Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Do You Know Who I Am.

It also happens in the hospital system but maybe not in the celebrity sense.

I never forget the moment when I was a junior doctor working in a major teaching hospital.  I was in a staff lift and the only other person in the lift and as far away as he could be from me was this cardiac surgeon.  There was no eye contact and I did not dare say a word or even a nod in acknowledgement.  Back then, these cardiac surgeons were the gods of hospital and quite frankly, I was scared of them. The lift opened on the next floor and wardsman trips over the slight step between the floor and the lift and bumped into him - yes, he dared to touch him (even though by accident).  Apart from a bit of a fright, definitely no physical harm done.  I remember clearly to this day how the cardiac surgeon then commenced a barrage of abuse of how dare he push him and does he know who he is.  The wardsman apologised multiple times to no avail with it only coming to an end when the surgeon had to get off at the next floor.  This would not likely happen in an Australian hospital these days - apart from being unacceptable behaviour, cardiac surgeons can no longer have the reputation of being a total jerk given that their livelihood is now so dependent upon the good will of cardiologists - what a contrast to my days as a junior doctor where I observed cardiologists literally begging surgeons to take on their cases for coronary bypass surgery. Stents have changed the dynamics of the cardiologist/cardiac surgeon relationship completely as well the behaviour of cardiothoracic surgeons.

I thought of the above story as a "Do You Know Who I Am incident".  It came to mind because of a more recent event involving myself.  I was coming in to operate after-hours and I was entering the theatre complex at the same time as another staff member. She was wearing her hospital ID card with her name fully visible and the picture on it clearly matching her face. I wasn’t wearing my ID card because I was wearing a T shirt and jeans and there was nowhere to clip it to.  I had it in my pocket.  The staff member asked me politely if I knew where I was and if I needed assistance or in other words, she was asking if I had a purpose to being in this restricted area.  I have been a surgeon at this hospital for almost 20 years and could have thought that the majority of people would know me.  I was initially surprised to be asked but instinctively, I took out my ID badge and showed it to her and explained that I was coming in to do a operative case. Given that she worked after hours shifts, she would not see me on a regular basis and sporting a scruffy Mo for the month of Movember probably did not help.  She did the right thing.

These thoughts lead to another thought about DYKWIM in hospital systems and the answer is often “No”.  Staff members are increasingly hiding their names on their ID badges - easily done under the guise of the badge having to attached to other essential badges or being turned the wrong way around. When you call a ward, how often does the staff member indicate who is on the phone. So much for Garling Report recommendations on staff identification.

(Typical hiding of the name on a ID badge of a hospital worker.  I took this sneak picture in a hospital lift)

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