Tuesday, October 01, 2013
For years they have been an on-call snack staple for young doctors in training throughout the United States. These little morsels have probably saved more lives than defibrillators after hours, especially if they are topped with a hefty dollop of peanut butter.
Admittedly, these flat brown crispy tastees don't contain much nutritional value. They are probably a dentist's nightmare. But after many late hours on call well after the dining hall closes, you'd be surprised how good these little devils taste, especially when they can be enjoyed in a quiet reflective moment alone or with a colleague in the nutrition room. Graham crackers have a way of bringing you back to earth after you've dealt with a code, had to pronounce someone dead, or worked through a difficult family interaction in the wee hours of the morning.
But times are tough for hospitals now: censuses are down (as are revenues) as the uncertain effects of health care reform descend. Consequently, it makes sense for hospitals to trim budgets where they can. After all, if its between graham crackers or nurses, I'm sure we'd all agree that graham crackers should be trimmed before nursing staff.
But I wonder if supplying an entire ward of fifty patients with only 10 of these little packets a day makes sense for physician and nursing morale. Doctors and nurses, already dealing with reduced incomes and threatened with even more to come, are finding it harder and harder to find the tiny perks that make the late nights and long weekends tolerable. Finding none of these hidden snack treasures on a ward after working 15 hours straight certainly isn't the end of the world, but when people are tired and hungry, it's noticed more than any highly-paid administrative decision-maker who's tucked neatly in bed could ever imagine.
Good leaders listen.
Good leaders know the value of small gestures.
But it's only the best of leaders that appreciate the importance of an ample supply of graham crackers.