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Everyday answers and solutions based on premature conclusions

Today’s healthcare system is hallmarked by complexity. The configuration of day-to-day healthcare practice varies considerably, depending on the type and level of care administered. Anyone familiar enough with different types and levels of care can attest to the general informality with which medical answers and solutions get bandied around in the rhythmic press and exigency of ongoing daily activity, especially in settings peppered by periods of downtime. The glaring exception, of course, is those wards where clinical decision-making steadfastly rules, and where medical answers and solutions more directly reflect the serious nature and high stakes of nonstop care.

What looms as aberrantly apparent, to some at least, is how these two worlds of practice exist side by side, yet only one of them reliably produces answers to questions and valid solutions to medical problems. Still, the other world’s cavalier state of practice conveys hasty answers/solutions that are equally conveyed with 100% certainty, presumed to be actionable. This world is peopled by staff who are unaware they’re functioning more or less in “sleep mode.” In other words, they’re sleepwalking.

The world of the waking, so to speak, is precisely the opposite: characterized by its solemnity in generating, examining, and evaluating potential answers or solutions upon which an informed decision will rest. That decision offers the best chance for success, but only after first articulating how success has been defined. This world is populated by critical thinkers. Obviously, this is the world we should expect all healthcare professionals to inhabit.

Hasty or premature conclusions offered as answers to questions or as solutions to be administered are nothing more than hypotheses cloaked as a sure thing. Across many work contexts, these become unwitting fodder for dialogues of consequence between medical staff, or between a staff member and a patient. In a nutshell, such conclusions are too quick-off-the-tongue when they arguably need to be slow-off-the-mark. Why? Because they can have real consequences if acted upon, and those outcomes are just as likely to harm as they are to help. With this in mind, any time an answer or solution gets uttered so freely, the stakes in the dialogue change. No bells will ring, no alarms will sound—yet the potential for things to go sideways has just ratcheted up considerably.

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