I’ve just finished another weekend on call. They are increasingly a test of endurance. I always feel not just physically tired but mentally drained after it. Perversely though I’ve always quite liked the acute receiving aspect of my job. When you speak to medics they will say that it’s not the work they don’t like but the intensity of it.
It’s this intensity that has lead me to reflect on some people’s behaviours and attitudes when on call, myself included.
This weekend was not as busy as some have been lately. That said there was the odd surge in demand. During one of these our Emergency Department began to struggle as they were short staffed. The solution? Pull one of our middle graders through to help cover until their shift change and staffing numbers would be restored. Sensible? Yes, very. We were managing just fine.
However this was not greeted with universal agreement or understanding. There was a huge sense of injustice about it ‘no one helps us when we’re short!’ This carried on into handover with mixed responses from the rest of the team.
It settled quickly and life went on as before. I did debate at the time whether to get involved in the discussion but I didn’t. In part I was mid writing up my own notes and also being tired I had a sense I may be somewhat clunky in my feedback. I may have been thinking:
’Quit moaning, think about the patients, it’s not all about you, so can it!’
However there was a danger that with my feedback filter turned off I would actually say just that so I stayed mute.
Also I’ve been there myself. I understood where this person was coming from. As a middle grader I was, at times, the biggest pain in the arse when on call. I couldn’t see further than my own nose never mind thinking about my colleagues. I did however put the patient at the centre of my various rants. I also thought for a long time this would make me beyond reproach when it came to the effect I had on others.
While I accept the patient’s needs are paramount I would strongly argue do not forget about your colleagues. This point was reinforced with a stroke thrombolysis situation I had recently. The phone rang at 4.35pm just as I was starting a mountain of paperwork. I wasn’t on call that night so was hoping to get away on time. I was told there was a person in the emergency department who was FAST positive. Realising that I was going to be at least another couple of hours I actively sighed down the phone at my colleague. I was also about to start moaning when I decided to button it and go downstairs. My ED colleague was also a little fed up. They’d had to come in on a non clinical day to cover staff absence. All our issues were put to one side however as we focused on dealing with the person who was having an acute stroke.
The treatment went very well and the family were delighted. It was at this point I felt I could leave. I thanked everyone in the room and went to chat to my colleague. We chatted about each others pressures and frustrations long enough to feel equilibrium had been restored.
At times all I hear is staff saying ‘what matters to me’ but not asking their colleagues ‘what matters to you?’ We need to realise that its likely to produce the same response. Be person centred but not to the extent that it’s all about you….