Thursday, December 21, 2017

On the Tradition of Healthcare: Happy Holiday

Invocation for the Saint Luke's Health System Leadership Meeting, 11/30/2017. Our System is faith-based, rooted in the Episcopal Church. In radical hospitality, we are explicitly supportive of the traditions of all our patients, families, and staff.
Welcome to the Holiday Season! But, what is a holiday?

Our word "holiday" comes from older versions of English that spoke of "holy days." Not that the idea is particularly English: here are those days in any spiritual tradition that stand out, and that call for different behavior. Work stops. Sometimes even war stops. Families gather, communities gather, and do something different for the day. It may be to feast, or it may be to fast. It may call for quiet and private reflection, or it may call for public celebration and public service. It is a day that stands out, when believers stand out, from other days.

Welcome to the Holiday Season. Looking at November, December, and into January, and looking just at on line resources, there are special observations in ten different faith traditions, and several civic observations as well – and that’s without counting separately the distinctive practices within broader traditions. Some commemorate births. Some remember special revelations. Some are as much about cultural heritage as about religion per se, although those observing would not likely make that distinction. Certainly, this period is a season of holidays – of holy days – for many different communities.

There are those holy days that we might identify in this tradition of health care. There are those "first times." I remember the first patient seen in the Emergency Room at Saint Luke’s South, not long after midnight when we first lit the sign. We remember the first heart transplant, both that initial surgery half a world away, and the first one done at Saint Luke’s. We remember new resources and facilities, from the first hospital established 130 years ago to the completion of the new Anderson County Hospital. We remember special honors – state Quality awards, or the Baldrige: days of honor and prestige.

And then there are those more personal days. Every surgery is a holy day, a special day of observation for patient and family. Every discharge is a holy day, whether it is a day of feasting or fasting. Every birth is holy day, as is every death. It is our vocation, and also our privilege to participate in these holy days, directly or indirectly, and to work to make them days of honor and celebration; to make them memorable for hope and grace and compassion and mercy.

Welcome to the Holiday Season. May each of us in our own communities celebrate, knowing that our colleagues support us in celebration. And, may each of us in our health system celebrate those other "holy days," in support of those we serve, and those we serve with. Amen.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

On the Tradition of Healthcare 6.29.2017

Invocation for the Saint Luke's Health System Leadership Meeting, 6/29/2017. Our System is faith-based, rooted in the Episcopal Church. In radical hospitality, we are explicitly supportive of the traditions of all our patients, families, and staff.

We as a group come from a number of different traditions. But, some of you have heard me suggest that there is a tradition we share, one that is a tradition of healthcare; and a recognition that healthcare in all its variations is holy work.

That tradition is old, older than we know. The Code of Hammurabi sets compensations and punishments for doctors and surgeons. Hippocrates learned his profession from his father and grandfather. Shimon ben Sirach was quoting his father when he wrote, 

Honor physicians for their services, for the Lord created them; for their gift of healing comes from the Most High, and they are rewarded by the king.

There is a tradition that is healthcare, healthcare as holy work, and we are all participating in it.

We, though, are not simply participating. We are leading. On the back of each badge in the room is our commitment to “the spiritual health of the communities we serve.” For us the communities we serve first, I think, are those we serve with. They are the physicians, yes; and also the nurses, therapists, technicians, engineers, housekeepers, volunteers - all those who share with us in creating and sustaining institutions of curing and healing, of caring and compassion and hope.

As we lead, there are various ways we might support the spiritual health of those we serve with; but I am sure this will be among them. We must reflect to them how each person contributes to the health and safety of every patient; and how each role expresses our commitments to service and compassion. We must recognize in them, and let them recognize in us, that we all participate in the tradition that is healthcare, and the knowledge that any service of healthcare - every service of healthcare - is holy work. Amen.