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CIO Unplugged 8/25/10

August 25, 2010 Ed Marx 87 Comments

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.

 8-25-2010 6-09-02 PM

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.

8-25-2010 6-10-05 PM

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.


Update 8/29/10

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
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Currently there are "87 comments" on this Article:

  1. Ed – I’m sure that there will some cynics that will sneer or snicker at the story of the “blessing of the hands” – but I for one found it refreshing. Especially coming from someone sitting in your chair.

    It would be an interesting study or experiment to review the outcome of projects where the team members regularly sat down, humbled themselves and stripped away their egos, and remembered to ask for a blessing of the work they were about to do.

    I worked for several religious hospital organizations that regularly prayed prior to every meeting. It is a rather interesting experience to see how the anger and frustration of a situation can be defused by praying for guidance, patience, understanding and mutally beneficial outcomes prior to starting the meeting. It’s kind of hard for people to start yelling after you’ve prayed 🙂

    Good for you for being bold enough to make this post. I hope some will take it to heart and give it a try.

  2. Ed, that was inspirational. As Ruminating said above, I am sure there will be those who will dismiss and click through this article. But for those of us with faith (which doesn’t just have to be christian faith) I am extremely happy you had the foresight to bring this topic to us today. Once again the quality of your experience and leadership shines through.

  3. Ed, I always read with interest your posts. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with all of us. And thanks for the excellent ideas that we can all incorporate into our own work and lives.

  4. Ed, thank you for the thought provoking post. I think that more of us need to bring our faith principles (compassion, foregiveness, understanding, and gratitude for our blessings) into our work lives in tangible ways. The Blessing of the Hands is a great example.

  5. Ed,

    Thank you so much for this post! It certainly helps us re-focus the value in what we do and who we REALLY work for! I have shared this with other people and co-workers of faith to inspire them as well. All too often we forget what impact we can and do have on others in the simplest of tasks we perform. We never know who is impacted by our actions and how, but there is one who does!

    Thanks Again, AWESOME!

  6. Awesome effort describing the catechisms of HIT. I worship my hands and the hand of my nurses every day praying that they will always click on the correct box and scroll through the 221 items to get the right dosing schedule. I pray for their minds as well, considering the disruptions they face on a daily basis. I pray for the patients that they and their families will discover mistakes before the inadvertently omitted medicines cause a catastrophe. Let us bow and pray for our hands and minds. A great post.

  7. Thank you for sharing this! We do need to be reminded that eventhough we don’t see the patient, we are helping take care of them (even if it’s from cyperspace)! Blessing of the Hands is a beautiful way to be reminded of that.

  8. agree, over the top. Oy Vey is right. I find it offensive and would never work in an environment like this. Keep religion out of it.

  9. Spritually powerful. That is how HIT is for me.I worship HIT and bless my hands.

    I pray I can establish the correct algorithms with my hands and mind to enable and teach the doctors how to take care of patients according to the guidelines and checklists we have programmed in to the decision support. I know that patients can die if there are problems with my hands and mind so I always pray and I hope the doctos who use these wonderful softwares pray also for their patients and with their hands.

  10. Ed:

    A blessing of the hands and and praying for guidance in everything that we do in health care is a great idea. I’ve been in health care sales for nearly 20 years and I’ve made it a habit to pray for my customers and the patients that they serve. I never pray to “get the deal” — but I always pray to find the best way to serve my customers. Most importantly, I always pray for nurses — they are the real angels of health care.

    Ed, someone thought that your idea of the blessing of hands was over the top. It is and I pray that all of us in health care will follow your fine example.

  11. For people of any faith (and I respect those that are not) – it is always good to remember that our faith is easy when within the walls and confiens of other believers – but much harder when we are in the “mission field” of the real world.

    Some will say this article is over the top, and I respect their opinion. For some others, this article is a great reminder that our faith should be practiced in our daily lives – in our every words, our deeds, and our actions. And also, the integrity of our faith is demonstrated by what we do, and don’t do, when no one is looking.

    Corny? Perhaps. I kind of think the world could use a little more corny and over the top thinking right about now.

  12. Great post, I am happy that you had the confidence to share it. Not corny at all. If everyone actually worked this way, healthcare and the world would be MUCH better off.

    As far as:
    “BK Says:
    agree, over the top. Oy Vey is right. I find it offensive and would never work in an environment like this. Keep religion out of it.”

    BK – Open your eyes (and your mind) most of the hospitals in this country have a religious affiliation. Do you only go to HCA facilities out of principle?

  13. BK says: agree, over the top. Oy Vey is right. I find it offensive and would never work in an environment like this. Keep religion out of it.

    To clarify, I have no problems with people having faith in God. I do, myself.

    But the article is over the top in terms of another attribute people of faith should have – modesty.

  14. At our religiously affiliated hospital once a year we offer a blessing of the hands to our IT people. It’s not mandatory and its not held in any common area. A conference room is set up, a chaplain makes him/herself available for an hour or two window, and those who wish to partake come voluntarily. Historically we get about 10 to 15% of our staff in the building at the time to participate.

    BK, if you’re still out there, I’m curious if you’d still find it offensive under the above circumstances.

  15. I think you would do far better to wash the hands with a good antiseptic scrub rather than subscribe to a blessing of those hands. Isn’t it the skill of the doctors, nurses and administrative staff at the hospital that do more for a patient?

  16. Ahhh, the incongruity of modern high tech medicine & Bronze Age magical thinking, all coexistent in the same building. And in the same screwed-up minds, too.

  17. @Nathan AZ #21

    “At our religiously affiliated hospital once a year we offer a blessing of the hands to our IT people. It’s not mandatory and its not held in any common area. A conference room is set up, a chaplain makes him/herself available for an hour or two window, and those who wish to partake come voluntarily. Historically we get about 10 to 15% of our staff in the building at the time to participate.

    BK, if you’re still out there, I’m curious if you’d still find it offensive under the above circumstances.”

    I am not BK; but I share the sentiment of BK’s comment; therefore, I will offer my unsolicited opinion.

    Under the circumstances you outline, and in the manner you describe, I can not think of any reason one could reasonably object to the performance of the ritual under discussion. However, rituals of this nature are seldom conducted under such reasonable, benign circumstances. Are they?

  18. What next, sacrificing chickens or consulting ouija boards? Grow up and get back to work, you sanctimonious woo-flogger!

  19. I think that if you’re relying on magic grease being smeared on your hands while some self-important holy man says nothing more potent than “abracadabra” in order to do your job well, then you need to go back to school and hone your professional skills.

    I don’t want my surgeon relying on invisible Sky Daddy to keep his hands steady. I want him relying on years of training and skill.

    I don’t want the IT folks relying on Sky Daddy and magic grease, either. I want them to know how to wire a server and fix a computer.

  20. I’d have a lot more faith in your position at the hospital if you did a sharpening of the skills and left the magic spells for your church on the weekend. I would quite imagine that if your preferred deity had the qualities the devout attribute to him, your hands would be blessed regardless of whether some dotard mumbled over them or not.

  21. It’s a truly terrifying thought that the person my life might (directly or indirectly) depend on thinks that life is caused and sustained by magic, not physics, and that special magic skill is just as important as actual professional skill.

  22. It amazes me that smart, college or university educated people who, in theory, have learned how to think and whose livelihoods depend on that ability to observe the world and weigh evidence would even tolerate such a ceremony on their premises, let alone participate in it.

    I’m genuinely curious. Would you permit a reiki healer to come in and wave his hands over patients in order to heal their auras while you’re healing their illnesses and injuries? Why or why not? Please explain and be specific.

    What about homeopathy? Would it be acceptable in your health care facility for homeopaths to work their magic? Why or why not?

    If the answer to either of those is “no”, then why is it acceptable to have a prayer cuddle?

    Your job is to heal the sick with appropriate treatments based on knowledge and experience, not bronze age superstition and magic goo.

  23. Sales Guy – Open your eyes (and your mind) most of the hospitals in this country a have secular affiliation.

  24. Is this a joke?
    Your fictional views have absolutely no place in a place where life and death are based on observable facts.
    Let me present to you a small thought experiment.
    You see a person in the next room having a heart attack, you can send any person in to help, but one person only.
    Would you let in:
    A- a doctor.
    B- a priest.

    Please motivate your answer.

  25. What hospital do you work at? I want to know so I can go to a sane one instead. Since you don’t seem on good terms with reality, I wouldn’t trust you not to lose my records or overcharge me.

  26. A “sense of purpose and mission” would be far more accurately conveyed by a word such as “dedication” rather than spirituality.

    Implying that IT work is “sacred” is foolish. Unless, of course, you dilute the word “sacred” to the point that it could be used for any job. A bus driver’s work is sacred. A plumber’s job is sacred. Saying that our jobs are sacred and require a higher spirituality will just lead to discrimination. You should choose your words carefully.

    You obviously tried to elevate our field, and you own importance, far above the importance of others. Everyone in a hospital works toward the goal of patient care. Doctors and nurses are of primary importance and other departments, such as IT, do important work to support them.

    We are support staff, not a sacred cabal of hooded monks invoking mystical rituals to magically heal the sick. We provide a valuable support service and need to do our jobs well. It would be nice if we always tried to have empathy for the people who make use of our services.

    An overly grandiose view of what we do will create an atmosphere of superiority. It is just as dangerous as the assumption that IT does not substantially help in any meaningful way.

  27. By bringing your religious practices into the workplace (even without mandatory participation), as a person in a position of authority, you have created a passively hostile work environment. In the past I worked in a company with this sort of not-so-subtle religiosity. The owner was evangelical. It was a very uncomfortable environment for those of us that do not ascribe to your faith.

    I doubt this thought even crossed your mind.

    Keep your religion out of the office and let the rest of us work in a professional environment.

  28. Oh boy! I’m sure this meaningless ceremony gives the chaplains a sense of importance. Sorry to waste the bubble, but your magic oil and related mumbo jumbo belong to the first century desert tribes, not to a 21rst century hospital. Get rid of the chaplains, get more doctors and nurses and people who’s works actually matter. When I spend a fortune on getting treated, I should at least have the comfort of knowing that my money is going to people who are healing me or indirectly supporting that effort – not to clueless chaplains who know nothing except to smile and bless sanctimoniously.

  29. it’s not even really a matter of whether or not some people have religious views.

    Health care facilities are places of science and reality, not religion.

    Prayer meetings belong there no more than open heart surgery belongs in a church.

  30. It’s really frightening to find out that not only are medical doctors turning to magic & witchcraft, but so are the information technology teams supporting them !?! This is bizarre and scary.

  31. “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.”

    If you need magic goo to feel like your work is making a difference in people’s lives, you have more problems than just goo all over your hands. I’m glad your hospital isn’t anywhere near me. Do your surgeons use leeches as well?

  32. I guess it’s better than limiting life saving health care because of your religious beliefs. I guess it’s better than having hiring practices based on religious affiliation.

    Surely you could just pray to have your computers fix themselves.

    Or doesn’t prayer work?

  33. Dear Ed,
    I thank you for risking ridicule and judgement by your peers in sharing your belief and experience with those of us in IT. I am saddened by many of the judgemental comments made regarding your post. I have been a Registered Nurse for many years and have only been in IT for a few years and have recently been considering returning to the bedside for a multitude of reasons. However, your post has given me reason to pause and reflect on whether that really is the right decision. So, I thank you for a different perspective.

    And, to those of you who are “frightened” to think that a medical doctor may rely on a “Sky Daddy” had better realize that your scalpel-wielding surgeon is not the only one controlling that scalpel!

  34. I guess ambulance drivers should have their feet annointed in oil , because if their feet don’t use the gas pedal and brakes properly, the patient will never get to the hospital

    Doesn’t the author know that it is the brain that makes the hands hit the right keys so if anything, they should should annoint their heads with oil.

    I silly article

  35. One question: Have any of you every prayed for yourself or a loved one with a terminal disease or before a surgery, etc? I think if you’ll answer this honestly, you’ll realize that faith does have a place in healthcare.

  36. TC: personally, no, I haven’t. Not ever. Not even when I was a regular attendee at the local Pentecostal church.

    I try to perform actions that are actually helpful. Nothing wrong with a happy thought, but time spent praying is wasted time that could be spent doing something useful to help the person.

    A Nurse:
    — And, to those of you who are “frightened” to think that a
    –medical doctor may rely on a “Sky Daddy” had better realize that
    –your scalpel-wielding surgeon is not the only one controlling that

    Yes, he is the only one controlling that scalpel. Oh he might have other delusions, but it’s his hands doing the work.

    God wouldn’t need to control doctor’s hands, would he? If God did control doctor’s hands, they’d never make mistakes would they? Or perhaps your God is insufficiently powerful to work directly and thus needs human assistance. Similarly, perhaps your God is only mediocre at health care relative to humans and thus while he’s guiding scalpels he sometimes messes up?

    If God guides the scalpel, why doesn’t the church pay for malpractice?

  37. @TC
    No I have not. Do you even realise how selfcentered your question is?
    If you have to take away either the praying or the surgery in your own question. Which one would it be? Please answer me that.

  38. Nathan Arizona, Jr. @21 wrote: “BK, if you’re still out there, I’m curious if you’d still find it offensive under the above circumstances.”

    It’s not really a matter of ‘circumstances’ (conference room rather than common area… voluntary… a chaplain makes him/herself available for an hour or two). What is ‘offensive’ about this is that 21st century college-educated professionals, working at a vital technical discipline, would engage in such Bronze Age hocus-pocus rituals… essentially the equivalent of an African shaman in a grass hut, chanting incantations and shaking a rattle made with dried hippopotamus hide, buzzard feathers , snake vertebrae and blessings… without ANY sense or awareness of the gullibility, self-deception, self-delusion, irrationality, willful ignorance, intellectual dishonesty, lies, deceit, sophistry, hypocrisy, and toxic, drooling, malignant stupidity that’s revealed by conveying the idea that such pathetic, goofy inanity would have ANY rational purpose, or effect.

    I certainly cannot speak for the others, by my ‘offense’ is not personal; rather, I find myself to be offended on behalf of reason and sanity… and embarrassed, on behalf of humanity.

    So… what’s really different?… besides the outfits, that is.

  39. Squid and Sven, I don’t think you understood my question. I’m not making a decision between a doctor and God. So I’ll restate the question: Have you ever prayed to anyone about anything? If you really haven’t, then you’ll never understand.

    But if you’ve ever uttered a prayer about anything in your life, then you were relying on something besides the people on this earth for help.

  40. TC:
    Fair enough. In the past, I have prayed for various events. It was ineffective. It was a waste of time. I stopped praying and started using my energies for more effective pursuits.

    Yes, I was relying on something besides the people on this earth for help, but with experience, I learned I was being naive and that I was wrong to abrogate my personal responsibility in that manner.

    Relying on something doesn’t make it happen, nor does it make it true.

  41. A Nurse @43 wrote: “I have […] only been in IT for a few years and have recently been considering returning to the bedside for a multitude of reasons. However, your post has given me reason to pause and reflect on whether that really is the right decision.”

    and… “And, to those of you who are ‘frightened’ to think that a medical doctor may rely on a ‘Sky Daddy’ had better realize that your scalpel-wielding surgeon IS NOT THE ONLY ONE CONTROLLING THAT SCALPEL!”

    By all means… stay in IT. The potential for grievous harm is probably much less there, than at someone’s bedside.

  42. @TC
    “Have you ever prayed to anyone about anything? If you really haven’t, then you’ll never understand. ”
    Not since I was a child and too naive to know that religion is a lie. What you are basically saying is that rational people will never understand the irrational actions of deluded fools. I have to agree with you.
    Saying it’s impossible for us to understand your position is a cop-out. It just means you have no evidence or reasoning to support your crazy beliefs.

  43. @TC
    You still do not understand how self centered your question is.

    In a medical procedure, the actual medical stuff is the only part that is unmissable. Do you understand what that means? This means it doen not matter if you pray or not.

    I would still like to read your answer to my question, as I have honestly answered yours.

  44. But if you’ve ever uttered a prayer about anything in your life, then you were relying on something besides the people on this earth for help.

    Which has zero bearing on anything.

    The doctors and the medical knowledge are what are treating the patient. You praying is doing nothing by making yourself feel better about yourself. It does nothing to help the patient’s illness.

    If you want to pray to make yourself feel better, pray all day long.

    But please do not pretend like it has any effect on the actual illness.

  45. Wow. I am so embarassed for you! As a software developer, your ceremony is no more effective that me, after a first attempt at a new technique, crossing my fingers and saying “I hope this works!”

    What a joke! You should be ashamed…

  46. “You can broaden the definition of spiritual to include your overall sense of purpose and mission.”

    If you must start redefining words in order to provoke broader agreement with your premise, you are playing dishonest semantic games. Where does dishonesty fit into your “sacred” values?

    And speaking as a long-time IT professional (having worked as support technician, network engineer, systems administrator and programmer over 25 years), I fail to see what spirituality has to do with a line of work based entirely on rationality, logic and definable knowledge.

    Belief in gods and blessings does not have anything to do with writing solid code, configuring a network, or ensuring that computer systems stay running without issues. Problems are not caused by demons or devils which can be exorcised through prayer, but by programming errors, invalid user input and hardware failures.

    Whether a doctor or a computer systems administrator, you are either knowledgeable enough to do your work well, or you are not; all the prayer in the world can’t imbue you with the abilities to do your job competently if you don’t have the proper skill set; and if you do have the proper skill set, what additional benefit does prayer bring?

  47. If God has a plan for people, then isn’t prayer at best pointless and at worst a high arrogance and presumption? Consider:

    In God’s plan, he made your mother get sick with cancer. That was part of the plan to test you. You and your prayer group get together and ask God to cure her cancer. You’re second guessing God! You’re suggesting that your wants are more important than God’s plan. The Old testament is pretty clear on what God does to people who think they’re more important than God. It’s the ultimate case of a friend inviting you to go somewhere and then you complain that you would rather be somewhere else.

    Also, if God has a plan and is tolerant of your arrogant presumption to ask him to change it, your prayer is pointless: Either it goes with the plan, in which case it makes no difference because that was going to happen anyway; or it goes against the plan, in which case it makes no difference because God doesn’t change his plan for little ol’ you, and he wouldn’t be much of a god if he did.

    People who accept the power of prayer (whatever that is) have to accept that God has no plan… that he’s winging it with his creations and acts on a whim, acceding to the demands of some toadying followers. That’s kind of a scary thought isn’t it?

  48. I think I realized how a spirituality index could help IT managers and CIO’s with their job.

    Most IT managers have little understanding of the technology and systems they supposedly manage. They therefore have trouble figuring out who to hire or promote. This is why certificates and credit scores are used for evaluation of staff. It allows a manager to rate people when they know nothing about actual skills.

    A Spirituality Index would be another number that could be used for evaluation instead of figuring out how skilled people actually are. After all, that’s hard to do.

    It’s also an easy way to arbitrarily discriminate against people you don’t like. You just say that, to work in medical IT you need and higher Spirituality Index and I’m sorry, but you just don’t cut it!

    It could be an indispensable tool for the lazy or bigoted manager. Perhaps we should consider it further.

  49. When our database server crashed and we realized that we hadn’t had a good backup in 3 weeks, I resorted to witchcraft, voodoo, catholic prayer, and everything else that came to mind.

    Sadly all it done was got me quite a few strange looks from my peers.

    Next time I try norse and greek gods.

  50. This sanctimonious article made me so violently nauseous that I must present to a hospital forthwith.
    I am lucky living in South Australia that we have world-class excellent woo-free cost-free hospitals, who’s staff rely on skill and science rather iron-age con-men in cassocks.

  51. The commenters who have disparaged the role of faith and spirituality in healthcare appear to have forgotten the historical role of religious institutions in the founding of healthcare organizations throughout the world.

    It’s noteworthy that a study recently conducted by Thomson-Reuters found that: “Catholic and other church-owned systems are significantly more likely to provide higher quality performance and efficiency to the communities served than investor-owned systems. Catholic health systems are also significantly more likely to provide higher quality performance to the communities served than secular not-for-profit health systems.”


  52. @Ferdinand Velasco
    Even if everything you say is true, (and that is dubious as you don’t say what countries you were talking about), so what? That still doesn’t make mumbling to an invisible magic guy and pouring goo all over your hands a rational act.

    Maybe the catholic church, with all the money and volunteer time it scams from its adherents, is better financially able to provide health care. That doesn’t make any of their ridiculous supernatural claims anymore valid and has nothing whatsoever to do with “the role of faith and spirituality in healthcare” beyond the role they play in parting fools and their money.

  53. Ok, I followed your link and see that the Thomson Reuters study only deals with the U.S. which has a fairly unique health care system. Just because religiously founded hospitals may do better than others in that system has no bearing on whether fairy tales have any place in hospitals.

  54. @Ferdinand Velasco
    You may have forgotten that actual healing started with science. Without which we would still be using midieval remedies. Which do you prefer?

  55. Here’s a testable claim you made: “You’ll witness a demonstrable impact and you’ll be reminded that what you do is significant.”

    Which demonstrable impact will we witness if we do this? How demonstrable will it be? If you do witness a demonstrable impact, will having a second ceremony immediately after the first double the impact? In what way did you measure the impact in order to prove that it was demonstrable?

    I ask because if there was some demonstrable – i.e. measurable – effect, then that would be very important! I look forward to reading about the specific measurements you made which demonstrated the effect you claim you generated.

  56. I think we should get back to sacrificing virgins. It can’t be any less effective than blessing hands.

    Edward, Ignore the pooling of ignorant comments from angry atheists. Be grateful that you genuinely care about people and that your heart is at peace with both God and the world.
    (Not to mention, anyone who disputes someone as brilliant as Dr. Velasco is only making a fool of his/herself.)

  58. That’s right, Julie and Ed. Ignore science based medicine. Get rid of those science-based advances like MRI machines and hygiene. Iron-age mythology is way more important for healing. Why do we even need science-based Information Technology when monks chanting in the halls would be so much more effective for patient care.

  59. @Julie
    You complete fail to notice that those “angry atheist” are very much in touch with reality.
    Your friends who are so “in touch with god” have all ignored some very direct questions.
    Here is your change to show your grasp of reality.
    If you could either wash your hands or pray before surgery, which would you do?
    Please motivate your answer.

  60. Mr. Marx,

    I have been an RN for over 30 years. I have worked both in clinical nursing (ICU, OR, ER, Flight Nurse / Paramedic) as well as in Nursing Informatics. I have seen the limits of both technology and humanity. I don’t know how many of us truly know our limits, but I know that even with all of the academic and technology knowledge that I have gained over the years, there have been many times that I have reached mine. It is comforting to know that when I have exceeded my ability that God is there to guide my hands to the next level. I pray for all those whose faith only extends to the limit of theirs (or someone else’s) earthly knowledge. When the time comes that I have to depend on someone else (physician, nurse, EMT, etc.) to care for me, I pray that it is someone of faith who does not assume that their knowledge and power is without limit and is afraid to turn to God for assistance.

    Bless you for your courage and faith.

  61. is afraid to turn to God for assistance

    So, you are looking to an invisible magic doer to help people who were made sick by the very same invisible magic doer?

  62. SVEN – Your friends who are so “in touch with god” have all ignored some very direct questions.
    Here is your change to show your grasp of reality.
    If you could either wash your hands or pray before surgery, which would you do?
    Please motivate your answer.

    Here is my answer without a doubt: Pray.

    Everyone on this earth will have times in their lives that they are in a desparate situation. When that time comes, I hope you will give up your anger and doubt and let God help. He loves everyone even if they don’t love Him.

  63. Wow, given the choice between prayer and clean hands, you would choose prayer? That is stunning. I really hope you are lying.

  64. What good is an education? What good is advanced hospital training? All one needs is some hocus pokus said over them and some oily substance poured on them. Are the names of those actually praying to some god or anothe instead of keeping current on the newest findings ravailable so that I can avoid such idiots?

  65. Wow, I would love to see the result of that test:

    One group of surgeons praying before performing operations, the other group washing their hands, and then compare the number of infections and complications for each groups patients afterwards.

    Would NOT like to participate in that test though…

  66. what part of “senior vice president and CIO at Texas Health Resources” were we supposed to miss?

    So the CIO makes a “suggestion” and everyone shows up. The non-Christians and atheists show up because they quite properly fear illegal and unprovable (you hope) discrimination, not because they love Jesus.

    I hope somebody manages to prove illegal religious discrimination against you and the fallout ends your IT career.

  67. TC says: Here is my answer without a doubt: Pray.

    I wonder why it is that nurses and other staff who fail to wash their hands are the primary cause of spreading MRSA at hospitals? You can stop and wash your hands, or pray. Praying is quicker and easier, I guess. Much more efficient. Pity it kills so many people each year.

    I suppose that’s just God’s will. Nothing you can do about it.

    Except, perhaps, WASH YOUR HANDS!

  68. @TC
    Oh man.. I seriously hope you are not working near anything medical.

    Please do a google search on the names below and LEARN from it:
    “Ava Worthington, Oregon City”
    “Harrison Johnson, Tampa, florida”
    “Amy Hermanson, Sarasota”
    “Ian Lundman, Minnesota”
    “Caleb Tribble, New Zealand”

  69. This posting and this commentary is timely given the current state of this country. While I recognize that a lot of individuals benefit from a strong faith, in the course of history religion has done more to divide humanity than bring it together.

    Today, a ridiculous 20% of Americans believe President Obama is a Muslim. This isn’t the same as 20% of Americans thinking Reagan was one Christian denomination vs. another; the 20% of Americans that think Obama is a Muslim hate him for it. It is a smear to be a Muslim to these Americans and many others. The United States is becoming a more divided nation today than ever before and religion is being used as the wedge. Glenn Beck’s rally this weekend was mostly about how faith will save America (presumably, belief in God, a Christian God, will kick Obama out of the WH and the Democrats out of the majority).

    I don’t share Ed’s faith. I don’t worship a God. That said, I don’t live for myself and I do care about the World I will one day leave. I believe in man and I believe in community (humanist?). Professionally, I do care about what I do and the impact it has on others.

    I know Ed from a previous career and while I’ve always know he was very religious, I’m surprised and a little disappointed that he brought this to the workplace. Even if participation was optional, I would be uncomfortable working for him after this.

  70. Many of us in IT are quite confident in our skills and delivering solutions to those we serve. Sometimes overconfident, and we can be quite condescending and impatient in our interactions with users. Ed Marx has suggested that we, as IT people, take pause, look at ourselves, realize that we are human, and that we do indirectly affect patient care. While our role is an important and noble purpose, we are not super heroes. We are mere mortals, and speaking for those of us that are spiritual, we take comfort that we don’t face challenges alone. Faith is what gets many of us through the crises in our lives, which can happen quite often in the workplace. Washing our hands is an easy, individual, human effort that any of us can do to prevent infections. Taking pause to have them blessed upon occasion, is a good way to remind us of the blessing they bring to those we serve. It is a chance for us to wash some internal dust away as well. If I lost my hands, or just my job, my faith would help me get through it. So I’ll keep washing my hands, And pressing them together in prayer. Namaste

  71. Having spent a lot of time with doctors, even those at the top of their field, I tend to think many of them are not the people of science that you would expect. There are a few exceptions, but…..

    Many times, they just haven’t got a clue, so they just go textbook and hope for a favorable outcome. Many are not capable of analytical thought, therefore they can’t think outside the box. Nor do they listen to their patients, even if the patient is highly informed. Any doctor I tell I that am an engineer usually gets the response that we are the worst patients (we ask too many questions and demand too many facts). They like to live in their godlike state.

    So, this blessing nonsense comes as no surprise to me. As Dr. McCoy would likely say, medicine in this century is still in the Dark Ages. Perhaps some humility, a good dose of science, and as some people have already pointed out, some meticulous hand-washing is in order.

  72. Interesting comments, but oh so sad in witnessing the “exposure” of our “Godless” society (regardless of ones beliefs) as it is highlighted here.

    “Faith” is a powerful tool for those who possess and embrace it. I am sure a majority of those here can spout years of clinical experience and examples of divine intervention, as well as its absence (myself; 38 yrs & I believe I have seen it all in my adult-neonatal Critical Care & ED life).

    As a survivor of a rare cancer, I recall sliding from the comfort of my Hill-Rom, to my knees, (lines-and-all) at 3am to pray… Not that I be spared the suffering, or lobby to live; but instead, that I be given the strength to endure whatever awaited my fate “based on my Gods will…”. a nurse happen to pass by my isolation room & helped me from my knees as I was slumping to the floor. I was informed that it was the next day I slipped into a state of unconsciousness for two days with a WBC <300.

    I have no idea if that nurse "blessed her hands" prior to her shift and quite honestly I don't care, but I did appreciate her "compassion" as I recall the tears in her eyes as her petite 5'1" frame assisted my 185 lbs of near dead-wt.

    My point is simple as I have witnessed CV surgeons openly pray prior to the first incision. Not that they be able to save or cure their pt ; but instead, that their God guide their hands while optimizing their training… and yes, some eyes rolled, while other's closed in reverence & respect.

    It all comes down to demonstrating a mutual respect for ones beliefs, or lack of. I watched a patient pronounced & disconnected from a P-B, to later witness the elderly wife re-enter the room 20-min later to sprinkle water from the River Jordon over his body. I can't pretend to know what was going thru her mind at the time, be it a simple blessing or wishful faith in prayer that her husband would be returned to her for one last expression of love…? but within 2-minutes he gasped for air and returned to life, leaving his wife chanting to her God & his caretakers in disbelief.

    Who are we to judge other's faith? Be it "blessing of hands", "sprinkling river water"…"fairy dust" or carrying a rabbits-foot prior to entering a patients or server room, it doesn't matter, because its "personal", and last I checked, we have a Constitutional right to worship (or not), as we wish.

    We as human's have been given a "free will" to carry out our lives as we choose, without divine intervention, knowing for the most part what is right and what is wrong… making us all vulnerable to how our practitioners, airline pilots, etc. approach their daily tasks with our lives in their hands. Mistakes are made daily and as one poster noted (& I concur), despite all the innovative technology and science available to us, there hasn't been a significant decline in mortality rates.

  73. I’m stunned that this is allowed to happen in a workplace. It’s religious harassment. Religious views should be irrelevant and absent from our workplace.

    As an atheist I feel directly threatened when religion comes up at work. Example: my boss is a very vocal christian and talks about salvation and the evils of non christians all the time. I would be afraid to let him know that I am an atheist for fear of losing a promotion I would otherwise deserve. It’s absolutely no different than sexual harassment. Suppose for a moment that Ed wanted to celebrate heterosexuality by holding a non-required gathering at the workplace to celebrate or promote this. It’s completely reasonable to understand the stress that a homosexual in this environment would feel – and the pressure that might cause them to participate anyway, in order to not be “outed” in the workplace.

    I can’t wait until the first atheist that works for Ed loses his job or promotion and costs the organization millions in a settlement or lawsuit. Good luck with that. I think HR departments need to do more education on Title VII Religious Harassment statutes. They aren’t always consistent but cases less offensive than this one have been affirmed by several courts. In addition, it’s clear that religious affiliated hospitals are not completely exempt from these statutes. Especially for roles like IT where the performance of your work has no relation to your religion.

    I have no problems with others who are spiritual or religious – in fact, my own wife is. But having to worry about my livelihood because I don’t play the game is ridiculous.

    Keep religion out of the workplace completely.

    Oh, and I think I am going to start requiring a statement from my physicians and surgeons that they are not religious. The ones that have spoken out here scare me. Please use science in treating me and not prayers.

  74. “When the time comes that I have to depend on someone else (physician, nurse, EMT, etc.) to care for me, I pray that it is someone of faith who does not assume that their knowledge and power is without limit and is afraid to turn to God for assistance.”

    Yeah, but that won’t actually help you get any better.

    We’re not claiming that science has all the answers. Far from it. But science certainly has SOME answers.

    You know how religion controlled all inquiry for hundreds of years? They call that time the Dark Ages for a reason.

  75. I wanted to let you know Ed that it is very refreshing to know there are people practicing their faith in the real world. While you certainly have attracted a number of aggressive nay-sayers, your intent was very kind-spirited and the way you presented it should have been taken as very non-threatening by anyone reading it. Why all of the mean-spiritedness? Is that really necessary when Ed had nothing but the very best intentions? Even if you don’t believe in the methodology presented, does he deserve the rath some of you sent his way?

    Your blog entry was very inspirational Ed – no problems here!

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