Lessons Learned From ICU

I spent eight days in ICU. I wasn’t the patient. I was watching the patient – recover slowly.


I watched the awesome nursing staff, whose duties and attention are extreme and focused at first, then as time passes – and the patient improves – become more routine. Or so it seemed to me.

Perhaps I became used to the ‘routine.’

With plenty of time to observe, I watched the shift change (they worked 12-hour shifts and I saw each change during my visits). It started with a flurry of hellos and turned quickly to sitting down, two to a computer, going over every patient – where progress was not only charted, but discussed in detail.

Progress downloads. Twice a day. Questions asked, answered, and clarification given.

The nurses done for the day left, and the new shift would make their rounds, reconfirming the details of the downloads.

They came in, introduced themselves (if I hadn’t met them previously), checked on the patient, and always explained what they were doing and why; what drug they were administering and what it did; so I could understand how all this fit into the recovery process.

They tracked every med, device and patient response, then they updated their charts.


Steps were explained, remedies detailed. Did I have any questions?

Something went wrong and everyone showed up at once. A minor adjustment, and everything was okay. Everyone went back to what they were doing.

* * *

Way back when, I worked in an agency where there was – what we called – urgency.

That urgency most often stemmed from something that someone forgot to do. Or a promise made without confirming it could happen within a given timeframe or budget.

I came to the conclusion that in advertising, everyone acted like it was life or death – your basic trauma center. We have to do this NOW! Or . . .

Advertising isn’t life or death – people just act that way.

What can we learn from ICU?

Downloads that are meaningful. Documentation that is accurate, shared and accessible to everyone gives continuity. Follow-up to ensure that what you heard and read is what you observe at this moment.

Accuracy. Diligence.

Keeping your head when things don’t go as planned, and giving careful evaluation when considering next steps.

It’s always about doing it right the first time.