The lows and highs of a difficult job done well

The doctors and nurses are the most visible contributors to the delivery of care to cancer patients at the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, but a huge amount of work is done behind the scenes by clerical staff, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, administrators and many other highly dedicated professionals with dozens of different job descriptions. Top quality patient care requires input, coordination and dedication of all these individuals doing jobs that are both visible and jobs that are not.

Many staff members experience the lows and highs of interacting on a daily basis with cancer patients and their families in person or by phone. Even those who do not interact directly with patients are driven to do the best job possible because they recognize the importance of the job they do – making a difference at a critical time for patients and their loved-ones who are dealing with cancer.

Dealing with people in such a time of need is an honor but also adds to the pressure of the job and takes an emotional toll. Not only the doctors and nurses, but all who work in the HCCC know how hard it is when a patient we have come to know and admire does poorly, even when we have done our best  (for a fantastic, heartfelt, and wrenching perspective on how providing cancer care can impact a professional, see Dr. Mo’s blog at ). On the other hand, what keeps the outstanding group of people who work at the HCCC going is the satisfaction that comes from an important and difficult job done well.

Last week, we held an open forum over the noon hour for all the clinical staff in the cancer center. The goal was to encourage dialog across the spectrum of jobs at the HCCC.   Discussion was robust and honest. Issues covered the full spectrum – from small items with an easy fix to major issues that are more challenging to address. Topics were raised and discussed by staff who see patients every day, and others who work totally behind the scenes. These comments, and the resulting discussion, had two consistent themes:  First, every comment was based on recognition that the job we do together is incredibly important, and second, every comment was driven by the desire to serve our patients better as a team.

This meeting confirmed to me that doctors and nurses are not the only ones touched by our patients and invested in the mission of the HCCC.  So … a heart-felt and public thank you to all of our staff members – those who are out in front and those behind the scenes.   When working at the HCCC, we know the lows may be lower than with some other jobs, but we hope the satisfaction of a difficult job done well means the highs are higher.

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