Home Case Studies Health Care Sector The Power of “What Else?”

The Power of “What Else?”

10 min read

How does a physician manage her duties to help the hospital system in which she works minimize costs and ensure profits while honoring the commitment she has made to do everything for the patients in her care?

How does a physician executive wrestle with the need to keep patients safe while also ensuring these safety precautions do not place an undue burden on the already over-flowing expectations of nurses, technicians, and other essential healthcare providers?

How does a physician find ways to also be a spouse, a parent, a friend, and a son or daughter in a field that can sometimes demand everything?

And how does a physician manage all of the above, at the same time, with speed, efficiency, and emotional stability?

By embracing dualities and Both/And thinking. By living at the edges of the needs of the those they serve in their personal and professional lives. By choosing to pause and examine situations from different perspectives. By asking, “what else?” and by recognizing when our fears, our insecurities, and the dark sides of our strengths influence our decisions.

In other words, by taking on a coach’s habits, thought patterns, and behaviors, and deploying them in the moments when our patients, colleagues, and loved ones need us.

Changing our ingrained behaviors takes time and goes against almost all of our inclinations. It took over a year of work to feel somewhat comfortable with “in the moment self-coaching,” where I catch myself falling into the patterns Maggi and I discuss and shape my actions by asking myself the questions she usually does. This will be a lifelong journey for me and I am grateful that I have already started. For, when I finish residency in three or four years, my career will catapult me once more. This time, into a position where my decisions can change the course of a colleague’s career, a family’s experience with the healthcare industry, and a patient’s life.

What if I had never had the chance to explore this material with Maggi? What if I had never learned to ask “what else?”? I worry it would be too late by the time I found myself in high-level leadership roles.

When I met Maggi not even halfway through medical school, the demands of training had already started to groove counterproductive coping strategies. Had this continued for another five years, the cumulative effects could have made reactive, defensive leadership a habit. I may never have embraced active reflection or Both/And thinking. Most importantly, I may have burned out and lost sight of my capacity to keep hold of the relationships, the stories, and the humanity that brought me to medicine in the first place. I may have lost my sense of meaning.

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One Comment

  1. Margaret Cary

    March 21, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Jack – thank you for your heartfelt writing on your journey together. I have learned at least as much from you as you have learned from me.


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