Tuesday, April 18, 2006

A short episode in my past - Baptism!

I worked for three years in a private hospital. Interesting times!

At a Heads of Department Meeting in the Hospital, it had been mentioned that we should 'learn more about other departments to improve communication and understanding'. Good idea, as long as I don't have to watch an operation! Oh, the things I say in jest can sometimes cause me angst. Joyce, the Theatre Manager, obviously noted my comment. She also must have wanted to know what I am made of (well, not literally, though they could do that easily enough here).

The following week I received a message that a senior anaesthetist wanted to speak to me about a brochure. Great! I had the appointment for 10 am, but at 9.30 Joyce called me on the phone. "Your time has come" she said, "Doctor wants to talk to you in theatre." Actually in theatre. "Come over fifteen minutes before and we'll get you all scrubbed up."

Well, I work in a hospital, what can I expect! I can expect, it seems, a wicked sense of humour from the Theatre Manager to match my own. I arrived duly demobbed of my jewellery, but otherwise in my normal office gear. Joyce introduced me to Doctor who was standing near her office. "Do you want to chat here?" he said. My relief was short lived - "Oh no," Joyce interrupted, "Carolyn wants to see an operation. Don't you Carolyn?" "Whatever suits you, Doctor," I said, "but I would like to see an operation." Joyce had me by the short and curlies. Doctor would have quite happily chatted to me in the hallway, but I had been challenged - and I had accepted. See you in there, said Doctor.

Karen will look after you, said Joyce, and I was taken over the red line (the 'do not cross' zone so clearly pointed out to me on my original hospital tour), and I was taken down and changed into greens. Well, I call them greens, because they were. I put something like a j-cloth on my head, donned a face mask, and was told not to touch anything blue. "Not very flattering," said Karen. "It's at times like this you see the man of your dreams." She must have strange dreams. "Not many George Clooney's here, though," I said. She sighed, George Clooney is her idol. She has a Clooney Calendar that she has to sometimes close, because its too much. Karen opened the door for me, and I went into the operating theatre.

Laying on the table was a young woman. Her face was covered, but the area of operation exposed. Chatting casually around her were the senior consultant and other theatre staff, all in gowns, all very busy. The exposed area of the operation was the lady's chest. One enlarged, one reduced. They were, at the time of my entry, lifting up her right breast and poking something long and sharp looking around underneath. There were blood covered swabs on the tray, and her skin was yellow with something I presumed to be like iodine. There was a big felt pen type mark down the centre of her chest too, and though it was somewhat surreal to me, it wasn't exactly gory.

I went to the head of the table and sat down to chat with Doctor, taking notes for producing my brochure on anaesthetics. Occasionally I'd look round, whilst Doctor kept his eye on the technical end. The chat took about twenty minutes. At one point Doctor was called out to the phone briefly. The surgeons were tilting the bed up so that they could see how the balancing act was working. "What do you think, a bit less on that one?" I moseyed round for a look too. The surgeon was looking at the two breasts to see that they were now better matched. The poor lady had obviously had quite a variance before. Deep pink frilly bits of flesh hung out through the incisions, looking rather like a heavy lace valance. It wasn't pleasant, but it wasn't revolting. These people were improving someone's life, and discussing professionally the best way to get the best results. Doctor returned and we resumed our chat.

I felt a bit weird, but not squeamish, not dizzy, not like I do when I see a needle coming for my arm. I felt a tad unreal, I admit, but I'm glad Joyce put me up to it. The television world of operating theatres is entertainment. The real world is a caring and very professional exercise, but not nearly as intense and hushed as I had imagined.

Doctor saw me out, and I wandered down to get changed. There was a bag of apples with 'help yourself, bramley windfalls' in the changing room. I put my clothes back on and went back to Joyce's office. Not there. Ah well, I would say 'thank you' another time.


I have a nice hot office - it reached 100 F today - around 32 C. I have a very nice assistant who is tall and very thin. She only works part time, but seems capable and willing, and is friendly and greeted warmly by other members of staff. A good sign. The boss - the hospital director - is a lady of very small and perfect proportions. She has steely grey, neat short hair, and I think the steel might run all the way through. So far she seems pleased with one job I produced at the drop of a hat - easy enough when most of the stuff was on the machine already!

I feel I'm sort of looking for a friend - trying to identify someone who is a peer-group equal that I can get on with. It's never a great idea to be good friends with your employees or to have friends work for you - but a good relationship is essential.

My assistant has three children and on the Wednesday she said it was their sports day. "Leave earlier so you can catch them" I said. "Oh, how sweet of you" she replied. Um, I thought - I'm not being sweet, that's good management isn't it? I don't see myself as 'sweet' somehow.

The hospital is a funny old building with bits bolted on here and there. It's not a logical kind of layout, and getting lost is quite easy. I've managed to find my office every day and the canteen (of course!) but still get a bit confused when going to wards or looking for particular offices. The Thursday I needed directing to the canteen as I'd brought in a home-made cake. What, in the first week? Well, there were signs everywhere for a charity cake sale, and if I wanted to get in the good books of one of the senior nurses and the outpatients department, making a cake was the politically correct thing to do! And anyway, I like making cakes. I bought some flapjacks and fairy cakes - deeeelicious! Like I said, this job does not seem to be too good for my waistline at the moment.

The Thursday afternoon I went down to lunch on my own, ate on my own and scarpered back to my office rather quick. There were some faces in there I knew but nearly at the end of their meal, and many who looked askance at me. With staff working shifts, there was no way everyone was going to know who I was in the first week. And I had't a clue how long it will take me to get to know all of them, if I ever manage it.

So - here I am - Friday evening and writing it all up. How do I feel? Anticipatory, excited, keen to get things moving. But I've been told there's an overspend on the budget and things are tight financially. Well, if they've spent the money on me, they are going to have to spend on some of the things I want. I just don't know what I want yet (except for a new printer - the one we share is going out the window soon!).

I miss my friends, but I don't miss the hassle. I can still see them, and hear all the news and gossip, and be happily removed from it all. It's too early to say how things will go, but in my usual thick-skinned way I am optimistic. Time will tell.
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