Trying Some Disney Attitude to Help Cure Walter Reed
By Steve Vogel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 25, 2008; B01
Fifty medical workers -- doctors, nurses, therapists and administrators among them -- sat in a room at Walter Reed Army Medical Center gazing at a slide of Donald Duck on a screen.
The oft-cranky Disney cartoon character, wearing his blue sailor jacket and cap, was in a palpable rage. His webbed feet had lifted off the ground, his beak was gaping, and his white-gloved hands were tightly clutching an old-fashioned two-piece telephone.
"We can clearly see he's frustrated," said Kris Lafferty, a trainer for the Disney Institute who was leading workers at the Northwest Washington hospital last week in a four-hour seminar on customer service. "Why do we think he's frustrated?"
The last time I was subjected to that kind of mindless kootchy-koo dumbing down was when I was in 1st grade and learning to read. "We can clearly see he's frustrated," kiddies.
Disney got $800 thousand for that gig, although I'm sure there's follow-up Goofy multiple choice questions and Minnie Mouse nursing instruction.
800 electric wheelchairs might have been a better investment and a chain-of-command that actually commands. But of course, the Army can't command private individuals and we have privatized the services at Walter Reed. Another of Donald Rumsfeld's bright ideas to marginalize the unknowables that we don't know.
Maj. Gen. Eric B. Schoomaker is the new commanding general of Walter Reed. Goofy is now a two-star general, but the services haven't gotten any better and Schoomaker pulled out all the stops; "Get me Donald," he was heard to command (in a roaring, commanding sort of way)--and he didn't mean Rumsfeld.
There was a time when the Military cared for its own, but now it's busily downsizing and privatizing, avoiding and cutting, minimizing and blaming, all of which keeps it too abstractedly attending congressional hearings to actually run an army. We once had specialized care, nurses, doctors, attendants, floor-scrubbers, physical therapists, food-service personnel and psychologists--all of them in uniform--our uniform--the uniform of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
I know. I was there, a specialist 4th class in the medical corps down at Fort Sam Houston burn center in San Antonio, TX. The year was 1957. We were treating some patients who had been there more than 15 years, the wounded of two wars and we treated them with care and love and patience.
You can't 'command' care and love and patience, but you can build it within a military structure. You can know what it's doing at every moment. You can be accountable, which is something we used to demand from our two-star generals.
Then came Reagan (the privatizer) and Bush (the decider) and then there was Goofy Rumsfeld and now--finally--there is no one left but Goofy. (Oh, and those honorable, horribly wounded, bravest of the brave we sent off into harm's way)