What We’ve Got Here at Iowa is Communication

I’m just revisiting a post (What We Have Here is a Reminder to Communicate « The Practical Psychosomaticist: James Amos, M.D.) to fill in some details because it probably seemed cryptic a few days ago,  This was my reaction to a recent communication issue between resident physicians and the college of medicine administration. Briefly, the college of medicine, in response to budget shortfalls, had more or less sprung a plan to start charging resident physicians for health care benefits. Health care has been essentially free to residents and their families for many years. The residents had been told that the change would occur this coming July and they had not been notified until a couple of weeks ago. You can imagine the distress this produced and an emergency meeting was requested by the residents, to which administration agreed. Local newspapers were notified, petitions circulated and filed, and the multitude attended. The consistent message from the residents was that they wished that administration had communicated with them ahead of time about the budget shortfall issue and the options discussed for addressing it.

The upshot was that administration chose to continue “for at least a year” house staff benefits as they currently stand, that is without adding further financial burden in the form of health care insurance premiums to already strained resident budgets.  A letter of apology went out to all resident physicians from the college of medicine administration, along with a pledge to include the Resident Council in all future discussions about the proposed plans. There was also a pledge to communicate with residents in future “in a mutually respectful and collaborative manner.”

You could look at this in two ways: a public relations disaster was narrowly averted and important lessons in communication were learned by high level leaders. We all gained something vitally important from the experience–a reminder to respect each other.