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Being Misread: A Lesson in Vigilance

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Deming to the Rescue

The next morning I arrived at Sibley at 8 a.m., and as I walked into the waiting room, a well-dressed man with a name tag identifying him as Jerry Price, chief operating officer of the hospital, approached me.

"You're Clare, aren't you?" he said.

"Yes?" I answered dubiously.

"You don't know what I want to talk to you about, do you?" he said.

But without his saying another word, I did know: Deming.

"We have all the videotapes and books you did with him, and we practice his philosophy here at Sibley," Price said. "We have plenty of time to talk. Your surgery is not until 10 a.m."

He led my husband and me to his office and told how inspired he and his staff were by Deming's ideas. He told a delightful story of how Deming had been a patient at Sibley in the early 1990s and had called him into his hospital room and said, "You don't trust your patients, do you?"

Price said he was puzzled.

"Look in the closet," Deming roared. He shouted a lot, particularly at top management.

Price looked in the closet and it was filled with the coat hangers used in expensive hotels, the hangers that have little balls that must be fitted into tiny holes.

"How would you like to be 92 years old and sick and you couldn't even hang up your clothes?" Deming demanded. "Do you think your patients want to steal your coat hangers?"

Price showed us a letter from Deming in which he had sent a $25,000 check and instructions to buy new coat hangers for all the patients' rooms.

Price did so, had a number of them sanded down and got Deming to sign them. Today, the quality awards at Sibley are sturdy wooden hangers with hooks and Deming's signature mounted in a frame.

"We are the hospital for demanding Washington residents who have extremely high expectations. Dr. Deming taught us how to meet those expectations through the quality improvement process," Price said.

Later, I had the D&C. The biopsy done on the cells taken during the procedure showed no atypical cells.

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