Wednesday, September 29, 2004

A Plea for Clearer Communication

I work in a hospital, in a place called the Building Operations Center, or BOC. I, naturally, call it other things like "The Pit of Despair." It is a rather large room, where the Fire Alarm, Building HVAC, Pneumatic Tube System, Infant Tracking, and other things are monitored. There are 6 security cameras which allow me to gaze out into a world that is currently beyond my reach, for you see, I am unable to leave this room without being "relieved" - it is manned around the clock by someone. Relieved is the proper term, for a middle-aged man taking diuretics as part of his medical regimen. And yes, it smells like it is "manned" around the clock. One of the greater roles I get to play in the functioning of the teeming, multi-disciplinary, multicultural melting pot that is healthcare today is that of receptionist/dispatcher for the Engineering/Housekeeping/Security departments - 13 lines, 5 radio channels, 1 intercom, 30 panic alarms, hope you're getting the picture. Although I do not routinely deal with clinical emergencies (my co-workers on the other two shifts do, because we no longer fully staff the "operator" position here, a job that I would not do), I field questions everyday ranging from "Do you have a crematorium there?" to "Where's my nurse - I need a bedpan, quick!" The customers, though, are not nearly as troublesome as are my co-workers.We have, for example, a pneumatic tube system that moves lots of small stuff between departments. There is a PC directly behind me that literally shows me (most of the time) where each tube is on its journey. When things go wrong, though, I will usually receive a phone call like this:Me: Building OperationsThem: Is there something wrong with the tubing system? -- (note) this will be so much more effective if you can add the ethnic accent of your choice --Me: Not that I'm aware of. (I may or may not be, but they don't know that. As I hope you will see, my seeming cruelty will gain your empathy - trying to help does little good)Them: No?Me: No. Them: It is working ok?Me: (bile rising) What seems to be the problem? Whereupon I'll finally get some sort of description that can prompt me to either sort it out on the PC, or send help. Why can't you just tell me who you are and what you want?Here's another one from last week:Me: Building OperationsThem: WHEN are you going to send someone back to fix this door!?Me: I'm sorry, which door is that?Them: Pharmacy! I called earlier and you sent someone over, but he left.Me: Do you know who it was?Them: You know, that guy.Me: I'll send someone to see you.The worst ones are those that, even after 3-4 repetitions, I still can't understand what they're saying. I hope two things: That they write in patient charts more clearly than they speak, and that I never get sick and have to be a patient here. Me: Building Operations (oh the monotony!)Them: Let me talk to one of them!Me: Excuse me. One of who?Them: A supervisor.Me: Please Hold.My point, other than sharing the joy of my current existence with you, is that you keep these things in mind when requesting help over the telephone from someone like me. Tell us who you are, where you are, if we're going to send someone to you, and what you need. We will explain the larger problem to you if we can, your attempts to troubleshoot for us only delay our service to you. I have had Surgeons go on and on for several minutes detailing the pain and suffering of everyone in the OR that is so hot (usually between 67 and 69 degrees), and the impact of the humidity, yadda yadda. I used to get upset, but now I just settle back in my chair and politely listen, secure in the knowledge that I can't do a thing for him until he SHUTS UP AND GETS OFF THE PHONE.I lovingly call my position "The Sphincter." The crap comes in, the crap goes out. I can hold on to it for a while, but eventually it goes somewhere else. The skill is not getting any on you in the process.Thank you for calling. Have a great Day!