The Most Important Person in the Operating Room

Thoughts before going under


As an old guy with too many miles on the tread, I have had more than a few operations. The last time I was wheeled into the operating room, I had a thought (before they gave me the happy juice), "Who is the most important person in this room?" Most of our natural instincts would be to say the surgeon as they're cutting us open. But what about the person who cleans/disinfects the operating room so I don't get a terrible infection? Or the intake person who confirms food or drug allergies? Or what about the nurse who properly identifies, marks, and cleans the right joint they're cutting on? Or the anesthesiologist who puts us out and brings us back (I always hope they had a pleasant morning with their significant other and don't come to work angry)?

So what's my point? Success in the operating room requires the same thing as success in the FBI did – everyone doing their part, to the very best of their abilities, regardless of their job or role. If any one person faltered in the performance of their duties, the patient or in our case, the mission, suffered. In my analogy, I guess I would have been the hospital administrator. In a hospital, I wouldn't be saving any lives, just trying to get the right people, give them what they needed to succeed, and let them do their jobs. As a Special Agent in Charge, I was not arresting bad guys, thwarting spies, or catching terrorists. My role was to articulate a vision, chart a course for the division, select the right people, and let them run. I did not directly safeguard the Republic. I knew I was but one part of any success we had and if I did my job well, the team as a whole had a better chance to succeed. I hoped that everyone viewed their role similarly.




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