Advocate or Adversary?

The healthcare landscape is full of decisions and ‘forks-in-the-road’. The first day of the Telluride Experience in Napa reminds me of the spirit of the poet Robert Frost who so eloquently penned “The Road Not Taken”, one of the most iconic pieces of the English language. We saw today that before each of us is a path that is well paved and cleared for those who wish to rely on comfort for the perfunctory decisions they must make when it comes to patient outcomes while singing to the same tune. The other path of the fork is one that is full of the thick uncertainties that come with any type of healthcare change that benefits the patient but requires great efforts. For Robert Frost, the path less travelled was the source of his adventure into the unknown – the leap of faith. As healthcare professionals navigating the thickets of administrators, difficult patients, and most importantly lack of clear communication, we must feel compelled to choose the path less travelled for the value it adds to the work that we do. Helen’s experiences and Blackman’s story brought to the forefront one main thought: should I become an advocate for my patients, or should I become an adversary of those who I blame for the mistakes that cost my patients their own health? For me the choice is clear. Advocacy – giving a voice to those who cannot be heard because nobody is listening – is one of the best ways we can begin clearing a path that leads to the excellence of our fields and our characters as providers of care. Today’s lessons were really about decisions. Do I allow myself to be made to feel inferior if I were to speak up on behalf of my patient for their safety? Do I respect myself enough to feel confident in my abilities to care for those who depend on me? Is my resolve strong enough to withstand the force of countless criticism? Whenever we face a fork in the road, do we take the path that will make all the difference?

“It is your attitude, not your aptitude that will determine your altitude.” -Zig Ziglar