Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Keep It In-House


Today, while I was busily dusting an office, I overheard a very distressing conversation. This conversation took place between a visiting ambulance driver/paramedic and the regular office staff – and I guess I was the only one who found it distressing. Everyone else seemed to find the subject matter absolutely hilarious.

The ambulance driver was updating everyone on the terminology used within medical and rescue services. Apparently Doctors use what they call the DBI – or the Dirt Bag Index to describe some of their patients. The DBI rates people according to
1. The number of tattoos
2. The number of body piercings
3. The number of teeth missing
4. The number of days without a shower

There is also a category known as CRP – Circling Round the Plughole – to describe what they deem the dregs of humanity; the only fitting treatment of which would be to flush it down the drain.

It appears that the rescue workers also have their codes and signals and often the signals have nothing to do with the patient’s treatment, but are more to do with amusing fellow workers by communicating little in-house jokes at the expense of the patient.

Now having worked for six years in a Call Centre Environment, I am well aware of the need for employing coping mechanisms. But I also remember a training session in which the supervisor related the story of a CSA (Customer Service Advisor) who, during a phone conversation with a particularly obnoxious customer, put the person on hold and turned to her fellow workers to say

‘What a BLEEPING loser!’

Unfortunately for her, the Hold button didn’t work. The customer heard what she said and was understandably quite indignant, demanding to speak to a team leader.

“Keep it in-house!’ was our supervisors advice that day. We are all ambassadors of the industry in which we work. Yes, we need to have our release valves; ways and means of taking the pressure down a notch or two, of dealing with the stresses. Often this is going to take the form of the in-house jokes and little ‘bitch’ sessions about the people who really push our buttons.

But keep it in-house. Don’t do it in front of an open telephone line. And don’t do it during lunch break in the corner CafĂ© – because you just don’t know who might overhear. For all you know the BLEEPING loser might be sitting at the table right next to you. And don't, whatever you do, make it public knowledge by sharing it with others outside of your working environment.

See, the office staff may have laughed uproariously at the descriptions of codes and signals used by the ambulance drivers and rescue workers. But, what if one of them was involved in an accident this afternoon on the way home from work? Would they find it so funny if those codes and signals were being applied to them? Would this inspire them to feel a sense of confidence in the people who had been dispatched to cut them out of their crumpled vehicle and transport them to hospital?

Now of course there are many caring professionals out there who really do see their patients as human beings in need of care and attention. But it’s hard not to let my attitude be coloured by what I heard today. Just as the customer in the Case of the Faulty Hold button would have left that telephone encounter with an uncomplimentary opinion of our company.

Have your little jokes and your team gripes, by all means, but please, for the sake of the people to whom you are providing a service, keep your conduct professional.

©Lyn Murphy 2011


Paula said...

The standards seem to have slipped these days, haven't they? Very sad. I hope they make a comeback.

Anonymous said...

After 36 years on the fire department for my husband, and 10 for me, we noticed a trend happening right after we left. The old guard had worked with professionalism and our replacements were under the impression they were NOT there for the welfare of the citizens. "Just a paycheck."

Although our ambulance crews had to deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly, it was taken as "that's how it is". The new ones made a joke out of everything and everyone.

roslyn_m said...

Lyn, a sad blog and I hope that the majority of health professionals have higher standards of behaviour. With my dad in hospital at the moment, I am very grateful for the wonderful care he is receiving, and the support and help we as a family are receiving.

However, I heard from a maternity nurse whom I know very well, that at a certain hospital in our city, a young mother delivered a still-born child. The obstetrician said glibly: oh well, that one fell off the perch. Naturally I expressed my disbelief that anyone would say such a thing, but knowing my source, who was there, I have come to accept this as being true. The doctor was reported by the several other people present at the time. I just shake my head at the general decline in behaviour.

Ros xx