Never Worry Alone

Mark Sagor


Last month, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) added to its list of honors by moving into the number one spot on the 2012-13 U.S. News & World Report “America’s Best Hospitals” list.  MGH is a complex institution with more than 23,000 employees that handles some of the world’s most difficult and complicated cases. Hospital staff arrive at work every day knowing that they have a solemn responsibility for the lives of their patients. I just learned of one of the techniques MGH has developed to support their staff in this high risk and high performance environment.

My daughter, who is a first year resident in pediatrics at MGH, called me last week as she was walking to work for her first overnight inpatient shift. During our conversation she told me about the three words that you hear at every MGH training session: Never Worry Alone. This is their medical training mantra. It is what they want their staff to remember. We want you to worry and sweat the details because our success depends upon it. We just don’t want you to worry alone because it’s bad for you, bad for our organization and bad for our patients.

There’s great power and insight and strategy in those three little words. These three words embody a solution to two critical challenges:

How can staff invest their work every day with the intense concern and focus required for success without burning out?

How can staff leverage the expertise of their colleagues to optimize patient outcomes?

Both questions are answered by “never worry alone”. The most damaging effects of worry are mitigated by communicating that worry to someone else, especially when that someone else can help by sharing expertise and responsibility. In addition to reducing the harmful effects of worry, sharing concerns with a colleague opens up the collaborative process and brings additional resources to bear on the problem.  Two problems solved.

Not bad for three little words.

What is your organization’s motto?