I have been to a few emergency rooms, mostly for highly nervous new parent reasons. Near each one is a board with names on it. Ussually this board has ailments, procedures, and where patients are at any given time. It tells of upcoming surgeries that require a certain level of expertise. This type of board has been highly popularized by shows like Grey’s Anatomy and other hospital dramas. It always struck me as a very public way for everyone to know what was going on in the hospital on any given day. No one can hide from the responsibilities that the board requires. The board dictates your schedule. Every day, new patients arrive and old patients are erased from the board. More than once a day, the entire slate is wiped clean and the whole process starts anew.
I wish this board existed for more than just hospitals.
Instead, we lower the stakes. We move the boards into more private areas like meeting spaces and classrooms. We let notices stay there for weeks or months with large “do not erase” signs around them. Or, we digitize the process and make it even more secretive in our email inbox or content management systems. There is no feeling that we must clear the board or people will die. There is no feeling that everyone will know exactly what we have been up to because our names are tied to the procedure to which we were assigned. In essence, the board is inconsequential in our working lives. It doesn’t dictqte order or urgency and we don’t feel the need to clear it nearly as often.
But what if we did put up such a board in our schools and workplaces? What if we put the things that we were doing up for everyone to see and then cleared them away with a medical efficiency? I would like to see the progress and the stories that get told then.
If I had to guess, most people wouldn’t spend their time on menial work. If their tasks were going up on the board, everything we did would become important. If we had to write up there what we were learning about or what we were about to tackle on any given day, we would see just how urgent our procedures can be.
And when we needed help for a given procedure, we could elicit help from one another simply by adding one another’s names to the board. We could focus on the collaborative spirit that is required in a hospital in order to keep patients alive. There would stop being a competition between who has harder or more important work because the task for each day is not to complete your own work, but to help clear the board. If you have a free moment, help someone else clear the board. If you have something that needs doing, write it up.
I don’t clear my email inbox as often as I should because there is nothing making me do it. It isn’t life or death and there isn’t any help if I get stuck. But if every one fo my job requirements were up on the board, waiting to be cleared by a team of highly skilled people, you had better believe that I wouldn’t still have an unreturned email from last December just with a draft that has been saved 5 different times and then abandoned because something more interesting came up.
I get that I am not saving lives by creating learning objects or by talking about social media or asking better questions through video. But hqt doesn’t mean that the ambition and pride that doctors feel for clearing the board is unavailable to me. I just have to make my system more open to people walking through my emergency room. I need to allow others to help me, too.
If I simply keep my work as public as possible and not try to own everything, I believe that more will get done and I will feel better about it as well. Or maybe I will jut better be able to put myself in the shoes of someone in ER or House.