That Alternate Universe Known as Entitlement

A couple of months ago, I took my daughter to a hospital that out of the kindness of my heart I will not name. It is a prestigious hospital being well known nationally. Yet it was a disappointing experience. We had driven two hours to see a particular specialist, only to have that individual replaced by another colleague–supposedly in the same field. We also waited nearly two hours to see that replacement doctor, a matter I patiently tolerated only because I did not want to embarrass my daughter. Still, it suggested something else:

1. They’re really disorganized–something I didn’t get because it really wasn’t all that busy.

2. The doctors couldn’t really care less about the patient waiting experience.

You might argue that perhaps they were in ER or having to handle some major issue. Maybe, but I could hear the doctors chatting away next door in their office, so I knew they weren’t out doing something else.

I should mention that this was a children’s unit in this major medical center, and as such, they had decorated the walls and even the ceiling in a way that tailored specifically to a preferences of a five year old. It was an awkward setting for my 17 year old daughter, as nothing in this environment made her feel at home–and in fact, only served to make her question whether she should still be seeing this doctor at this stage in her life. Unfortunately, you can’t see this kind of specialist that tailors to 17 year olds unless you go to a children’s unit.

In total, I felt the experience could best be summed up by this image found in the hallway of this hospital:

A Captain Marvel wall decor sticker thrown on top of a Princess Castle wall decor sticker

A Captain America wall decor sticker thrown on top of a Princess Castle wall decor sticker

This image suggests a bigger metaphor for what is not only happening at this hospital, but many like it. You’ve put Captain Marvel at the drawbridge of a pink princess castle. Disney Princesses and Marvel Heroes live in alternate universes. Captain America really can’t help a Disney princess because he doesn’t live in that world.

The same thing I think is true of healthcare: I think some Doctors can easily live in alternate universes from everyone else. I would title that universe as “Entitlement”.

I’ve worked with lots of medical groups trying to help them deal with the customer experience. I get the same message every time. Everyone is on board with doing what it takes to improve the customer service experience through training and development and a host of initiatives–except the doctors. The doctors are simply above it all. When I ask why, everyone always says that they work from a sort of entitlement.

They’re not alone–if it’s company they’re wanting. I hear the same message when I work with universities and professors. The same happens with government and politicians. Please know–it’s not a compliment when your organizations perceive politicians, professors and doctors as having an entitlement mentality.

But the truth is, many people outside those professions live in an entitlement zone. They may see themselves as the old-timers on the block who have “paid their dues”, and therefore, don’t have to do what everyone else has to do.  Or they can be newcomers who see themselves as coming in to “save everyone” in the organization by bringing in new blood. Entitlement doesn’t require a specific title–just a lot of pride.

Nothing blocks the ability to deliver really great service than an entitlement mentality. It puts blinders on you that keep you from truly seeing how you come across. You can’t be a hero if you’re blinded to the reality around you.

Doctors are in many ways superheroes. They aren’t imaginary. They do things that truly save lives. But they can’t do it by themselves and they can’t do it if they are too above themselves to be there for their patients. For that matter, nurses are superheroes too. And so is that third shift custodian. Go beyond what’s required of you. Demonstrate concern to others around you. And you can be a superhero as well.

As for my daughter, she has moved onto another state and another set of doctors who, frankly, seem more attentive to her needs. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

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