Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Venting My Spleen

When I walked into work one Friday afternoon a young mum was standing at reception holding her son and asking if there was any chance someone could take a look at him. His temperature was quite high and he'd become lethargic and 'floppy' in the last hour or so.

Like most Friday afternoons, we were fully booked, but we always do what we can to accommodate babies/toddlers and the elderly in particular. The nurse checked over the 20 month old boy....one of the doctors was called in to assess him and make sure all was ok. Before she left, the nurse gave Mum further advice on how to cool her son down and what to kept on eye out for.

Less than 30 minutes later, I'm sitting at my desk and become aware of someone tooting their horn...I look up to see a car come careering into the carpark, barely stopping short of the entrance. My chair is situated directly in line with the front door, so when I noticed who was driving I literally ran to thump on the nurse's door after telling my co-worker to grab a doctor.

By the the time Mum had rushed inside with her febrile convulsing toddler, two doctors and two nurses were in the treatment room ready to receive him. He continued to fit but eventually lay prone with unconsciousness. He had still not come round by the time the paramedics arrived. During that time my colleague had moved Mum's car out of it's awkward position in the carpark and I was on the phone to the father (I particularly dislike this part, I hate being the one to ring through news that can only strike panic in the hearts of those receiving it.)

This type of scenario is becoming a typical day for me lately. I'm not sure if it's because it's Winter or because people just seem to be getting sicker, but the amount of acute situations we're experiencing appear to be getting more and more frequent. I also wonder if it's because I've had enough and that perhaps I'm actually not coping with the pace as well as I used to.

I'm finding myself less and less tolerant of those that ring in to say it's urgent they see someone today. I often hear they've had a cough or stuffed nose for the past two weeks and all of a sudden they feel it's their right to take up an emergency appointment because they've finally made the decision to come and see us.

I'm starting to lose patience with people that turn up late for appointments and keep the doctor waiting, after I've told them when they book, that that particular doctor is always running on time. I'm tired of people complaining they have to wait so long for a doctor, because they haven't rung in before leaving home to check first, after I've specifically told them he's well known for getting behind, and it would be wise to call first. It seems a complete and utter waste of my time and energy to keep repeating myself over and over to these people because it's obvious they aren't listening.

I am also starting to understand why medical receptionists seem to have the reputation of being tough and bolshy, because that is how I can see myself getting if patients continue not listening. I've done my job by giving them as much information as possible to try making it easier on them. I do it with a smile and in a calm and caring manner. I listen to their complaints because sometimes that's all they need...to have someone hear them out. I encourage and sympathise changing my voice so suit over the phone, practically manipulating their moods to reassure them, that we, their primary health organisation DO give a damn what's happening to their bodies.

There's a lot to be said for going above and beyond...and when it comes to the medical profession there's a shaky line between doing what's needed and the personal touch of knowing our patients wants, but it's an important line. Our medical centre has a strong reputation for this and we are regularly having to turn away patients of other surgeries because they can't get what they want, when they want it from their own health providers. So I KNOW the team I work with provide one of the best quality services in the Wellington area. Yet there are still plenty of patients that demand and insist we give them more. Those are the people that are beginning to wear me down.

The following Monday morning, Mum came back in carrying her active and smiling toddler. She didn't have an appointment but only came to thank us for our quick reactions and the help she received on Friday. 10 minutes earlier I had received a call from a young pregnant woman on her cellphone, I spoke with her about some of the symptoms she was experiencing and knowing she was already headed in our direction, told her just to come straight in regardless of having no appointment for her. Not long after she came in smiling and thanked me for sounding so calm and soothing when she was feeling distressed...she said I'd made her feel so much better.

I've been halfheartedly looking for other employment. Obviously not in a serious sense or I would be working elsewhere by now, and I say halfheartedly because I also know that although one half of me is frustrated at the selfishness of some people and their demands, the other half of me doesn't want to leave the goodness of the job behind either. I've seen pregnant woman swell and later come in proudly with their new born babies...those babies I've seen thrive into toddlers and then children starting school. I've watched some of my favourite elderly patients deteriorate with alarming speed sometimes and seen the list of deceased get longer and longer during the height of winter or summer months.

I've had people come in the door with bolts through their hands, a butcher who lost his thumb due to a meat slicer, a young lady that split her labia falling through a roof, patients collapse in front of me and have had to step around staff working frantically on someone at my feet having a heart attack. I've called ambulances, tried to reassure next of kin, and done my best to convince people (especially the older ones) that they need to come in and not worry about 'bothering' us. I've put up with being verbally abused in person and over the phone...and I've done it with as much decorum as possible, keeping my face and voice passive, so as not to exacerbate the situation further.

And while I know that this is what I'm supposed to do, what I'm paid to do...I'm just not sure how much longer I can continue to do it. It's been a sobering experience observing how fragile life can be. I have a stronger respect and admiration for the doctors and nurses that trained and studied for years to do this on a daily basis. It's fast paced, varied and never boring. Besides the standard immunisations and check ups, people come to us because they're sick. Sick people can be irrititable and grumpy, so it's to be expected that at times, they are difficult to deal with.

I'm just not sure how much longer I'm going to feel like dealing with it.

Ok, I'm done...rant over...*takes deep breath*...carry on.
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