1. Hader, Richard RN, CNA, CHE, CPHQ, PhD, FAAN, Editor-in-Chief

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Several weeks ago, one of the administrative assistants with whom I work purchased filing cabinets that necessitated her to merge her records. She discovered old meeting minutes of the medical center dating back more than 50 years. In reviewing these interesting archives, we learned about historic decisions and events that have swayed the direction and success of our organization.


Reading the half-century-old correspondence written by hospital trustees, physician leaders, and administrative staff, it was clear why certain decisions were made; what the challenges were that the organization needed to resolve; and what the causal relationship was between the leaders' views, analysis, solutions to problems, and the final result. Many of the decisions made years ago have had a prolonged multigenerational effect on the organization and are still current today.


It's intimidating to think that we're responsible for making decisions that may impact the communities we serve for decades to come. How can we be sure we're making the right judgments? Where should we turn for guidance?

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Good practice and regulatory bodies require healthcare professionals to thoroughly conduct and document the medical history of patients. Determining previous medical history helps to diagnose current medical ailments with a greater degree of certainty. This allows for rapid clinical intervention. The same rationale needs to pertain to leaders in a healthcare organization so that they can better understand the history of their organization in order to make appropriate decisions for the future. Without understanding the history of the situation, you're at a severe disadvantage, thus limiting the opportunity for success.


Discussing issues with senior members of your organization can help you better appreciate the past while simultaneously developing initiatives to advance the agenda of your institution. Asking questions regarding the outcomes of specific events or the rationale for decisions made will enlighten you to the development of the fabric that has produced the culture of your organization. Reading past minutes and interviewing those involved in previously made decisions may provide vital data to interpret and analyze prior to developing a plan to solve a current issue or problem.


Peruse old minutes and you'll quickly agree that similar problems and issues tend to repeat themselves. We must constantly seek innovative approaches to solve them and not rely on techniques and processes that have failed in the past. Knowing the history of problems and previously employed strategies may mitigate slow progress and facilitate goal attainment.


History shouldn't cripple progress but be used as a tool to accelerate the achievement of strategic initiatives. Although a former intervention might have gone awry, it could've been the result of poor education, communication, or implementation rather than the strategy itself. Retooled ideas coupled with innovative and engaging action plans can yield positive results.


Take the time to uncover the history of your organization and the people who comprise it because your successors will one day read about you-after all, history is the final judge of our accomplishments.


Richard Hader