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Trust the ‘bear’

  • Published
  • By Col. (Dr.) Bret Burton
  • 375th Medical Group commander
Just inside the darkened doorway of a local restaurant there is a "bear." Not your menacing, clawed and fanged, grizzly type from any cable tv "human vs. nature" show, but a tall, placid, smoothly carved wooden one with a slightly raised right paw. Around the restaurant are his colleagues busily bussing tables and ushering patrons in and out of smooth benched booths.

These hospitality-minded employees wear the bear, on the reverse of their T-shirts, and encourage me to "Trust the bear." Although our family has frequented this location on several occasions since our arrival this past summer, let me say....I don't know the bear, much less trust the bear. Even if I've briefly met the acquaintance of the bear we've hardly interacted, and to take it one step further, what's the bear done for me lately?

Recently, the Air Force Medical Service codified their vision statement as "Trusted Care, Anywhere" and our medical group changed the unit slogan to reflect consistency of message. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric wrote in his book, "Winning leaders establish trust with candor, transparency and credit."

A new marketing plan cannot exist as merely words on a play sheet conveyed by leadership coaching from the sidelines; it must be a daily declaration to you, the ones who give us the privilege of laying hands, hearts, and minds toward improving your health and the health of the community we serve. Our team stands ready each day to assure combatant commanders around the world that nearly 400 medics and more than 5,000 Airmen are medically ready to deploy at a moment's notice.

But for you, the local care consumer, can you trust us?

The following paragraphs will give you our simplistic approach toward establishing that sacred bond as we walk you toward trust in our organization.

Appearance--do these people and their organization look trustworthy? Let's start with our building, maintaining our five-story, 450,000 square foot, 1950's era medical home is a beginning to establishing trust on our showcase base. Our award-winning facility managers maintain several acres of grounds and ensure walking paths are safe to tread upon. Inside, you should notice area is fresh appearing and impeccably clean, while the rooms you await care are well lit and a comfortable temperature. As you transit our lobbies for pharmaceuticals, medical care areas for visits, or administrative suites for care management you should notice modern, accommodating spaces occupied by bright and shining faces. Standards of dress and appearance are more important for medics; much like the adage "you get one chance to a make a first impression," the delivery of medical care is a very unforgiving blind date. We'll do our best to ensure you'll look forward to our next encounter.

Behavior--do these people act like persons whom I can trust? Medics are expected to hold a sacred bond of confidentiality with individuals; you must believe that the vulnerability of the words, wounds, and weaknesses you share are guarded against outsiders. When you perceive gentleness, patience, and kindness from the service specialists on our appointment line, or the administrative experts at our front desks then 'good care' begins. When medics listen to your health needs and engage with their education, training and experience then the value to you improves towards 'excellent care'. When service excels above and beyond your expectation you have moved into the realm of 'outstanding care. The personal phone call to check on your wellness, the hand-written note of results or instructions to a new medication, the unexpected escort to an obscure back hallway with a personal introduction to the individual you are seeking--these make your experience a touchstone.

Consistency--do I seek these persons out for trusted advice above all others, time-after-time? If life is best experienced through relationships, then encountering the same care members of your care team consistently is the best opportunity to develop a healthy wellness relationship. On average, our metrics show an ability to ensure you see your assigned provider team nine times out of ten; we've also been able to decrease the chances you'll have to go off base to see urgent care to two times out of a hundred. Our teams recognize that providing access to your medical home is the most basic expectation that you have; safe provision and delivery of the highest quality of care are non-negotiable time after time you visit us. We will continue to strive to provide you consistent access, so we are mutually inspired in our relationships towards better outcomes for your health.

Simon Shinek makes a profound statement about communicating a unit's mission in "Start with Why", " organization must be clear about its purpose...make sure that everything they say and do is consistent with and authentic to that belief."

Your medical group exists to build a ready, healthy community. No one else is afforded that privilege outright. We must use partnerships in the civilian medical network to provide the wide range of medical services necessary for this complex population, but the heart and soul of why we exist as medics is this--we want to partner and share expertise so you get the best advice to become a healthier person. As the opportunity for those moments to build relationship unfolds, trust develops between humans (no Bear required). It is a journey to become trusted, a journey that takes a lifetime of moments. Thanks for allowing us to be a part of your next steps toward believing that trusted care begins here.