Is your staff unsociable? Phones an obsession?
Answers to 3 of your most pressing questions
Same-Day Surgery Manager
By Stephen W. Earnhart, MS
Earnhart & Associates
Question: Is it me, or is surgery just not as much fun anymore? I mean, I have worked at this hospital for 15 years, and it has turned into a freaking job! I hate it! We use to laugh a lot, tell gross jokes in the operating room, prank the surgeons, haze the new staff, punch each others’ timecards if they were running late, all that. It was fun! Now everything is business! If I wanted "business" as a career, I would have become an accountant and not a nurse. Is it me? Am I just getting old? I’m only 40, though! I really don’t think I like this anymore.
Answer: Our jobs in the operating room are not different than any other profession. Yet somehow, we are. I don’t find the same degree of cohesiveness and sharing that perhaps other industries share. It could be me, but I get the same comments from others as well. Playing together well in the sandbox? Yeah, I think we have that, but that sense of closeness between staff seems lacking. I believe that, as our business has become more competitive, hospitals vs. ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), vs. office-based facilities, and on and on, we have lost a bit of that sparkle of congeniality. I guess in short, many of us are starting to notice staleness about our jobs. While we have great social media with people who are not around us or that we have never met before, we don’t have that same feeling with the person sitting or working beside us.
Question: I was sitting in the surgical lounge the other day, waiting for our case to start, and not one person in the lounge was talking. Everyone, I mean everyone, had their hands on their phones doing something other than communicating with each other. I find the same thing with my kids and friends. Is this getting out of control? It is a little scary.
Answer: I was at a restaurant last night, and I did a head count. Of the 87 people dining, more than 70% had phones in the hand texting or doing something other than being with the one they were with. We are becoming a country, no, a global society of rude, insensitive people with the manners of slack-jawed, knuckle dragging, cave dwellers! I personally don’t see the end point. I share your concern, as many do. Short of confiscating personal communications devices, I don’t have an answer for that type of behavior in our workplace. I think any suggestions from the readers would help us all.
Question: We caught one of our housekeeping staff taking a picture of a female patient in the recovery room with his smartphone. He was fired on the spot, but I am sure that there will be repercussions from many directions. We are considering banning all phones in the entire surgical department, not just beyond the "red line." Any thoughts on what others are doing, and has it worked?"
Answer: It sort of follows some of the other comments above. How is it policed? Clearly patient confidentially takes precedent over personal communications, but still! Check with your HR department, but I am beginning to believe that, just like smoking, we need to have a designed area where people can use or have their communication devices in operating area. Install small lockers at the entrance to the department. Everyone has his or her own box, and all devices go in there when they come to work. During breaks they are free to use them in a designated area, again, just like smoking areas. I plan to enact this at our new ASC coming up. I will let you know how it goes! [For more on monitoring devices, see "In light of 2 criminal cases, how do you ensure employees don’t abuse patients?" Same-Day Surgery, January 2006, p. 1. Earnhart & Associates is a consulting firm specializing in all aspects of outpatient surgery development and management. Earnhart & Associates’ address is 238 S. Egret Bay Blvd., Suite 285, Houston, TX 77573-2682. Phone: (512) 297.7575. Fax: (512) 233.2979. E-mail: email@example.com. Web: www.earnhart.com.]