Working in Healthcare vs IT

I turned 51 a couple of weeks back.

I’ve had a few different jobs over those 5 decades.   The majority of the first two were pretty much being a major pain in the rear to my parents and any associated adults.

I think the two careers I’ve had where I’ve been most useful to society was my time as a military medic,  and  the last 16 years or so working in healthcare IT.

 

There are advantages to being a front line clinical worker.  You get to drape a stethoscope around your neck and yell “STAT” at various people.   If you’re dressed in scrubs leaning against a wall looking pale and haggard,  people just assume that you’ve pulled a 36 hour shift and not that you’ve only been at work for 5 minutes,  but are very hung-over.

If you work in IT,  and you look haggard,  people presume  you’ve been at work for 5 minutes, but pulled an all-nighter raiding in World of Warcraft……even if you’ve just pulled a 36 hour stint trying to solve a critical issue.

Don’t even ask what happens if an IT guy dons a stethoscope and starts yelling “STAT!”

But there are some distinct advantages to working in IT instead of healthcare.

In healthcare, if you have a patient that you’re having problems diagnosing,  there’s no way in the world you’d get away with telling your patient this…

Look,  you’re baffling the crap out of me,  so I need you to sit here and wait while I go get a coffee and think about what’s wrong with you.
I might end up googling you,  and/or talking about you with my friends.
It might even come to discussing you and your condition online in forums and chat-rooms…..maybe someone there can help me figure out WTF is wrong with you.

Yeah…trying saying that to a patient….

We’ve all heard stories about surgical mistakes where somebody literally hacked off the wrong leg,  or a case I remember reading about years ago where a teenager went in for brain surgery and ended up with a vasectomy….

In the IT world (if you’re smart),  mistakes of this magnitude are embarrassing,  but not fatal (career or otherwise).   That’s because we can always revert to the last good configuration!

I will admit that I miss my days as a medic.  There’s great satisfaction in seeing someone walk out of your facility who otherwise might not have.

I might have a similar blog in the future as I’m contemplating another career change….I just need to figure out how one goes around becoming part of the Idle Rich.

 

RTOD: Ending a tech support email to a user

If you work in tech support,  or any customer support function,  you might write emails like this:

Dear User;

Thank you for bringing this issue to our attention.
We have resolved the issue.

Please let us know if you require further assistance.

Thanks,

David

Has any one ever been tempted to type

You’re Welcome,
David

What I learned about “Living in the Now” from my two aging dogs

I’ve noticed that Colorado’s vision has been getting worse.

A while back I noticed that when I would throw her ball for her,  she’d often go right by it several times as she excitedly searched for it.   I knew she had cataracts,  but honestly,  I wasn’t sure if she was just too excited to see it.

Then,  a few months ago she started bumping into furniture in dark rooms.

A couple of weeks ago,  I gave her a treat and even though I was holding it right in front of her, she didn’t see it until I moved it slightly to the her right.

I imagine that many human beings in this situation would despair at the loss of their vision.

Colorado is not bothered by it.

Several times I’ve witnessed her come barrelling through the livingroom, only to run into something.

Each time, she picks herself up, and continues on whatever quest she is on.

She does not stop and think, “WTF?!”

Thoughts of a life without vision don’t seem to intrude.

This became evident when I was throwing her tennis ball for her.  Normally I throw it from living room to dining room.   It is not a rare for her to lose track of it and end up weaving around the dining room table in search of it.   She likes that game,  she is always very excited and happy and when we play.

This time she couldn’t find the ball.   It was in the middle of the floor.  I pointed at it and she still couldn’t see it…..until I put my finger on it.

Her reaction…..”OMG!  I FOUND THE BALL!!! YAY FOR ME!!!!  AGAIN!AGAIN!AGAIN!!!”

The fact that she needed help didn’t diminish her joy one bit.

She didn’t become consumed with what would happen when the time came that she couldn’t see at all.

She rejoiced in the moment.  Nothing else mattered.

…and that is the purest example I can think of for “Living in the Now”

It is something I’ve struggled to achieve since the concept was introduced to me years ago by my then therapist Roberta.

Essentially,  Living in the Now means not worrying about what could happen in the next moment,  or obsessing over what happened in the last.

In the example Roberta gave,  imagine the van you are driving is stuck in the mud.

Worrying about what will happen if you don’t reach your destination in time,  or obsessing over the circumstances that got you stuck will not get you unstuck.

I will point out that this doesn’t mean shirking responsibilities or not learning from mistakes.

In the past year there have been many changes in my life.  Happily I’ve made great strides toward this whole living in the moment thing.

I am better at taking each day as it comes.   But there are things that I still need to work on.

I think fear is one of the strongest forces in nature.  Especially when the fear is one of the biggest an individual faces.

That is why this lesson on Living in the Now is a hard one for me.

Both my dogs are getting older.

Even though it is an unavoidable aspect of nature, the thought of losing them terrifies me.

It is not that the fact that they will someday die that worries me.

The darkness that looms large and often makes me feel small and helpless is that when they are gone that I will be alone.

And that my friends,  is my biggest fear.

It might surprise a great deal of you because I often seek solitude,  and am well known for not being able to stay in large gatherings for very long.

But,  that solitude has always included my girls.

When these musings are coupled with depression,  the thought of not being able to reach over and run my fingers through canine fur reduces me tears….even when I’m actually doing just that.

That is the anti-thesis of Living in the Now.

The passing of Shelby, my cocker spaniel almost destroyed me.

It was a week before I could return to work,  and nearly 6 months before a day passed without me crying over his absence.

That was during a difficult time in my life.   I wasn’t ready to let him go,  but he was ready,  and I made him a promise.   And I keep my promises no matter how badly they cut.

In the immediate time after.  People kept their distance.  Close friends and family told others that I would want my space, and to grieve in private.

I appreciated it, because that’s what I thought I needed.

It was only years later that I realized how very wrong that was.  My isolation exacerbated the pervasive emptiness in my life.

Now,  even though both my girls are healthy and happy,  that fear is back.

While most of the time I enjoy the time with my girls without any thought of what happens,   there are times when the future intrudes and cannot be pushed away.

My life is much better now.  I have more friends, and am better at being social.

I know in my heart  that my friends and family will be there whatever the day brings.

But one of the things about mental illness is that your head sometimes injects false and terrifying  realities that are not easily banished.

Shelby: Pro Zombie Cocker Spaniel
Shelby: Pro Zombie Cocker Spaniel

Post-script:
I’ve been working on this for awhile.
A bought of depression sprang up sometime after I first came up with the idea for this post.  
 I don’t know if working on it is what caused my current bought of depression.
It was very difficult to finish….

 

 

We need to stop treating hydro and heat like luxuries..

 

Energy Poverty…. a phrase that brings to mind some third world slum with sketchy electrical service that only functions sporadically.

In the Province of Ontario,  its come to mean that people who have to choose between shelter,  food, and hydro.

This isn’t because electricity is scarce in Ontario.

A casual observer might conclude that this crisis arose because of the colossal mismanagement and incompetence demonstrated by the Ontario Liberal party over the past few years.

As I researched this issue, I came to believe that the current pricing structure was deliberately engineered to maximize Hydro One’s value ahead of issuing shares.

I also realized that,  whether deliberate or not, the Distribution Rate model that makes hydro exponentially more expensive in vote-poor ridings than vote-rich ones,  minimizes the political fallout from the efforts to make Ontario One attractive to investors.

There is simply too much data to go over in a single entry.   But I will post what I’ve discovered and allow you to draw your own conclusions.

While driving into work today I noticed that it was darker,  and colder.

I wondered how people who had been unable to keep their power turned on would fare in colder weather.

One of the things that has really irked me is that until recently,  there was simply no data available on how many customers had their power disconnected because they couldn’t pay.

Naturally,  there was no data on how long customers have gone without hydro.

Now,  Winter is Coming.

We don’t have to fear White Walkers,  or The Lannisters,  or GRRM killing us off.

The thousands of people across the province who have given up on trying to keep their hydro on have much to fear.

If you’ve ever read a disconnection notice,  you will likely have seen a warning about how old can freeze pipes and cause massive structural damage.   Along with that warning will come the notification that the utility is not responsible for any damage.

What these notices don’t say is that  cold can kill…it can also take fingers, toes,  noses and ears.

How many people in Ontario will die this winter because they couldn’t pay thousands of dollars to keep their lights on?

What percentage will succumb to the cold?

What percentage will succumb to toxic fumes, or fire caused by whatever heat source they try out of desperation?

What percentage will succumb to hopeless depression and commit suicide?

There are many individual causes that brought us to this point.   And I will talk about them in future posts.

In future posts I will:

  • explain why I think the Ontario Energy Board,  who claims to protect consumers is an absolute farce
  • talk about how MicroFit,  the Green Energy project where the Government of Ontario pays small producers of solar and other green energy considerably more than than market value for their excess power.
  • talk about how Hydro One uses distribution and regulation fees to offset the costs of bad policy

While there are many factors that brought us to this point,  behind them all,  there is one driving factor…

Apathy

Those who are responsible for the hydro rate crisis completely forgot that their actions have had a significantly detrimental effect on real, living human beings.

They’ve come to view their commodity (electricity),  as a luxury.  Something that people can do without if they can’t afford it.

 

 

 

OK Google! You’re really pissing me off now!

A couple of weeks ago I discovered the joy of talking to my phone,  and having it answer me back!

I’ve used the voice to speech function before where you enter by talking instead of typing,  but “OK Google” is completely different.

When you want to talk to your android phone,  “OK Google” is how you put it in command mode.

There are fun things like asking it “How much wood could a woodchuck chuck”,  but I’m more interested in not having to touch my phone when I’m driving.

I’ve gotten into the habit of asking my phone how traffic is during my daily commute.

After the “OK Google”,  you can ask, “How is traffic home,  or to work?”

Last week I was heading to work in Guelph,  and encountered two lanes of bumper to bumper traffic on Victoria Road in Kitchener.

OK Google told me that traffic to work was “light and I should arrive in 22 minutes!”

I called bullshit,  but 21 minutes later I was pulling into the parking lot.

This morning OK Google was sick or something….

After I picked up my morning coffee at the Tim Hortons down the street from where I live,  OK Google told me I had an hour and 5 minutes commute to work.   That’s not bad…

When I hit traffic in Kitchener (around Victoria and Lackner) OK Google told me my commute was still an hour and 5 minutes!!!

I wondered what was backing traffic up,  but then realized that the time was the same as my last query.

So I asked OK Google where I was.

“Here is a map of Stratford Ontario!”,  was the cheery reply.

I told it to turn on navigation and guide me to work.   Glancing down I saw the blue dot was in Kitchener…

So I asked Google again where I was…..again I was told I was in Stratford.

I tried various voice commands to get it to update my location to no avail.

I even pulled over and rebooted the phone and stabbed at some settings.

Nothing worked.

For some reason I just needed to have OK Google tell me how long it was actually going to get to work!

With increasing frustration I yelled different commands at my phone.

Nothing worked.

It insisted that I was in Stratford.

Then it occurred to me to do what I would do if I was talking to a human…

“OK Google!”

phone chirps

“I’m in Guelph!”

Nothing…

“OK Google!”

phone chirps

“Where am I?”

phone: “You are in Gulf Ontario!”  (that’s Google for Guelph)

“OK Google!”

chirp

“How’s traffic to work”

Phone: “Traffic is light and you should arrive in 3 minutes!”

That was really weird that the phone knew where I was, but OK Google didn’t…..

There was the time too when I was showing off “OK Google”….I didn’t mean to put it in command mode,  so I told it “Nevermind!”

It played the Nirvana album….well it tried to…I was on mobile data so I quickly stopped that.

 

What happens when your employer can’t pay you…for months?

Apparently,  if you’re the Government of Canada,  not a thing.

Last winter the federal public service migrated over to a new pay system called Phoenix.

An utterly laughable name when you consider that this move has caused pay problems for approximately 80K public service employees.   Phoenix is an IBM product btw.

Pay problems such as not being paid at all,  not receiving disability pay,  and getting paid after they leave.

The last problem isn’t a pressing one (until they come to collect that).

But imagine going for months without getting paid.  You’re still expected to work,  its just that your pay cheque might be a bit late…like months and months and months late.

You can read about how sorry government official are about this mess here.

While comments on stories like this are largely sympathetic,  it didn’t surprise me to see a few talking about how lazy public sector employees are over paid,  and they don’t really deserve to be paid.   One guy went so far as to say how happy he was reading about other people suffering because of this.

I’ve said this before.  I’ve worked private and public sector jobs.  Yes,  public sector benefits are amazing,   but I’ve worked significantly harder in the public sector than the private.

In the private sector,  if I did well I was rewarded with things like cash.

In the public sector I’d be lucky to receive an atta-boy.  Performance bonuses?   Hahahaha..yeah,  right.

When needed,  we’d work through lunch,  work late,  come in early and the best we could hope for in return was a “Hey thanks!”.

Why is it that there are so many people out there who think that public sector employees don’t take pride in their work,  care about the quality of their work,  and their professional reputations?

Oh wait,  I know…because some customer-facing public sector worker couldn’t do something for them not because it was against the rules and the individual didn’t want to risk getting fired for doing it,  but because they were lazy and entitled.

But I digress…

Most of us know what it’s like to be broke.  To wonder how you’re going to stretch out the few groceries you have to last,  to spend your last $10 on dog food so they don’t go without,  and to trying to decide which bills you absolutely must pay,  and which you hope can wait.

Most of know how utterly devastating that stress is.  The constant, pervasive thought…”If we can only make it to pay day!”

Now put yourselves in the shoes of employees who aren’t being paid at all because of this Phoenix fiasco.   Not knowing when pay day is going to happen.

On top of that,  your bosses keep telling you that they’re working on fixing the problem,   and that they’re sorry….and oh hey,  you can call the minister’s office to complain!

They are in fact hiring a lot of people to get the problem fixed.   I wonder if those people are getting paid.

One of my question is,  why aren’t they hiring a lot of people to manually track people’s hours and write them a physical cheque every two weeks??

Oh yeah…it will add a TON of work to catch up with everything.  It will cost a lot of money too.

But it would show their employees that the public service’s priorities aren’t out of whack….that ensuring their people are cared for (as in being paid on time) is important.

Because right now….while I’m hearing them say it…I’m not seeing much evidence of that.