Developing Effective Communication Skills – A Life-Long Task

Nearly a hundred years ago John D. Rockefeller said "The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee. And I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun." That statement remains as true today as it did when Mr. Rockefeller uttered those words – both our personal and professional lives are significantly impacted by our communication style. 

Effective communication is a subject that has long interested and challenged me.  Although I may never get to the "exceptionally skilled" category, I plan to enjoy the learning process, of which I consider this blog a part. 

Can we talk? …

Effective leaders share many traits – courage, decisiveness, integrity, motivation and stewardship, to name a few. What sets these people apart? What makes others want to follow them? They are individually and collectively powerful communicators

The most important skill required of a good communicator, and often the most challenging to perform well, is first and foremost, be a good listener.

Steven Covey addressed this need in his 7 Habits of Highly Successful People. Seek first to understand, then to be understood,” and nearly 2000 years before Mr. Covey, Epictetus said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”

Good listeners ask themselves “what” questions. “What is going on in addition to the words I’m hearing?” What background or point of view is the speaker revealing?” Furthermore, good listeners may ask the speaker “what” questions. “What can I do for you? What would you like to see happen?”

If you find yourself interrupting or finishing the speaker’s sentences, take a mental step back and refocus your attention. For most of us, developing good listening skills takes practice (and patience!)

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6,000 Physicians Displaced by Katrina

The Washingington Post reports that nearly 6,000 doctors along the Gulf Coast were uprooted by Hurricane Katrina in the largest displacement of physicians in U.S. history.

How many of those doctors will set up shop permanently in other cities, or decide to retire instead of reopening their practices, remains as unclear as New Orleans’s future.

Read the Washington Post article

And in a related story, the Chicago Tribune reports that Charity Hospital in New Orleans has been declared "uninhabitable for health-care purposes" and will be permanently closed.  Officials are seeking a new location to rebuild the hospital while several temporary locations, including tents, are being used to treat patients.  Called "Big Charity," the 647 bed facility is the longest continuously operating hospital in the United States, and was the region’s only Level I trauma service.

Read the Chicago Tribune article

HHS issues RFI for health-care credential portal

Washington Technology reports that the Health and Human Services Department is seeking industry information about developing a nationwide verification system to provide the department with the professional qualifications of healthcare professionals responding to a disaster or public-health emergency.

HHS plans to develop a portal to provide access to the public and private data repositories that contain the qualifications of government medical incident officials.

The portal would enable HHS to quickly authenticate professional qualifications—including health-care providers’ state license information, board certifications, any disciplinary actions and hospital privileges—from a variety of sources during an emergency.

See the request for information.

Wall Street Journal – Weaknesses In Medical Vetting

9/21/05 – Wall Street Journal – by Paul Davies

Despite Erratic Education, Trail of Suits, Dr. John Anderson King got a job at Putnam General Hospital.

Putnam and Dr. King’s patients are still reeling from the surgeon’s brief tenure. More than 100 malpractice suits have been filed against Dr. King and the hospital, according to state-court records in Putnam County, W.Va.The suits accuse Dr. King of malpractice and the hospital of negligence in recruiting and employing him.

Many of the suits allege that Putnam overlooked warning signs, such as Dr. King’s stop-and-start education, discrepancies in his résumé, and his involvement in past lawsuits, some of which he filed against employers when they tried to get rid of him.

How Dr. King, 47, came to practice at Putnam General provides a glimpse of how doctors with dubious histories can move from hospital to hospital, keeping their problems under wraps. In this extreme case, federal and medical-industry databases turned out to contain faulty or incomplete information about Dr. King. Past employers didn’t share all that they knew about him.

"This is one of the problems that has haunted medicine for years," said Paul Schyve, senior vice president at the nonprofit Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations. "Often the hospital is grateful the problem has ended without it having to take action for fear they may get sued."


The blog has been quiet because I’ve been away at the NAMSS Conference in Phoenix.  I’ll be adding some posts here soon.

Just one quick story to share now.  During the President’s Reception in Phoenix Donna Goestenkors was presented with a large vase of beautiful red roses.  The bouquet was sent by her hospital’s medical staff, with a note congratulating her on being the 2005 National Association Medical Staff Services President.

So hats off to the medical staff of Christian Hospital in St. Louis, MO – what a class act!

Standing Together – An Emergency Planning Guide for America’s Communities – from JCAHO

The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations has annnounced the release of an emergency planning guide for small, rural and suburban communities:

Free download here (pdf) –  Standing Together – An Emergency Planning Guide for America’s Communities

The purpose of this 104 page document is to help communities both prepare for, and successfully respond to, major local and regional emergencies – whether they be hurricanes, floods, terrorist attacks, major infectious outbreaks, hazardous materials spills, or other catastrophic occurrences.

The planning guide is the culmination of a two-year project funded by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Maryland Institute of Emergency Medical Services Systems and the National Center for Emergency Preparedness at Columbia University. 

Message from an MSSP in the Gulf Coast

Received via e-mail; reprinted with permission:

Thanks for your concern and support. We have been working hard in the hospital to try and retrieve what little we can.  A company has been working aggressively to tear out all the sheet rock & ceiling tiles.   Some people are still living in parking lots and sidewalks but little by little they are being taken care of.   

This has been a real experience and a few lessons learned; however, I don’t think anyone could have been totally prepared for this massive hurricane.   The sad part is that many of our docs may seek work elsewhere because their offices and all patient records, along with their homes have been destroyed.   Their malpractice insurance is due and that’s another story in itself.   

Many people and companies around the country have donated equipment/supplies, etc.  Its amazing how people have responded and how gracious they have been.  Now for the real surprise!!    Several JCAHO surveyors stopped by today to see how things were going.   I was dragging a table over to another location to help set up lunch when I realized someone had picked up the other end of the table.  I recognized the badge so I thanked him and introduced myself.    I would loved to have discussed granting disaster privileges in the real world (with no communications) but decided perhaps that wasn’t the time! We decided that was our unannounced survey. 
Brenda Borland, CPCS
Hancock Medical Center
Bay St. Louis, MS

Technorati tag: medical staff service professional

JCAHO Field Review – Leadership Chapter

The Joint Commission recently completed a comprehensive review of the leadership standards for all accreditation programs.

The changes are posted for online field review and comment until October 14th

Summary of changes:

  • New standards emanating from the work of the Leadership Accountabilities Task Force have been incorporated into the revised standards.  The Task Force, first convened in 2004, addressed issues relating to the responsibilities and accountabilities of leadership collectively and leadership components (i.e., governance, management, clinical professional staff) collaboratively. 

  • A culture of safety standard has been incorporated into the chapter, and current safety standards relating to leadership responsibility with regard to safety have been enhanced.
  • Increased emphasis has been placed on existing standards that help organizations move toward a “systems approach” to preventing adverse events.  This approach keeps the errors that caregivers inevitably make from harming patients by designing systems that anticipate and prevent human errors, prevent errors from reaching the patient, and mitigate harm when they do.
  • A small number of select standards that previously resided in other chapters (i.e., in Nursing; Medical Staff; and Ethics, Rights, and Responsibilities) have been moved into the Leadership chapter.
  • All current standards have been reviewed for clarity and relevance, and edited as necessary.

How to Ask for a Raise has some advice if you’re planning to ask for a raise:

Want a raise? Be prepared to do a little research and some discreet sleuthing before you ask.

What you need to know: What are you worth on the open market? How much are co-workers in similar jobs getting paid? And how is the company doing financially?

If it’s annual review time, don’t expect the money to come floating down from the sky. "It’s critical for employees not to expect the employer to negotiate for them," says Jim Thomas, author of "Negotiate to Win." The interests of the boss and worker "diverge where money is concerned."

That means you have to make a strong case for what you’re worth and bargain to get it…

More – From

And – What to do if you don’t get the raise

NAMSS Headquarters Relocating to Washington, DC

NAMSS Announcement – 9/14/05

As of October 3, 2005, the headquarters of the National Association Medical Staff Services (NAMSS) will be relocated from Austin, TX to Washington, DC.

National Association Medical Staff Services
2025 M Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036

NAMSS has contracted with a new association management firm, SmithBucklin. SmithBucklin is the nation’s largest association management firm, with more than 56 years of experience and a large concentration of health care and allied health care clients.