Lessons from a Titanium Plate on Team Performance

I don’t often get to experience great teamwork and not so great teamwork in similar settings in the same day.   Recently a fractured wrist provided me with that “opportunity” for comparison.

Mt. Sanitas trail areaAfter falling during a trail run, my husband took me to our local emergency room in Boulder, which has always been fine.  The visit started okay – admitted and put into an examining room quickly so he left to take Dougal home.   It was downhill from there.  Since I work with team performance, it was interesting to evaluate my 4.5 hour visit against the Team Diagnostic™ parameters I use professionally.

At a high level, we consider Productivity (what the team is getting done) and Positivity (how it works together while getting things done).  Digging a little deeper, we look at the following elements of each.

Productivity: Team Leadership, Accountability, Decision Making, Proactivity, Goals and Strategies, Resources and Alignment

Positivity: Trust, Respect, Communication, Camaraderie, Constructive Interaction, Values Diversity and Optimism

For 2.5 hours there was only one doctor attending to 3 trauma patients, who (rightly so) trumped my wrist.  Eventually, a physician’s assistant would come on duty.  “My” nurse did a haphazard job of getting me comfortable, didn’t clean my abrasions or leave a call button when she disappeared (for a couple of hours).  I had to holler through a doorway for another ice bag.  45 minutes later the security guard brought it to me.  Getting the picture?  It gets worse.  X-rays confirmed a fractured wrist that needed to be set and might also require surgery, but there were no orthopedists on call.  What?  Since it was July 4th weekend, I was told to pop Percocet for the next 3 days and then scurry around Tuesday morning to try and get an appointment somewhere.  Did I mention we were leaving that Friday for Europe?

I give high marks (it’s all relative) for decision-making (triage process) and proactivity (ice-bearing security guard).  The “team” however gets low marks on accountability, resources, alignment, communication, constructive interaction and optimism.

We left the hospital frustrated and in pain.  My resourceful husband suggested we stick with our original weekend plan of heading to Vail since they have a top notch medical facility.  We bet they could scare up an orthopedist.

There is no way to talk about our experience without gushing.  Every single person was genuinely interested in my well-being, confident in their skills and appreciative of their colleagues.  They actually kept apologizing that they couldn’t operate sooner than 11:00pm – as if I was going anywhere.  Right before surgery (at midnight), my nurse, anesthesiologist, surgeon, and physician’s assistant had one final huddle around my bed, making sure we were completely comfortable with the process.

Like any exceptional team, I imagine these professionals have an eye on ways they’d like to improve.  From my perspective, however, I’m having a hard time identifying any element that’s a relative weakness.  Makes me wonder.  Do high performing teams reach a point of critical mass where the strength of their core competencies is enough to bouy the lesser aspects to a similar level of excellence?

Irish Gargoyle

Irish Gargoyle - Made it to Europe As Planned!

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