When asked to reflect on his forty-three year tenure at Stormont-Vail HealthCare, Maynard Oliverius summed it up in one sentence: “on balance, I’ve had a great career.” Oliverius has served as the President and CEO for the past sixteen of his forty-three years with the organization in Topeka, Kansas, and is set to retire this June.
In my recent interview with Oliverius, I picked up a treasure-trove of valuable advice and insights regarding the field of healthcare. Among all the tidbits of wisdom that Oliverius shared, one thing has remained in the forefront of my mind: “There is no greater responsibility than caring for those who place their lives in your trust.”
Oliverius expounded on this concept while talking about his colleague George Lynn, who, when speaking about healthcare, more than once mentioned the importance of “separating the business we’re in from the work we do.” Oliverius stressed the importance of not losing sight of that distinction, as Lynn so eloquently put it, between the business of healthcare and the provision of healthcare. Oliverius explained that though healthcare is a business like any other, where services and products are sold and revenue gathered, ultimately the provision of healthcare is a sacred trust that doesn’t happen in other industries.
“In healthcare we are entrusted with the opportunity to take care of the most important possession that someone has – their own life – and, for the most part, they turn it over to strangers.” Oliverius went on to say that, “there is no greater reward than working with a team of people who honor that trust with skill, compassion, and care. I have been privileged to have that career.”
What a great reminder of the honor we in the field of healthcare have of caring for the most valuable possession a person has – their own life, or the life of a loved one. There is such an important distinction to remember, a separation to be made between “the business we’re in” and “the work we do.”
Let’s not forget the great service to which we’ve been called, and let us renew our dedication to help people in their time of need and to tenderly care for their most valuable possession. When pursuing this greatest of responsibilities, don’t confuse the business of healthcare with the provision of healthcare, instead, “honor that trust with skill, compassion, and care.”
Copyright © 2012 by Dan Nielsen
Founder, National Institute for Healthcare Leadership – www.nihcl.com
Founder, America’s Healthcare Leaders – www.americashealthcareleaders.com