The Coming Catastrophe of Medical and Nursing Education

It’s easy to get wrapped up in the heat, intricacies, and excitement over the politics, economics, and technologies of Health Care (and Healthcare – know the difference).

But you know what? We still need brains and hands to do important work.

It’s important for the right kinds of brains to enter life-long nursing and medical careers.

Right now, however, we are approaching a catastrophe in education – and from two ends: supply and demand. Both the supply of educational resources and the demand of the new generation for serving in Health Care are decreasing.

Today’s physicians don’t feel like they’re doing what they signed up to do.

Today’s nurses don’t feel like they’re doing what they signed up to do.

Each are fighting unnecessary wars with unnecessary people who subjugate the industry with their unnecessary idiocies.

Furthermore, we not only need a new generation of dedicated, educated, and well-trained HCPs, but we also need a new – pardon the expression – industrial complex of how Nursing and Medicine work with each other for the benefit of patients.

I can’t tell you how priceless it was for me to be able to attend an occasional lecture by a physician during nursing school.

But that’s not nearly enough.

Yes, nursing and medicine are different fields – and there are reasons for some of the barriers between them.

But the membranes that separate these professions must be much more osmotic than they ever have been.

Finding ways to better inter-mesh nursing and medical education would produce more educated nurses and physicians. It may be a higher up-front cost to do, but the long-term yields would be well worth the capital.

You can do all sorts of financial reform in Healthcare.

You can do all sorts of things with technologies in Healthcare.

That’s all welcome, of course – if done elegantly.

But none of that will convey Health Care to the places it needs to go if we don’t have a running supply of nurses, physicians, and other HCPs.

Slavoj Zizek wrote a book a few years ago titled “First As Tragedy, Then As Farce”.

You don’t have to agree or disagree with Zizek’s mashup of Hegelian/Lacanian analytics of our Century’s problems.

But, given the state of Healthcare, it’s an apt description of where we’re heading.

Think about that phrase as you reflect on Healthcare today. How many times have you encountered the Farce?

It’s absolutely farcical that there are Hospital CEOs who wouldn’t have the slightest clue about moving a patient from a bed to a chair.

It’s absolutely catastrophic that we are entering crises of shortages of *willing, able, and supported* nurses, physicians, and pharmacists.

I’ll take Zizek’s quirky phrase and advance it forward for Healthcare and what we can expect:

Healthcare: First As Farce, Then As Catastrophe.

Phil Baumann





Putting Backward Thinking in Healthcare in Perspective

Most people in Healthcare are brilliant.


Then there are those who are….let’s just say they don’t do a lot of thinking beyond the ways in which they have comfort.

There’s a kind of arrogant willfulness to be ignorant of the rapid changes in 21st Century technologies and reforming health care.

“Oh, I’m not interested in these things.”

“Oh, I don’t see the value in X, therefore it’s not valuable.”

What kind of logic are those lines of thought??

Think of the arrogance of that: “*I* don’t see the value, therefore it’s not valuable.”

Can you imagine where we’d be each of our stone-using ancestors thought “No, I’m not interested in that wheel thingy that Grok’s cat is playing with”.

So here are two *facts* in history where people not only believed were OK to believe, but actively went on assault on others who sought to overturn the beliefs and practices:

  • Slavery was considered an important part of society and economy. You can hear the voices hyperventilating even now: ” If we end slavery, the whole economy will be ruined!!”
  • Homosexuality was considered a disease. Specifically, the psychiatric establishment not only asserted this claim but inflicted harm on countless people – and propagated the ignorant belief, which yet survives to this day.

We have countless analogues in Healthcare to these dreadful parts of our history.

It’s important that we take on the lazy and fallacious thinking. It has no place anywhere – especially in the sciences and arts of caring for people.

Remember when I said that *most* people in Healthcare are brilliant?

Well, here’s the problem – it only takes a few inculcated wrong-thoughts to dominate an entire industry. It only takes a few well-positioned power-wielders to enforce arrogant and dangerous ignorance from the top all the way down.

Revolutions don’t take place on streets or Twitter or Television.

No, they transpire in the standing acts of individuals unafraid to assert clear thinking, to openly challenge minds infected with their own arrogance and to take the risks that come with confronting the tyranny of apathy.

Phil Baumann


The Epidemic of Learned Helplessness

We all suffer, somewhere in our lives, from learned helplessness.

Our healthcare institutions have effectively imposed it on patients. That’s why we  now have ‘patient empowerment’ movements.

Nurses victimized by other nurses learn helplessness.

Physicians victimized by tyrannical bureaucracies learn helplessness.

Healthcare executives passionate about reform learn helplessness.

Healthcare marketers trying to figure out today’s media learn helplessness.

In fact, everywhere you look around at society you see the colossal influences of learned helplessness.

Learned helplessness isn’t just isolated to the cognitive pathologies of clinical depression.

Learned helplessness is a way of life; a philosophy; a disease of expanding political proportions.

When looking for reasons why health care reform or health information technology advancement are torturous, or why patients give up on their own health, look for the underlying signs of learned helplessness.

Like individuals, institutions can learn helplessness.

So can entire civilizations.

Learned helplessness is the greatest opportunity a tyrant could ask of the dark gods.

It’s also an opportunity for you to be a hero.

Phil Baumann,

The Unlearning Helper


Where’s the Steve Jobs of Healthcare?

Steve Jobs means a lot to me. In my junior year of high school, my English teacher gave me the honor of setting up the school’s first computer lab. I asked her if we could purchase Macintosh computers. She said yes, and we got the lab set up when they arrived just in time for the Fall start.

It gave me the confidence to take charge; to make something look cool at a time when the word “geek” was more wounding to teens than “loser”; and it gave me the incline to rise out of a depression I sauntered under for years.

It was Steve Jobs’ charisma and vision which inspired me then. Who knew a small box could absorb so much attention?

I’m not a Mac fanboy, but I do detest PCs. Much of Healthcare is PC. Maybe one day it will be more Mac.

Jobs always struck me as a man on a mission – there’s a look in his eye: a direct honesty of passion. A look of intelligent fearlessness.

That intelligent fearlessness changed an entire industry. In fact, Steve Jobs went beyond his own industry to create new ones.

More – he created more than a new industry: he created a new way for all of us to do things. We take them for granted – which is proof of his success.

Still more – the platforms he created will create new platforms which will give rise to new industries. Yeah, he’s that kind of leader.

But while Steve Jobs moved his industry forward, Healthcare is – for the most part – almost criminally backwards.


Shortest but most covering answer: lack of Leadership at the top.

I’ll talk more about my ideas of the meaning of leadership over time here. But Healthcare is actually full of leaders – they just aren’t at the top.

You don’t find many CEOs whom I would consider leaderly.

You don’t find many politicians whom I would consider leaderly.

You do find them at the bedside.

You do find them counseling traumatized children.

You do find them at nursing and medical schools. Sorta.

You do find them voicing themselves here and there.

You can find them almost anywhere, except in the towers which wield the greatest powers.

The problem with the lack of top leadership in Healthcare isn’t that the top people there are necessarily bad or stupid. Maybe they are.

The problem with the lack of top leadership in Healthcare is that we have systems that reward political corruption and punish moral fortitude.

The problem with the lack of top leadership – there being no Steve Jobs at the helms – lies in Capital.

Few people understand Capital. Read this for an eye opener.

Steve Jobs knows what to do with Capital.

His company is the most capitalized company in the world. He didn’t bother with social media.  He probably thinks it’s all dopery.

Steve Jobs leads. He doesn’t tweet.

So, to my question: Where is the Steve Jobs of Healthcare?

You are the Steve Jobs of Healthcare. Or Stephanie Jobs.

You can do more than you know.

Death is a leader and we all are following it to the grave.

Death is the greatest leader of all time because it says “create now, your clock is ticking”.

I can’t say if Steve Jobs thought about death as an inspirer for his visions, nor if he is thinking about death now.

Then again, leadership and creation are eternal victories which death can never achieve.

The word needs to get to the CEOs and other executive officers in Healthcare that Leadership trumps short-term profit, that Leadership trumps their fears of inept investors who end up blowing their money away eventually.

Phil Baumann



Healthcare Leadership – Frustrations and Fiascos

Physicians are disappointed.

Nurses are burnt out.

Budgets are strained.

Pharmaceutical companies are facing emptying pipelines.

Patients are sick of the whole process.

Physicians and nurses didn’t sign up for this. They wanted to help people, to do science, to do art.

Instead, they fill out paper work, fight wars that don’t need to be fought and find themselves tolerating conditions they don’t deserve.

Our healthcare woes won’t be fixed without leadership – we know that much.

So where does the leadership come from? The top? The bottom? The middle?

It comes from everywhere: it comes at the local, national and global levels.

But given all of the frustration and fiascos, and the resulting depression they create, we need to learn more about the inspirations that cull hope out of the very people who need to lead.

I’m keeping this post short, but I will point you to someone who offers us a glimpse of what kinds of assets we’ll need to build. Her name is Amy Dixon Drouin and she’s on to something about the role of storytelling in healthcare. And not in a buzzwordy kind of way.

You can follower her here and here.

Phil Baumann