks clarity or has misspellings or untitled charts doesn’t help anyone—in fact, they do the contrary by reinforcing poor communication.
What do you think is your cornerstone? Do you agree that communication is king, or do you feel the technical prowess outweighs it?
Barrett Franklin is deputy network director at VA New England Healthcare System, VISN 1 in Bedford, MA.