March 7, 2014
March 4, 2014
I haven’t posted for a fortnight as have been so busy for the past few months that I’ve not had time to write. And I enjoy it so much I don’t want it to become a chore. A necessity. So recent posts have often been ones I’ve drafted earlier and all I’ve had to do is press “Publish” and hey presto, a blog post.
However, this week I have been in a meeting which had been arranged with some difficulty to get everyone around the table. Time was precious as there was much to do and deadlines looming. This meeting was billed as a critical necessity. Everything else had stalled whilst we waited for the outputs of this meeting.
Did we maximise the use of our time? Did we buggery. The leader of the meeting was late. Then we spent the next 15 minutes deciding who would take on the various assigned roles – timekeeper, (self explanatory), snow patrol (stops people going off track), herder (brings them back from the toilet), observer (reports back at the end of the meeting how it went). In this particular company apparently this is the norm. And unlike school, there was no staring at feet when volunteers were asked for – people willingly assigned themselves roles.
So at last we are ready to start the meeting – only used up 25% of the allocated 2 hours so far – and then we get down to business. Or not. There is a discussion lasting a good ten minutes between two people about who is ‘accountable’ for this project. Versus who is ‘responsible’. The nuances are lost on me and frankly irrelevant to everyone else at the meeting apart from the two debating it. This is something that should be discussed ‘offline’ (*groan*). But surely the ‘snow patrol’ person will tell then to shut up and get on with the meeting? No, of course they don’t. They don’t want to interrupt the two most senior people there.
So of course I can’t hold myself in and suggest we focus on exactly what it is that we want to have decided within the next 80 minutes. I am looked at as if I have come from Mars. “Well we won’t know that until we’ve had the discussions.” I realise I am not going to get anywhere. I get it that you need to discuss stuff, but surely you have to ask yourself WHY? Why are we discussing this – what is the point of it? We don’t discuss which theatre show is best because we know it’s not relevant to our work. Surely, we only discuss things because they inform our decision making. There has to be a decision at the end of it. Even if that decision is “We can’t make a decision on this as we haven’t got enough information so XYZ will research this and report back so that we can make a decision.” It’s all about the decision making for me.
But it was all about the information sharing for them. And so we spent the next hour listening to presentations basically. On stuff I’d already read because it was all freely available. No valuable insights or reinterpretations, just the data. No actual discussion on what the data might mean. Or how it might be used. Just data. And when the meeting ‘wrapped up’ with 5 minutes still to go, the ‘observer’ fed back how useful it had been and how much ‘engagement’ and ‘energy about the project’ there was in the room. I nearly engaged some bicep energy and smacked him.
I thought that it had been a waste of time. Not completely because it was great to meet people who I have only seen on email, but in terms of outcomes. All that information could have been sent to us to read when it suited us (which would have meant we didn’t have to wait over a month to get everyone together), and then we could have met and discussed what we think it means and what we are going to do with it. Someone else I know who works in a different company warns everyone she is in ‘Driver’ mode at the beginning of meetings – I love it. She wants to get things done and in the nicest possible way she is alerting everyone this isn’t just information sharing – we have to actually get somewhere at the end of it.
February 15, 2014
So today I am bumbling round our local supermarket (Waitrose – “Ooh get me being so lah-di-da”, but no. They are our closest) looking for routine supplies and I stumble across shelves full of empty jars.
What? Why would a supermarket sell empty jars. Or more correctly why would anyone BUY empty jars? Then I remember. I am in Waitrose. Home of the middle classes (self included) who don’t have to worry about a few pounds here and there. It’s less of “You look after the pennies and the pounds look after themselves” and more “You look after yourself dahling and the masses can fend for themselves”
Anyway, in the ‘home cookery’ section with numerous shaped biscuit cutters, muffin cases and the like.All in pretty polka dots and pastel shades. And these empty jars will be for the jam-makers. But not the ordinary jam makers like my husband who has made jam year in year out from his home grown blackberries. No, presumably these are the “I want to be a retro housewife/goddess/but most of all a fabulous Mummy” jam makers and the ” I don’t care how much money I throw at it as long as I can post a pretty pic on Pinterest of my gingham topped, hand labelled jars and impress everyone so much they want to punch me.” jam makers. These empty, unadorned, stand alone standard screw top jars (made by Tala the icing people who no doubt think they are on to a good thing) are £2 or £3 each. Each. Yes each.
I was so taken aback I actually plodded to jams to find the standard own label jam comes in at 95p.
And remember. This is Waitrose – Tesco do one for 29p.
Why wouldn’t you just buy the jam and give away the contents rather than pay a premium for an empty jar? Some people astound me.
February 14, 2014
A long long time ago, when I used to work on hospital wards, nurses were assigned to one particular ward and the doctors would be covering a number of different wards. So obviously the nurses would spend more time with each individual patient than we did and would get to know them better.
In those days nurses did nursing. The caring, the chatting, the feeding, bathing and hand holding. As well as the routine observations or ‘obs’ as they were known, that they filled in on the chart at the end of the bed. To be honest the latter were the least reliable bits. Pulse and temperature they usually seemed to manage OK, BP a bit hit and miss and hardly ever was respiratory rate recorded correctly – they just seemed to take a guess. Fluids in and out could be fairly random, but unless there was a concern over the patient’s kidneys as long as they were peeing we were happy. And for the vast majority of patients it was the human care that they were getting from the nurses that was by far the most important. Obviously in the wards where patients were very sick, then the observations took on a greater importance and were done with more diligence. But still the nurses did the caring. The gentle rinsing out of dry mouths with swabs, helping people to the toilet, painting nails and washing hair if they had time or the hairdresser wasn’t available, changing dressings, changing sheets, plumping pillows.
And we of course would swan in, white coats flapping, following the Consultant on his ward round (and they were nearly all ‘his’ in those days), trying to anticipate the questions and furiously writing down the notes and instructions being barked at us. Sister would push the trolley round and hand out the notes of the relevant patient. Each Consultant had their own preferences, which Sister knew all too well. One would want to be handed the patient notes, another would want the Registrar to have them. We’d view the XRays by holding them up to the windows, or move to the light boxes if we wanted to see real detail. In these situations Sister was far more senior than we were and could silence you with a flare of the eyebrow if she thought you were going to annoy her Consultant. She prided herself on looking after his every whim and making sure everything was ship shape.
Curtains around the bed would sometimes cause a few stifled giggles (and a raised eyebrow from Sister) when they would appear to have a life of their own and trap people in them. Or when they would simply peel off the rail completely when you pulled them. But the best comedy moment of ward rounds I have been on was when the Consultant, a fairly bumbling, untidy kind of guy, somehow got the zip of his trousers caught in the handle of the notes trolley. When Sister set off for the next bed he was suddenly yanked at such speed that when she stopped as soon as she realised what was happening, he still travelled forward so that his head ended up in the files and his feet shot out from under him and he accidentally kicked a junior doctor in the nuts. It was like something from a Carry On film; Sister mortified at what she’d done, the Consultant with bright red marks on his face where the metal bits of the files had dug in to him and his trousers still caught up in the trolley, one SHO (junior doctor) bent over nursing his groin, and me and a nurse desperately trying not to laugh.
February 4, 2014
I know I am aged. I know I am not street. But this is about work communications. Not banter between friends. Not text speak. This is when one is trying to have a professional relationship. In these circumstances I cannot understand why one wouldn’t want to speak as plainly and clearly as possible. Why do people feel the need to overcomplicate things? And make up new words or new meanings for old words?
The 3 offenders that have annoyed me already today are:
- Ahead of: As in “Ahead of our meeting today I wanted to …”Ahead is in front of in a physical sense, not on the time space continuum. What is wrong with ‘before’?
- Upskill. As in “We need to upskill the team so they understand the core demographic.” What happened to train? Teach?Improve?
- Revert. As in “I will revert as soon as I know the answer”. What - they will return to a state that they used to be in? Become embryonic? Primordial? Revert means to return to a previous condition or state – it doesn’t mean “I will get back to you.”
You might have thought I had exhausted all my energies on hating the way language is used in previous posts. But I haven’t. Just as I was about to post thismy blue touch paper has been lit by the suggestion to ‘reach out’ at the end of an email rather than straightforward suggestion to ‘contact’. ”I’ll let you reach out to x directly.”
I don’t want to ‘reach out’ to colleagues. If I need them, I’ll email. Or call. “Reaching out” is overblown, emotive, nauseaous. It conjours up visions of the comfortably off opening their loving arms and hearts to touch the poor and needy.
If I get another one today, I might just revert to my previous neanderthal self , ’reach out’ and club someone.
January 28, 2014
I love the Bush theatre. An Arts Centre feel, an intimacy, flexible staging, great acting and new writing. Some of which can be breathtakingly brilliant. And all at only twenty pounds a ticket. Last night was the first time I have been since getting a Christmas present that makes me an official supporter - and it meant I got free wine and nibbles whoo hoo! We were seeing Ciphers, a new play by Dawn King.
The premise is that Justine becomes a spy having been made redundant from a marketing role and is subsequently found dead. Her sister wants to know why but nothing is quite what it seems. The actors each play two roles and carry this off superbly with minor costume tweaks but more radical characterisation changes so we are clear who they are. But do the characters really know each other? We see the various facets of Justine’s life which she has kept entirely separate -seemingly sharing only on a ‘need to know’ basis. But I am not convinced of the credibility of it; Justine seems hardly trained as a spy and too niaive, not to mention it is retro in its lack of hifi/wifi/scifi spy stuff. The first half romped along but the second half became more cliched and less gripping.
Ciphers is clever and enjoyable, but doesn’t quite deliver the punch between the eyes or the pull at the heartstrings I want from drama. Three stars.
January 24, 2014
The first hospital job I did was as a House Surgeon. They are called F1s nowadays, but way back then we were House Surgeons. And much of my job involved looking after the patients who had been booked to have their operations. They would arrive for their surgery which would be booked for the following day and I would have to ‘clerk them in’. This is the systematic questioning and examining of a patient to find out what the problems are, check they are fit to have the surgery and do any of the work up required beforehand. Like bloods, put up drips, write X-rays, order enemas.
And most importantly mark the side of the body to be operated on. You may think this is a joke, but it’s not. I had a thick black permanent marker that I would use to draw an arrow pointing to the Left knee, the Right breast or to circle the numerous varicose veins that needed stripping out. Because it is obviously vital to operate on the correct side, but once a patient is asleep they can no longer confirm which side it is and sometimes notes can be poorly written and it can be surprisingly hard to decipher an L from an R. It is also true to say that for things like hernias, they may not be apparent when the patient is lying down, so it is impossible to tell which side it might be even if you examined him under anaesthetic.
Which brings me to one of the most eddifying moments of my career. I was clerking in a guy for a routine inguinal (groin) hernia operation and needed to confirm it was there and mark it up with my big black pen.
He was probably about 35 and otherwise fit and well. I asked him to stand up and drop his pants so that I could examine the hernia. I knelt in front of him as he pulled down his boxers. His erect penis actually hit me on the nose as it flicked past in its bid for freedom. Funnily enough this scenario hadn’t been covered during my five years of medical training. But I did what came naturally. I pushed it to one side with my left hand and asked him to cough whilst I palpated (felt) his left groin. “Ah yes Mr X, I can definitely feel it,” I said, “We’ll soon get rid of that for you.”
He couldn’t tell whether I was talking about the hernia or making him an offer.