Game theory in long-term care
Elizabeth Leis Newman
As many of you know, this is long-term care conference season, which means having a quality smartphone is essentially a must. Since my old phone could best be described as “temperamental,” before I headed to AHCA/NCAL I picked up the new Motorola Moto X Android. This phone is so amazing I keep waiting for it to do my laundry. But in the meantime, it makes it tons easier to shoot off emails, use Twitter, shoot video and edit stories.
Most importantly, the new phone has Tetris.
Anyone around my age might remember spending hours – HOURS – playing Tetris as a child. Those of you a few years younger might have had your fancy Wiis and Nintendo 64 and video games where you kill people. People like me were perfectly happy making all the shapes fit together.
I met a lot of dedicated providers in Phoenix at the AHCA/NCAL convention this week, but I also met some tearing their hair out over staff recruitment and retention. That's when I realized Tetris is more than a game — it is actually a metaphor for long-term care staffing.
Tetris is essentially a giant puzzle. In the Marathon version I am playing, you have to make the pieces fit together in order to clear the lines. If you get four lines in a row, the screen flashes “Tetris.”
As you clear the lines, the game moves faster and faster. Inevitably, at some point you run out of space to maneuver and you lose. If you play enough of it, you might even develop what is called The Tetris Effect, where you see the shapes outside of the game.
As an administrator or director of nursing, you have to think about running your facility the way you would winning Tetris. If each of your staff members is a puzzle piece, what makes some click together? What makes for bad fits?
There's a lot of discussion of teamwork in long-term care, but that's not enough. We should have high expectations, but we must also find a way for the pieces to click. Think of the valuable straight line in Tetris as your straight and serious young nurse. Maybe she has a way to go with people skills, but she is extremely organized. Instead of focusing on making her warmer and fuzzier, maybe explore whether she has the makings of an MDS coordinator.
Think of the zigzag pieces, on the other hand, as your activity coordinators. They may not always look like there's a place for them, but they are a critical component of bringing the larger game into harmony.
I could go on and on with this metaphor, but you get the point: Everyone has a place. As an administrator, of course, you are the game player. It's your responsibility to figure out how to win.
Elizabeth Newman is Senior Editor at McKnight's. Follow her @TigerELN.