Like may of you who work for a hospital, HMO or other organized medical care, I have often been frustrated by the rigidity and dullness of administrators. Many of them go by the rules and seem to be unbending.
Once in awhile one comes across some one who does not fit into that category. A personal example will illustrate this.
After I had retired from my academic position at the University of Miami I was doing intermittent "locums" work. I had just finished a six month assignment in Okinawa, Japan and was in my traveling mode. I needed to find my next "job" and had applied to an add from Mount Edgecumbe Hospital in Sitka, Alaska. That Indian Health Service Hospital was looking for an obstetrician and gynecologist. I was interested, applied and was invited for an interview.
I liked the job and they must have liked me as I was offered a two year contact. However as a new hire they offered me only two weeks of vacation and one week of Continuing Medical Education leave. For someone with my seniority, I thought that that was insufficient and said so. I left Sitka in a sad mood as I really would have liked that job, but was not ready to accept their offer of only two weeks of vacation time. I was told that that was the Company's policy, and that they were not ready to start a precedent.
Some days later, I received a phone call from the medical director of the hospital. She started off by apologizing again that she could not offer me more vacation, as that was the Company's policy for new hires. Right away I felt discouraged, but then she added: "We really would like to have you work for us and what I can do is give you two addition weeks of unpaid leave and raise your salary by two weeks (which, by company rules she was free to do). I was elated and accepted the offer for two years. We liked it there so much that we ended up staying seven years.
I thought that this hospital administrator was using her authority to make a very creative and imaginative decision. We all benefitted.
There should be more administrators like that.
Those interested in reading more about my experiences can download an e book for free from Smashword at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/161522 or just Google: "Crosscultural Doctoring. On and Off the Beaten Path".
This quiz covers indications, complications and blood products. Information from NICE guidelines, JPAC website (joint UK blood transfusion and tissue transplantation) and oxford handbook of clinical medicine.
The book of the week this week has been Chris Patten’s “Not quite the diplomat” – part autobiography, half recent history and a third political philosophy text. It is a fascinating insight into the international community of the last 3 decades. The book has really challenged some of my political beliefs – which I thought were pretty unshakeable – and one above all others, the EU. I read this book to help me decide who I should vote for in the upcoming MEP elections.
I have to make a confession, my political views are on the right of the centre and I have always been quite a strong “Eurosceptic”. Although recently, I have found myself drifting further and further into the camp of “we must pull out of Europe at all costs” but Mr Patten’s arguments and insights have definitely made me question this stance.
With the European Parliamentary elections coming up, I thought it might be an interesting time to put some ideas out there for discussion.
From a young age, I have always been of the opinion that Great Britain is a world leading country, a still great power, one of the best countries in the world - democratic, tolerant, fair, sensible - and that we don’t need anyone else’s “help” or interference in how our country is run. I believe that British voters should have a democratic input on the rules that govern them.
To borrow an American phrase “No taxation without representation!”
I believe that democracy is not perfect but that it is the best system of government that humans have been able to develop. For all of its faults, voters normally swing back to the centre ground eventually and any silly policies can be undone. This system has inherently more checks and balances than any meritocracy, oligarchy or bureaucracy (taking it literally to mean being ruled by unelected officials).
This is one of my major objections to how the European Union currently works. For all intents and purposes, it is not democratic. Institutions of the EU include the European Commission, the Council of the European Union, the European Council, the Court of Justice of the European Union, the European Central Bank, the Court of Auditors, and the European Parliament. Only one of these institutions is elected by the European demos (the parliament) and that institution doesn’t really make any changes to any policies – “the rubber stamp brigade”. The European Council is made up of the President of the European Council (Unelected), President of the European commission (Unelected) and the heads of the member states (elected) and is where quite a lot of the "major" policies come from but not all of the read tape (the European Commission and Parliament).
I am happy to be proved wrong but it just seems that the EU, as a whole, is made up of unelected officials who increasing try to make rules that apply to all 28 member states without any consent from the voters in those states – it looks like the rule of “b-euro-crats” (bureaucrats – this version has far too many vowels for a dyslexic person to use).
A beurocratic rule which many of us do not agree with but seemingly have to succumb to, a good example for medics is the European Working Time Directive (EWTD) which means that junior doctors only get paid for working 48h a week when they may spend many, many more hours in work. The EWTD has also made training a lot more difficult for many junior doctors and has many implications for how the health service is now run. Is it right that this law was imposed on us without our consent? If we imposed a treatment on a patient without their consent then we would be in very big trouble indeed!
I cannot deny that the EU has done some good in the world and I cannot deny that Britain has benefited from being a member. I just wish that we could pay to have access to the markets, while retaining control over the laws in our lands. I want us to be in Europe, as a partner but not as a vassal. In short, I would like us to stay within the EU but with major reforms.
I know that any reforms I suggest will not be read by anyone in power and I know they are probably unrealistic but I thought I would put it out there just to see what people think.
I would like to see a NICE’er European Union.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence is a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB), part of the UK Department of Health but a separate organisation (http://www.nice.org.uk/aboutnice/whoweare/who_we_are.jsp). NICE’s role is to advise the UK health service and social services. It does this by assessing the available evidence for treatments/ therapies/ policies etc and then by producing guidelines outlining the evidence and the suggested best course of action.
None of these guidelines are enforced by law, for example, as a doctor you do not have to follow the NICE recommendations but if you ignore them and your patient suffers as a consequence then you are likely to be in big trouble with the General Medical Council.
So, here would be my recommendations for EU reform:
First, we all pay pretty much the same as we do now for access to the European market. We continue with free movement and we keep the European Council but elect the President. This way all the member states can meet up and decide if they want to share any major policies. We all benefit from free movement and we all benefit from a larger free trade area.
Second, we get rid of most of the rest of the EU institutions and replace them with an institute a bit like NICE. The European Institute for Policy Excellence (EIPE) would be (hopefully) quite a small department that looks at the best available evidence and then produces guidance on the policy.
A shorter executive summary would hopefully also be available for everyday people to read and understand what the policy is about - just like how patients can read NICE executive summaries to understand their condition better.
Then any member state could choose to adopt the policy if their parliaments think it worthwhile. This voluntary opt-in system would mean that states retain control of their laws, would probably adopt the policies voluntarily (eventually) and that the European citizens might actually grow to like the EU laws if they can be shown to be evidence based, in the public’s best interests, in the control of the public and not just a law/red tape imposed from above.
The European Union should be a place where our elected officials go to debate and agree policies in the best interests of their electorates. There should therefore be an opt-out of any policy for any member state that does not think it will benefit from a policy.
This looser union that I would like to see will probably not happen and I do worry that one day we will wake up in the undemocratic united federal states of Europe but this worry should not force us to make an irrational choice now. We should not be voting to "leave the EU at all costs" but we should be voting for reform and a better more co-operative international community.
I would not dare suggest who any of you should vote for but I hope you use your vote for change and reform and not more of the same.
“There is nothing new under the sun” - Ecclesiastes 1:4-11.
If any of you have read one of my blogs before you will have realised that I am a huge fan of books.
The blog I am writing today is also about a book, but more than that, it is about an idea. The idea is simple, practical and nothing especially new. It is an idea that many call common sense but few call common practice. It is an idea that has been used in every sort of organisation for over 20 years. It is an idea that needs to be applied on a greater scale to the health service.
The idea is not new. How the book is written is not new. But how the book explains the idea and applies it to healthcare is new and it will change how you view the health service. It is a revolutionary book.
The book is called “Pride and Joy” by Alex Knight view here.
How I came to read this book is a classic story of a Brownian motion (a chance encounter), leading to an altered life trajectory. The summer before starting medical school I was working as a labourer cleaning out a chaps guttering. During a tea break in the hot summer sun he asked me what I was going to study at Uni. As soon as I said “Medicine”, he said “then you need to come see this”.
He took me into his office and showed me a presentation he had given the year before about a hospital in Ireland. He was a management consultant and had been applying a management theory he had learned while working in industry. With his help the hospital had managed to reduce waiting times by a huge amount. The management theory he was applying is called "The Theory of Constraints" (TOC).
I thought that his presentation was fascinating and I could not understand why it was not more widely applied. I went away and read the books he suggested and promised that I would stay in touch.
Four years later and I had been exposed to enough of the clinical environment to realise that something needs to change in how the health service is run. To this end, a couple of colleagues and myself founded the Birmingham Medical Leadership society (BMLS) with help from the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management (FMLM). The aim of which is to help healthcare students and professionals understand the systems they are working in.
The first thing I did after founding the society was contact that friendly management consultant and ask him for his advice on what we should cover. He immediately put me in contact with QFI consulting, @QFIConsulting.
This small firm has been working with hospitals all over the world to implement this simple theory called the Theory of Constraints. They were absolutely fantastic and within 2 emails had promised to come to Birmingham to run a completely free workshop for our society’s members.
The workshop was on March 8th at Birmingham Medical School. Through our society’s contacts we managed to encourage 15 local students to take a revision break to attend the workshop on a sunny Saturday. We were also able to find 11 local registrars/ consultants who wanted to improve their management knowledge. It just so happens that the chap leading this workshop was Mr Alex Knight. The workshop sparked all of our interests and when he mentioned that he had just written a book, pretty much the whole crowd asked for a copy.
When I got my copy, I thought I would leave it to read for after my end of year exams. However, I got very bored a few days before the first written paper and needed a revision break – so I decided that reading a few pages here and there wouldn't hurt. Trouble was that this book was a page turner and I soon couldn't put it down.
I won’t spoil the book for all of you out there, who I hope will read it. I shall just say that if you are interested in healthcare, training to work in healthcare, already work in healthcare or just want a riveting book to read by the pool then you really should read it. The basic premise is that healthcare is getting more expensive and yet there appears to be an increase in the number of healthcare crises'. So if more money isn't making healthcare better, then maybe it is time to try a different approach.
“Marketing is what you do when your product is no good” – Edward Land, inventor of the Polaroid Camera.
Mr Land was a wise man and I can happily say that I have no conflict of interest in writing this blog. I have not been promised anything in return for this glowing review. The only reason that I have written this is because I believe it is important for people to have a greater understanding of how the health service works and what we can do to make it even better!
As a very junior healthcare professional, there is not much that we can do on a practical level but that does not mean we are impotent. We can still share best practice and show our enthusiasm for new approaches.
Healthcare students and professionals, if you care about how your service works and you want to help make it better. Please find a copy of this book and read it. It won’t take you long and I promise that it will have an impact on you.
NB - Note all of the folded down corners. These pages have something insightful that I want to read again... there are a lot of folded pages!
Study online flashcards and notes for Upper Extremity including Superficial muscles (layer 1) of anterior compartment of forearm.: Pronator teres Flexor carpi radialis Palmaris longus Flexor carpi ulnaris ; Flexor Ca
I read an article recently that 90% of surgical trainees have experienced bullying of one form or other in their practice. That’s 90%. That’s shocking. Worryingly it is highly likely that this statistic is not purely isolated to surgery. This is evidence of a major problem that needs to be addressed. We don’t accept bullying in schools and in the workplace policies are in place to stop bullying and harassment– so why have 90% of trainees experienced bullying? I can relate to this from personal experience, as I am sure most of us can.
Prior to intercalating I had always had the typical med student ambition of joining the big league and taking on surgery. I had a keen interest in anatomy, I had decided to intercalate in anatomy, I did an SSC on surgical robotics, presented at an undergraduate surgical conference and had a small exposure to surgery in my first couple of years that gave me enough drive to take on a competitive career path. I took it upon myself to try and arrange a brief summer attachment where I would learn as a clinical medical student what it is like to scrub in and be in theatre. At the beginning I was so excited. At the end every time someone mentioned surgery I felt sick.
It became apparent very quickly that I was an inconvenience. I think medical students all get this feeling – ‘being in the way’ - but this was different. This was being made to feel deliberately uncomfortable. I asked if I could have some guidance on scrubbing in and this was met with a complete huff and annoyance because I didn’t know how to do it properly (thank goodness for a lovely team of theatre nurses!). I even got assigned a pet name for the week – the ‘limpet’ (notable for their clinging on to rocks) that was frequently used as a humiliation tactic in front of colleagues. By the end of the week I dreaded walking into the hospital and felt physically sick every morning. Now some people might say ‘man up’ and get on with it. Fair enough, but I’m a fairly resilient character and it takes a lot to make me feel like I did that week. This experience completely eradicated any ambition I had at the time to go into surgery. Since then I’ve focused elsewhere and generally dreaded surgical rotations until very recently where I managed to meet a wonderful orthopaedic team who were incredibly encouraging.
Bullying can be subjective. Just because a consultant asks you a difficult question doesn’t mean they’re bullying you. By and large clinicians want to stretch you and trigger buttons that make you go and look things up. If it drives you to work and develops you as a professional then it’s not bullying, but if it makes you feel rubbish, sick or less about yourself then you should perhaps think twice about the way you’re being treated.
Of course bullying doesn’t stop at professionals. Psychological bullying is rife in medical schools. We’ve all been ‘psyched out’ by our peers – how much do you know? How did you know that when I didn’t? Intimidating behaviour can be just as aggressive. Americans dub these people ‘Gunners’ although we’ve been rather nice and adopted the word ‘keen’ instead.
Luckily most medical schools have a port of call for this sort of behaviour. But a word of advice – don’t let anyone shrug it off. If it’s a problem, if it’s affecting you – tell someone. Bullying individuals that are trying to learn and develop as professionals is entirely unacceptable.
If you would like to share similar experiences, drop them in the comments box below.