My place of employment is a large general hospital with various branches of specialization. It currently employs around 1000 staff and I work as a house officer in the Emergency Ward. As a hospital it is headed by a Medical Superintendent with various other consultants and administrators taking care of the relevant wards and other administration work.
The Casualty Department functions quite well as it has some well trained doctors and nurses who are very responsive to the problems and issues which arise on a daily basis. The Head of Department administers power relatively benignly and allows a certain amount of leeway to housemen and other medical staff in the carrying out of their duties. Basically staff are constantly empowered to take on certain tasks with zest and initiative and performance appraisals are carried out on a regular basis.
The management of the ward also allows doctors and nurses to interact regularly and also lets problems be solved accordingly without much ado. Critical cases which enter the ward are given absolute priority and the staff are well organized and carry out their job without much fuss but are always very assertive and precise in their work.
Since the hospital is a rather large place, the various functioning of the other departments is crucial to its continued success of operation. The Superintendant excercises power rather arbitrarily and there are several occasions when he has clashed with other members of staff especially in the busier departments. The organization of the hospital is such that power can be a crucial issue when taking certain important decisions and this may also result in tension as well as conflict between staff.
Organizational management is also an issue at the hospital. Occasionally some simple commands take a long time to get through the chain with the result that decisions on urgent cases or even simple ones such as the furnishing of a ward take a long time to be implemented accordingly. There have also been cases when the consultant has withheld treatment for a certain patient based on medical opinion when this could easily have saved a life just for the sake of ethical perfection.
Other consultants are also loathe to administer duties as they wish to keep the power centralized with themselves. This creates uncomfortable situations where clashes are often prevalent and this is also a case where power is not used well, unfortunately. Some matters have also come to a head where a consultant arbitrarily imposes his/her point of view on certain treatment procedures and will brook no indiscipline from junior staff on the issue.
The hospital functions rather well and there have been very few cases where problems of a serious nature have arisen. However there are issues when the Superintendant has delegated certain administrative tasks to staff who are not competent enough on the basis of favoritism. Unfortunately this creates a vacuum where some tasks or problems are left unresolved due to the fact that the persons in question are unable or unwilling to carry these out accordingly.
Here one can say that power is not working appropriately as the senior member of staff is administering tasks not on the capability of the individual but simply on the basis of favoritism which is obviously not on. With the same reasoning, consultants also tend to administer certain responsibilities on the basis of favoritism and this is another case where power is not used well. We have seen similar situations arise in some TV series which attempt to create a fictional situation in a hospital such as ‘Doctors’ (BBC) or ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and here office and power politics are rather clear as are certain elements of favoritism and intricacies.
As in every place of work or office, power is a crucial element and it is very much they key factor in determining the success or failure of the organization in question. Much depends on the personality and characteristics of the person administering or wielding power and we have seen in the hospital, this can be rather arbitrary and very much in flux.
It is important to note that wards and departments depend on smooth running operations so decision making is another important factor here. This has to be made as soon as possible and there should be no beating around the bush or dilly dallying when such situations arise. Favoritism and other similar office politics are also a hindrance to the correct operation of the organization and this should never be allowed to intrude into decision making which affects urgent cases and suchlike.
The maxim, ‘power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely’ is also one to be taken note of here. One should always value power as an important tool but not let it get out of hand as otherwise a bad situation can only be made worse. Authority is also important and those who have this characteristic in them should not shirk from it at any stage.
Griffin D (2010); Hospitals, What They Are and How they Work; Jones & Bartlett Learning
Graban M (2008); Lean Hospitals: Improving Quality, Patient Safety, and Employee Satisfaction; Productivity Press Grey’s Anatomy – The Complete First Season (2005); Buena Vista