Public sector health in many parts of the world has been financially squeezed. Committed health workers have continued to deliver care despite those constrains. It does not mean they are happy, or that they always do the right thing with patients. Financial squeeze or not, the public sees three things: what politicians say, what they personally, or their families, have experienced, and the fiascos. A fiasco, a mismanagement, a mistake, a blunder, a failure of care of some sort, will probably make the front page of newspapers, regional or national. What these newspapers do not report is the thousands of acts of kindness and widespread good will usually present. Some of those are true heroic behaviours by a nurse or a health care assistant. Often something hardly in their job descriptions. We don’t see them, hear them. Unless, scenario number 2, you have yourself been a recent user, somebody who has experienced those most of the time invisible human acts. Even then, the small negative and disappointing moment may take more memory space than the rest.
Even more biased towards what is negative is the Safety sector. The whole Health and Safety line of work is based by definition on avoiding incidents and accidents. That is the language, the processes, the training, the discipline. The parameters you see are the visible number of problems, less or more, or progressively less if things go well. Nothing wrong with this. But for each unsafe event there are perhaps thousands of safe ones. The system is not geared towards seeing them and learning from them, but how to avoid the negative. The negative takes the airtime, the positive is taken for granted.
This airtime taken over by the negative is inevitable. But, speaking with my hat on as organization architect, there is a whole line of rich work, cultural shaping, designing of better organizations, that is based upon uncovering the invisible and unpacking the goodness. In behavioural terms, you need to know what happens underneath those acts of kindness or those safe day-to-day practices. This is a much better source of insight and a much more fruitful strategy to scale up the positive behaviours.
Uncovering the invisible: social anthropology, cultural shaping, designing the new organization of the future. This is the first step of that Camino.
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