Blog 2014

Know Your Role and Shut Your Mouth

Sorry about the delay in this week’s blog.  I’m afraid I was occupied most of yesterday because my mother fell and had to be rushed to the ER.  Almost the entire day was spent with her, making sure she was okay (she was and is; nothing broken or really all that badly hurt, just a whole lot of pain and bruising).

Yesterday was a reminder for me that I don’t like hospitals or really any medical setting.  This probably seems a bit odd since I work in the medical field (my day job is at a CTR, a kind of cancer-specific medical transcription) and have friends in the medical field (everything from food services and ambulance-driving to true-blue MDs).  I also have great respect for the field and study of medicine.  So then why do I dislike hospitals and all things medicine?

I can go on a great rant about systemic issues confronting the medical field, but what it ultimately comes down to is a consistent series of bad experiences, from my teens to all the way to just a few weeks ago.  In short, personal bias.  So then why do I don’t I gripe about medicine more often?  A) Because personal bias is a poor reason to denounce anything so serious as health and medicine and B) I know enough to know that I don’t know enough.

Have you ever been served by a waiter who was just really inattentive?  Maybe he or she just didn’t seem to be all there?  Did you wonder why, or did you write off the service as just being bad?  The answer usually depends on whether or not you’ve worked in food services.  The same is true when it comes to service in a store, and whether or not the customer has worked in retail or sales.  That’s not to excuse bad service, but once you’ve been on the other side of the name tag, you have a great deal more insight and sympathy for what may be going on behind the scenes.

Medicine is the same way.  For example, as a CTR, I’m HIPAA-certified.  Do you know what that means?  If so, then you know the nightmare it can be to become certified and sometimes the nightmare to maintain your certification.  If you don’t know what being HIPAA-certified means, words can’t really convey the laundry list of issues that just that one factor can bestow upon any and all transactions one makes through the course of doing one’s job.

Medicine – the medical industry – is possibly the most complicated field on the planet.  Even the lowliest of nurse requires a tremendous medical knowledge and has an unimaginable number of obligations and responsibilities.  So much as pulling back the curtain in an exam room and introducing one’s self requires filling out numerous forms.  Many of those forms are redundant and down that path lies madness.  The redundancies at play alone in bookkeeping alone (never mind care, diagnosis, or treatment) can seem inane to anyone who isn’t versed in their need…until those redundancies aren’t followed and somebody falls through the cracks.  And it’s important to realize that – while in retail or food service or whatever, if somebody falls through the cracks, a customer doesn’t get what they want – in medicine, if somebody falls through the cracks, there’s a new dead body for the morgue.  There’s a family that has now lost someone.  A child no longer has a parent, or a parent no longer has a child, or both.

Racking my brain, I cannot think of one good experience I’ve personally ever had with the medical industry.  And yet, I work hard to never denounce medicine, to never advise against medicine, to never trivialize medicine.  It is unfair for me to assign blame solely because of my bias.  Because I know just enough – about medicine and about the medical industry – to know how little I know about what’s going on at the nurse’s station or the doctor’s office or any of the hundreds of places people are working to keep others alive.

When in doubt – meaning unless you know exactly what is happening that shouldn’t be, or isn’t happening that should be – default to silence and observation.  Watch and learn.  Know your role and shut your mouth.  However you want to put it, unless you are a doctor, or a nurse, or some other related profession, you have put yourself into the care of these professionals.  Fighting them on every little thing will grant nothing, questioning every little delay will speed up nothing.  You want a second opinion?  That’s perfectly fine and very understandable.  You not only are free to do so, often you probably should do so.  But don’t mistake a quick search on WebMD for seven years of medical school.  Don’t mistake one trip to the ER a year ago as some kind of expertise on how the longer wait this time means the nurses don’t know anything.  Don’t mistake a personal experience for an illustration of an entire field.

Denouncing the medical field because of a personal bias is merely sharing a spiteful and petty opinion that will benefit no one.

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