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William Wallace and the Excellent CS/SPD Shift Huddle: They'll Never Take Our Freemans!

If you haven't seen Mel Gibson's Braveheart, the epic biography of Sir William Wallace's rebellion against the English control of Scotland, stop reading now and take three hours to get your fix of drama, war, and yes, inspiration.

Okay, now that you're back, we can get started digging into what Wallace can teach us about leading our CS/SPD shift huddles like he would: passionately with an unwavering belief in success. Or as the motion picture portrays it, with a brave heart. Here are three things I think we could all learn from the rebellious Scotsman...

1) Vision Matters: Courage to Fight Today's Instrument Battle

Perhaps the most dramatic scene in the entire movie has Wallace riding out in front of a visibly shaken, rag tag army of Scottish farmers and herdsmen, facing off against an overpowering force of disciplined, well-armed, professional English soldiers. In the presence of such stiff competition, the Scotsmen are tempted to flee. But Wallace steels their resolve by connecting the battle they have today with a vision of their future selves:

"Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you'll live -- at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our freedom!"

Now, Wallace's speech is admittedly more epic than your daily CS/SPD shift huddle will be, but his ability to link long-term vision with present challenges is critical to experiencing victory over our daily instrument battles. Your team needs to know why tackling these 35 loaners, 20 ortho trays, 40 general trays, and 14 priority trays actually matters.

Apart from just fighting the good fight for the sake of productivity, what greater purpose is your team working for? They may know this theoretically, but it's your job to bring home the pathos --help them feel the importance of this task. Show a short video of a successful surgery patient from your facility. Read off some ages of the patients from the surgery schedule and ask your team if they know anyone the same age. Then, remind them that they are the only ones who can ensure today's battle against microbial fire-breathers is actually won.

2) Planning Matters: What it Takes to Win

Another classic scene in Braveheart happens at the Battle of Falkirk, when the initial charge into battle ends with Wallace's Scotsmen embracing the Irish conscripts of Longshank's army as they defected enmasse to join the Scottish rebels. You can see this in the first few minutes of the clip below:

While there are many lessons to be learned here (one of which being, you can't buy loyalty), the one I want to focus on is the importance of planning. At some point during the build up to this battle, someone did the hard work of planning how and when this last minute battlefield free-agency would occur. As a CS/SPD leader preparing your shift for the next 8 hours of microbiological warfare, it's critical that you do your homework before you send your team into battle. How many cases are still to go? Is there any equipment that is down? Do you have any call-ins your shift should be aware of? Which loaners are needed for tomorrow's first cases? In order to get your people all on the same battle-plan for the shift, you need to channel your inner-Wallace and plan the day's priorities for your sterile processing soldiers.

3) Teamwork Matters: Becoming Sons of Scotland

A consistent theme for Wallace throughout the entire movie was that of uniting the disparate Scottish clans to rise up and throw off the yoke of their English oppressors. Although he was seen as the central-figure in this dramatic pursuit of freedom, Wallace refused to take the route of lone-ranger to get it done. William Wallace understood the importance of teamwork and constantly inspired those around him to buy into that same insistence on sharing the responsibility of their mission with each other.

And yes, you guessed it. CS/SPD leaders should highlight this same insistence on teamwork during their daily shift huddles. However, giving a generic "Rah! Rah! Team!" speech is not necessarily going to get the job done here. Teams rally around leaders they believe in, like Wallace. To inspire your people, you must first inspire confidence, and to do that, you have to demonstrate your own commitment to your team.

Wallace fought for others, even when they were unwilling to fight for themselves. He believed in his countrymen as much as he believed in himself, and they knew it. One speech, one time won't carry your teams through the struggles of daily shift work in your CS/SPD. You must commit to encouraging, developing, and challenging your team to work like a team at the beginning of every shift. Even the sons of Scotland needed a reminder every now and then about what they were fighting for. Make sure your folks hear and see this from you on a daily basis.


So, for those of you who made it to the end of this and are either not Braveheart fans or just were not able to follow the battlefield metaphors above, never fear. Here's the cliff notes take away: shift huddles matter in your CS/SPD. They are not just an exchange of information, a spewing forth of cold hard facts, an interruption or delay in getting to the real work. These moments can and should have a measure of epic about them. These are the last few minutes before your team charges into battle, before they don their liquid resistant armor of PPE and start hand-to-hand combat in decontam, or before they climb through the mountain of unprocessed instruments to plant their flag of prep/pack triumph. Make sure you make these moments of daily shift huddles worth it and inspire and equip your teams for the instrument battles that lie ahead.

They may take our Heiss, but they'll never take our Freemans!

What say you?

Hank Balch

Beyond Clean © 2019


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