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Spilt Water

Consider this story told by Bernard L. Brown, Jr., president of the Kennestone Regional Health Care System in the state of Georgia:

Brown once worked in a hospital where a patient knocked over a cup of water, which spilled on the floor beside the patient’s bed. The patient was afraid he might slip on the water if he got out of the bed, so he asked a nurse’s aide to mop it up. The patient didn’t know it, but the hospital policy said that small spills were the responsibility of the nurse’s aides while large spills were to be mopped up by the hospital’s housekeeping group.

The nurse’s aide decided the spill was a large one and she called the housekeeping department. A housekeeper arrived and declared the spill a small one. An argument followed.

“It’s not my responsibility,” said the nurse’s aide, “because it’s a large puddle.” The housekeeper did not agree. “Well, it’s not mine,” she said, “the puddle is too small.”

The exasperated patient listened for a time, then took a pitcher of water from his night table and poured the whole thing on the floor. “Is that a big enough puddle now for you two to decide?” he asked. It was, and that was the end of the argument.

Bits & Pieces, September 16, 1993, pp. 22-24