Monday, September 13, 2010

Open door policy

My office sits on a busy hospital corridor. Most times when I'm inside, I keep the door open. Not just open a crack, but widely ajar. I don't know. It feels neighborly. And, I like being accessible to my ward team whenever I'm on service - my interns, residents or students just pop on by with questions, my office only being a short walk down the hall from their team room.

Of course, my open door policy means that I might be slightly less productive while working at my desk (and also puts me at risk for being exposed to ambient noise and...fragrances), but this connectedness I feel with the hospital around me - my colleagues, other hospital staff, the patients- seems worth it. (On the introvert-extrovert scale, I tend to score down the middle. Maybe that explains it. Need interaction, just don't have to be in the center of it.)

Last week, one of the dieticians on the floors (someone I've had only minimal interactions with) stopped in my office and proceeded to sit down in one of my office chairs facing my desk to tell me of the headache she had a few weeks ago. It took me a few seconds to realize she was seeking my medical opinion. Over the years, I've had multiple staff come in to tell me about their bodily discomforts - all casually entering, taking a seat, and launching into their personal stories without much warning. I've always found these encounters slightly touching that they would feel comfortable enough to approach me and trust me to render them an opinion.

I've had interns (who are not on my team) come in to vent and end up crying about a stressful situation on their team. I've had students (who are not on my team) come in to vent and end up crying (note to self: bring new tissue box to work), and have also had students come in to talk about life, their career plans, balancing motherhood and career, you name it. People just walking by, seeing my door open, and coming in.

I've had lots of patients or visitors asking for directions. Lots of patients or visitors stopping to ask what a "Hospitalist" is. I've been a loan center for pens, chairs, and paper. Recently, one of the support staff stopped in and asked to charge their cell phone in my office. No kidding. That was a new one. Apparently, my office is a one-stop shopping extravaganza.

It's full of surprises, occasionally chaotic, at times downright odd, and, just sometimes, something deep and meaningful that could only happen by leaving the door open.

It reminds me of my favorite part of Thanksgiving. For many years, I've been hosting a crew that has often included my parents, my in-laws, my brother and his wife, cousins, lone friends, anyone wanting to join in. It's having a busy and full house, feeling the joy that comes with caring for others, of being there together.

It's all about the open door.


  1. I think it is a great policy to have! I know I'd love to stop by your office for a chat now and again.

  2. Wow I wish I have a teacher like you when I was a student! Your students/interns are so lucky.
    and I shall start opening my office door. :)

  3. Bravo!! You deserve more than just a pat on the back for that policy and all the helpful advice, healing words and the simple ear and shoulder you have been for so many. Enjoy it. Being able to help others in a small way is a true joy. Sometimes in the midst of real crisis, what a family remembers most is that really nice person in the hall who took time to get up from their desk, give me a tissue and help me find where I was going. Just days ago someone told me that they were lost in the hospital while visiting a critically ill 3 year old niece, a some really nice doctor actually took them the right way. Again, Three Cheers for You! I wish I could hug you!

  4. Medicine and hospitals would be different places if more people left their doors open, Bravo!

  5. A histotech once asked to heat up their lunch in my microwave. Today, a chemistry tech detailed the venous flutter (???) in his leg.

    I keep chocolates right by my door, so I am popular with transcriptionists to cleaning crew.

    Yes, sometimes it slows down my day, but without human interaction from my open door policy this pathologist would wither.

    Wish I could do something to deter the occasional fly.

  6. I had a similar practice for 40+ years teaching at the university but fewer people coming in than you seem to. But that's often the best part of the day.

  7. I think that is awesome and a wonderful policy!!


Comments on posts older than 14 days are moderated as a spam precaution. So.Much.Spam.