The Little Things Matter. Be Proud of Your Work!

Posted: Oct 8, 2013
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Every little thing we do's like magic
Anything we do will not go wrong
Every little thing we do's like magic
Everywhere we go we're rockin' on
Black Eyed Peas (Magic)

When I read the topic suggestion for this month’s blogs (The Little Things), I was transported back to the first day of orientation during my internship.

It was 6 days after graduation from vet school and to call me impressionable would be putting it mildly. I was ready to soak in every single syllable. I actually remember quite a lot of that day considering it was about 7 hours of straight lecture. However, the message that stands out for me the most, and the one that has carved my professional path in the years since, was from the man who would become my primary mentor that year. He said simply “Every. Little. Thing. That’s what matters in this hospital.”

He went on to explain in more depth what he meant, but the core message is pretty easy to understand. In our profession, there are no tasks, no details, no bits of communication that are trivial or unimportant. The client will only see the perfect square a technician clipped for the catheter. That client will never witness the perfect sterile technique, the minimally traumatic placement of the catheter, the gentle collection of blood for sampling, the efficient and ergonomic use of suture to secure the catheter, the care with which that catheter is maintained throughout its use. They see the hair clipped. A nice symmetrical square of hair missing means that we did all of those other things right, as well.

I bought that mantra hook, line and sinker. I did my absolute best that year to follow the rule in everything I did. And now, seventeen years later (ouch), I am still preaching that to every intern class and every extern that is forced to listen to me for any length of time. I am proud that I work in a hospital where so many of the people here also adhere to “every little thing.” Surgery is particularly susceptible to the criticality of details. Yes, of course it is important that you do the big stuff like performing a complete exploratory every time you open an abdomen or always obtaining at least orthogonal views of any given body part during work up of a patient.

Surgeon Coby Richter performing veterinary surgery at DoveLewis

But the little things. Like how thoroughly does a technician assistant clean the lumen of suction tubing? And when the surgery technician leak checks the ventilator for the fourth time that day, and still takes the time to perform every safety check. How about when the ICU technicians make a comfy bed and pre-warm the Bair hugger in anticipation of the chilly patient returning from surgery? What about time our custodial staff dedicates to having a clean, dry floor between surgery and ICU? And when a CSR comes back into surgery prep to convey an important phone message from a client instead of simply tacking a pink slip to the message board? All of these and literally millions of other seemingly “little things” are happening all of the time in this hospital and I am grateful to my co-workers for each of them.

"Don’t sweat the small stuff" might keep you from stomach ulcers and heart attacks, but paying attention to "Every. Little. Thing."  will keep you proud of the work you do. Thanks, Dr. E, for setting me on the right path.