“Auto-Pilot Expertise” vs. Bedside Manner
Gather ’round, kiddies: Grandpa is going to regale you with stories of a recent medical procedure.
Editor’s note: please don’t.
A few weeks back I had a couple of spots removed (hey 1985 Danny: just put on the stupid sunscreen). The surgeon who did the removal and the minor reconstruction surgery is a world-class doctor. He has performed this type of procedure somewhere north of 60,000 times. On the day I was in his office, he made the rounds between me and what I would estimate was 18 other patients, all before lunch. Cut a little…rotate. Stitch a little…rotate. Scan a little…rotate.
And by golly, he was absolutely on top of his game. The efficiency and expertise with which he walked into the room, did his thing, and moved on to the next patient was like nothing I’ve ever seen. I never wondered for a moment if the guy knew exactly what he was doing. I just laid back and
screamed like a three year old let him do his thing.
But there was some bedside manner that left a little to be desired. Small talk was nearly non-existent. What small talk did come felt a little formulaic (I have a sneaking suspicion he forgot all about my Christmas plans right after I told him). I found out we grew up in the same state and tried to make a connection there…nothing.
Now let me ask you a question, dear reader: would I rather have a doctor who pulls up a stool and chats about the latest Disney+ series for an hour, or would I rather have a doctor who knows his job, is great at his job, and does his job with (pun intended) surgical precision?
I think you know the answer to that.
But it was a good reminder for those of us who are “professionals” in ministry (apologies to John Piper). So often we know our processes like the backs of our hands, but we forget that the processes are there for people. Frequently we have our end game in mind, but we overlook those that we’re shepherding along the way. Yes, we may be great at the technical aspects of our jobs, but we may leave behind a nervous, scared, broken, or cynical “patient” as we do our thing.
Thank God for skilled surgeons and skilled shepherds. But let’s be patient with our patients and soothing with our sheep. Let’s not sacrifice a good bedside manner for our auto-pilot expertise.