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The Purple Cow

Working in health care, we are forever under the microscope. This results in a climate where we are constantly trying to improve ways of doing things, so that our patients, residents and clients receive superior care.

As I thought about this it made me think of the marketing concept known as the purple cow effect. Author Seth Godin coined the term when he explained that to be successful, one ought to be remarkable, not in the conventional sense of being noteworthy or interesting, but quite literally, by doing something that people remark on. In his view, in a pasture of cows, you want to be the purple one among the hundreds of Holsteins. But how is this possible when everyone in health care—from social workers to nurses, from housekeepers to dietitians—is already accomplishing some pretty amazing things?

Here’s how: Last week, many of us read in the Montreal Gazette about Stephanie Treherne, a nurse in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the JGH. Over the past several months, Stephanie has been hand-crafting superhero capes for infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), each with the first initial of the baby’s name stitched onto it. I can only imagine the joy that this has brought to the parents and family members of these infants. Her story hasn’t just captured the hearts of Montrealers, but has spread globally, with media inquiries from as far away as London, England.

Stephanie’s story is inspiring, and it represents the sorts of professionals who dedicate themselves to our network. Right now, the spotlight is on this particular person, but I know there are many stories about the purple cows among us that are still waiting to be told.

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