Jumping on the blogging bandwagon

Monday, June 9, 2008

Duty to teach, duty to learn

I'm on rant-age today, everything seems to get my goat. One of my tirades led to the realisation that I was wrong before. You don't get a choice when it comes to Medicine. It's a career. Not a job. It's not one of those professions where you can say "I'm on holiday, I'm not a doctor anymore." If someone needs help, you give it. It's your duty, it's a moral obligation, and if you deny someone in need, it's negligence. Yes, I know that this subject has been debated before, but as I said, I'm on a rant-age. And this is my blog, so I'm right. Of course feel free to add your comments, presumably you're a friend, so you know that I may bark, but I don't (seldom) bite.

One of my grouses today (and I'm not sure how I landed there since I'm not even a clinician at the moment) was the use and abuse of junior staff. Departments everywhere claim to focus on training, not just service, especially for trainees. These poor guys pay almost 20% of their take-home salary to be part of a programme that is supposed to teach them how to be good specialists. The seniors are supposed to teach, not just use the warm body to do work that they deem too boring for themselves to bother with. Of course, doining menial work comes with the territory, Medicine is an apprenticeship after all. As a trainee, we don't go in expecting a 9-5 job, or a 5 day work week. We know that being available when staffing is short, or when emergencies arise, is part of the job description. The nature of the work means that someone has to be responsible every second, of every day. And inevitably, that means covering for each other. We may complain, but we know this at the bottom of our hearts.

As we get more senior, we inherit people to take care of, and to teach. At first, it's a scary responsibility. Trusting someone else is infinitely more difficult than relying on yourself. How unnerving that the minute you get to the stage where you think "ah, I can finally take care of myself", someone gives you a newbie to look after. What compounds the issue is that this isn't a arena where a mistake can be erased by a click of the 'backspace' button. Unfortunately, people's lives are in our hands. So you learn to delegate. This is a good thing! It's an extremely underrated talent - being able to appraise and appropriately place others responsible for work you are overseeing. We certainly cannot do everything ourselves, nor are we expected to. Often, we feel ourselves sinking under the pressures of what we feel we must achieve, when in reality all we have to do is get some help. But I digress, that is a discussion for another time.

This is turning into a very long rant.

I will try to get back to the point. We have a duty to teach. Only when we teach those below us, will they ever be qualified to take over the reins. It's not enough to put them in the driving seat when it's all on autopilot. If they are only to be the babysitter, or the labourer, then we will forever have to be the mother, or the foreman (haha, that sounds so ridiculous, but the analogy works for me right now). I assume the barriers to teaching are laziness, and fear. As I said earlier, it's a lot easier to do a job yourself than to correct a learner through it. And what if one day the pupil surpasses the master? While we are young, and have energy, at the peak of our careers there seems no reason to groom the next generation. What happens when we tire of it all? And we want to move on to something else? If there is no one to take our place, it won't be an easy transition. The irresponsible among us (and I fear I am not being too harsh), will simply let go and leave. Sink or swim, he doesn't care what happens to those he left behind. But those of us who feel the weight of our profession, will agree with me that part of the duty is to ensure the next generation can carry on.

I realise i have only addressed the first half of my title! The second half is easy (mainly because I'm not tired and all ranted out. And I assume you are bored of me too). Those of us who are to inherit the throne must prove ourselves worthy. The reins are not going to be handed over to any Tom, Dick or Harry. It takes a lot of work to be a good doctor, and least of all, a sense of responsibility and humility. While we are training, there should be no task too small to do well (of course, buying the team drinks from Houseman canteen does not count). My two cents worth is, whenever you start bitching about the s*** job you just got arrowed to do, think about whether there may be any hidden benefit that your boss thinks you may gain. If you don't see it, consult my husband, as he is eternally optimistic and positive-looking. If he can't find it, you're right, you're being used and abused. Too bad, we have no union.

Alrighty, didn't know I had so much to say, have a good week ahead!

1 comment:

fong said...

It's good you have a reliable optimist, as you put it, and one experienced in your field at that to act as a sounding board when you need it.