The views and opinions expressed in this blog are mine personally and are not necessarily representative of current or former employers.
A Sacred Calling
“The Human contribution is the essential ingredient. It is only in giving of one’s self to others that we truly live.”
— Ethel Percy Andrus
Someone asked our chief medical information officer, Ferdinand Velasco, MD, why he would leave his skyrocketing career as a cardiac surgeon at New York-Presbyterian to become CMIO at TexasHealth. I will never forget his answer: “As a heart surgeon, I could help about 200 people per year. As CMIO, I am helping the 6.2 million people in our region.”
Whether we give direct care or support someone who does, we are fulfilling a sacred calling — touching human lives. Don’t discount information technology because it’s only computer stuff and nobody really knows where cyberspace is anyway. You could’ve practiced IT in any industry, yet you chose healthcare. Or perhaps healthcare chose you.
Sacred callings come in various forms. Although healthcare IT is nothing unique in itself, the element of sanctity is why I stay. If we want to live a life of significance, we must understand the depth of our calling and then perform as if our work matters. Grasp the privilege of serving humanity with your skills and talents. That is sacred.
In using our hands for work — answering service desk calls, pulling cables, creating order sets, managing projects, developing strategies, creating apps — we are helping care for the patients and clinicians. We’re telling them, “You are important to us and we value you.”
Stop for a moment. Re-read the above paragraph then hold your hands in front of you. While studying your hands, reflect on what they do each day that contributes to caring for the health needs in your community. Seriously. Have you not chosen to bless others through the work of your hands?
Wherever people are involved (life), challenges and frustrations exist. Healthcare is beset with issues. What can keep us focused during those difficult circumstances is remembering our purpose.
Let me share with you one recent technique we developed to maintain the heart-to-head connection.
Blessing of the Hands
It is not unusual for hospitals to conduct non-denominational “Blessing of the Hands” ceremonies. Here is video example from MetroHealth in Cleveland.
I had seen this done for clinicians at one of our hospitals and it got me thinking. What about IT? What we do is no less critical to the healing process. Our hands may not touch patients, but they do touch their lives in ways unseen. Arguably, IT is the only segment that touches the entire healthcare continuum.
I contacted our chaplains, and they were excited about the concept. For the first time this spring, we conducted a Blessing of the Hands ceremony exclusively for IT. The chaplains first shared with our team the sanctity of what we do in serving people and the impact we have on the lives of both patients and caregivers. They prayed over us. They prayed a blessing over a special vial of oil then used it to anoint our hands.
One at a time, we rose from our seats and approached the chaplains. While we held open our hands, they anointed them and gave us each a verbal blessing. I sat back down and simply soaked in the moment. I imagine many others encountered the same refreshing.
All I can say is that it was a holy moment for all who chose to participate, regardless of their religious orientation or belief system. We emerged inspired and empowered. We walked out of there knowing that we were making a difference in lives every day.
No matter what your area (supplier, payor, or provider), I highly encourage you, the leader, to make this voluntary ceremony available for your teams. You’ll witness a demonstrable impact and you’ll be reminded that what you do is significant. Your calling is sacred.
Here is a sample Blessing of the Hands prayer. A simple Bing search will bring up other samples.
· Blessed be these hands that have touched life.
· Blessed be these hands that have felt pain.
· Blessed be these hands that have embraced with compassion.
· Blessed be these hands that have been clinched with anger or withdrawn in fear.
· Blessed be these hands that have drawn blood and administered medicine.
· Blessed be these hands that have cleaned beds and disposed of wastes.
· Blessed be these hands that have anointed the sick and offered blessings.
· Blessed be these hands that grow stiff with age.
· Blessed be these hands that have comforted the dying and held the dead.
· Blessed be these hands that develop applications that improve quality of care.
· Blessed be these hands that answer the phone and empathize while solving issues.
· Blessed be these hands that reprogram the broken network.
· Blessed be these hands that enable life-saving technology.
· Blessed be these hands, we hold the future in these hands.
· Blessed be our hands for they are the work of Your hands, O Holy One.
I appreciate all the comments. Thank you.
The point I do not want readers to miss is to know that what we do in healthcare IT is significant, impacting the health of our communities and nation.
You can broaden the definition of spiritual to include your overall sense of purpose and mission. For me it is birthed in my faith. For others it will take on a different look, but either way I maintain that healthcare IT is sacred work.
As long as your views are not forced on others or go against the values/culture of your employer, I see no reason not to allow for individual expression. I happen to work for a faith-based health system and enjoy the freedom this brings to everyone, regardless of religious or secular orientation.
Ed Marx is a CIO currently working for a large integrated health system. Ed encourages your interaction through this blog. Add a comment by clicking the link at the bottom of this post. You can also connect with him directly through his profile pages on social networking sites LinkedIn and Facebook, and you can follow him via Twitter – User Name “marxists.”