From the Editor

Robert Fromberg, Editor-in-Chief

A friend told me that she bought an e-book reader for her workaholic husband to encourage him to do more recreational reading.

Hearing that comment reminded me how hard we work to find relief from our hard work.

For example, how many of you …RobFromberg_2012_r1

Get up before anyone else in your household so you can have a few minutes to relax? … Stay up later than anyone else in your household so you can have a few minutes to relax? … Take a longer route to work so you have more time to listen to the radio? … Schedule relaxation on your calendar? … Make a date with your significant other so you have a chance to talk without interruption? … Shop for labor-saving devices in the hope that you can use the time saved to relax? … Shop for recreational items that you hope will encourage you to do more recreation?

And for many of us, even the things we do that are recreational can seem like work-driving kids to sporting events, preparing for a vacation.

A few months ago, I learned another way of looking at the problem of too much work and not enough relaxation. And I learned it from hospital patient access staff.

Just before this past Thanksgiving, I visited outpatient registration at my local hospital. The registrar captured my demographic and insurance information efficiently, yet she simultaneously managed to discuss Thanksgiving plans as though chatting with an old friend. She spoke while entering information into her computer, so I never felt that the conversation was prolonging the registration process. It just made the process a whole lot more relaxing. Her serene manner was especially admirable considering the stress and complexity involved in patient registration.

In the course of the process, the registrar asked a question of a coworker. The coworker had the same efficient, yet relaxed manner. She briefly joined our conversation about Thanksgiving, again without ever seeming to prolong the registration process or to be shirking other work.

A few days after Thanksgiving, I was back in outpatient registration, this time with a family member, and the same registrar helped us. Not only did she remember me, but she asked how my mother-in-law and brother-in-law enjoyed visiting us for Thanksgiving. What a memory!

This registrar showed that the wall between work and relaxation can be artificial. She had cultivated an attitude toward work that tapped the serenity usually associated with down time. The fact that her coworker had the same demeanor indicated it was probably part of the department's culture.

When the process was complete, I thanked her, and she replied, "I know it's no fun to be at a hospital, so I just want to be sure you get what you need."

Maybe that's the secret of bridging the gap between work and relaxation-finding the core purpose of that work.

Publication Date: Monday, March 01, 2010

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