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

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.

 

Some People Think I’m an Asshole (and they’re right)

Have you ever been asked, “What is the first impression people get when they meet you?”?

I’ve seen this question pop up in dating profiles,  and even job interviews.

I think that the person whose idea it was to ask the question really wants to see how creatively you can lie,   because very few people will be honest…and here’s why.

If people generally have a positive first impression of you,  and you tell people this,  it might sound like you’re conceited,  or vain,  or lying.

If people generally have a negative first impression of you,  and you tell people this,  you’re either very honest,  or,  if you don’t think it will hurt your chances,  or you’re a psychopath.

I know what impressions I usually make with people when we first meet.

It’s usually some combination of the following:

  • Smart
  • Kind
  • Funny
  • Fat
  • Diplomatic
  • Compassionate
  • Really Fucking Smart
  • Weird

There are cases where the first impression I may leave someone with aren’t on that list,  but in those cases its usually someone I’ve sought out while looking to rectify some situation or other…but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

I’m talking about times when I go from something on that list,  to what might be mistaken as Full-On Asshole mode.

Professionally I enjoy a reputation of being very good at what I do,  willing to help out,  and very honest and open in letting people know when I see problems with their ideas, design, projects.

Suffice it to say that I do not suffer fools easily, gladly (or at all really).

Some people have suggested that when I do this,  that I’m self-aggrandizing,  and that I don’t leave people with a positive impression,  and that its “not pretty”.

Here’s a newsflash – unless you can prove me wrong,  I don’t care.    If you can  I’ll apologize, and seek to make amends.

Someone recently felt the need to have this discussion with me….he honestly thought I was trying to get people to like me by interacting with people with things like kindness, humour and diplomacy.

I’m going to pause here so that the people who know me well can stop laughing.

I don’t interact with people the way that I do because I want to be liked.

I do it because that’s the way that I am….I care about people,   even the ones I don’t know.  I know that a smile,  a kind word, and maybe a small act of kindness can turn a person’s day around.

But here’s the thing….I don’t do things like that on purpose…it just happens.

There are some of you thinking that because I said all this that I’m some sort of conceited jerk….which ties into my initial point…if you answer the first impression question honestly,  people might think you’re a conceited jerk.

And to those of you who are thinking that,  I refer you to the previous assertion:

I am not the way that I am because I want people to like me.  I do it because its the way that I am.

I’ll point out that this individual had a habit of raging at people.  He even made a vendor support person cry….when she didn’t do anything wrong. (oh sweet irony)

Here’s the thing,  when I’m working on a project,  if I come up with something that won’t work,  or could be improved upon,  I would want someone to tell me.

Yes,  I might object, and argue,  however, if you make valid points,  I will appreciate that you spoke up and pointed it out.

Even if your concerns were things I had already considered,  or didn’t apply,  or couldn’t be applied,  I will still respect you for pointing them out.

I know its hard for some people to do that,  because, like the title of this blog says…some people think I’m an asshole,  and I know sometimes I can be too blunt when I don’t mean to be.

When I’m involved in a project,  and I see problems with some aspect of it,  I will speak up.

The first couple of times,   I will be polite, and diplomatic.

I will always provide why I think its a problem,  and will go so far as to provide technical details, and links etc.

I do this, because, working in healthcare I believe that my end users (who are the patients) deserve the very best that I can deliver….which means preventing wasting money and resources on poor implementations.

Now, some people will think I’m an asshole simply because I didn’t just nod my head and keep my opinions to myself.

Because being polite is more important than avoiding potential disasters…especially in healthcare.  (You can see I’m being sarcastic here right?)

 

Even when I meet with resistance when raising concerns,  I can usually remain polite and civil.

The problem comes when I encounter people who for some reason they’re smarter than everyone else.

You know the type.   They take on a patronizing tone and are generally dismissive,  regardless of the pile of data and logic arrayed against them.

This is usually what triggers what one of my friends calls “Full-On Asshole mode”.

An example of this was where I raised concerns on a new interface I was asked to implement where I saw that other organization would be receiving bad data as they were deliberately excluding a broad range of HL7 message types that ensure data quality.  (Because data-quality isn’t important, especially in healthcare (sarcasm))

I detailed the reasons for my concerns, and was polite (I had someone check that).

What I got back was a terse response,  explaining their logic,  and why they weren’t concerned.  It was done in the same manner one would explain to a child why they shouldn’t put their hand on a hot burner.

Their logic was so flawed that I forwarded the reasons to a group of HL7 programmers for a laugh.

I mean, seriously,  how could you work in healthcare integration and expect to use a patient’s name as a record match?

We thought it was funny because people entering names in the system can make typos,  and even if not, in one system the same person could be Smith, James A, and in another it could be Smith,Jimmy Andrew).

So yes…that sort of thing brings on Full-On Asshole mode….which made for a very tense kick off call.

I didn’t rant, I didn’t rave….I didn’t even curse.   I did forcefully tear apart their logic,  with the same  tone that they responded to my initial concerns with.  One of, “How could you not know this?”

When I stopped talking there was a long silence, broken by one of them addressing his boss and pointing out that changing their system would cost time and money.

Of course,  during the conversation they pointed out that other hospitals they implemented this solution with didn’t object.  Those hospitals did bend over backwards to compensate for the bad design.   Something that wasn’t possible with our system,  and that I wouldn’t have done.   Extra work I didn’t have time for caused by someone else’s bad design.

I know its hard to speak up when you object to something,  especially professionally,  because there may be career implications.

I’m not denigrating those who don’t.

I’m explaining why sometimes I do,  even thought I know full well that doing so makes some people think that I’m an asshole.

The first reason is that I have to work on these projects.

The biggest reason though is that I do not have to one day face myself in the mirror and ask, “Why didn’t I speak up?”

I have worked in healthcare for almost 3 decades.  The vast majority of the first 2 was as a medic in the Canadian military.

I have seen incompetence, and pride ego kill people…..literally.

When you end up asking your reflection why you didn’t speak up when an actual human being is involved,  you carry that with you for a very long time.

If any of you thought,  “Well that was pretty dramatic,  you’re only talking computer stuff here!”….just GTFO.   If you didn’t clue in to the oft repeated word “Healthcare”,  I don’t want you reading my blog.

 

Hopefully you understand why I simply can’t remain silent when I see issues with a project,  and will continue to push until I see that my points are understood.

I guess the best way to sum this up is to say that the only person I don’t want thinking I’m an asshole…is me (and my mom, dad, brother, sister, sisters-in-law,  nieces, nephew, dogs, and the waitress at my favourite restaurant).

 

 

Definition-of-Stress

Techno-Xenophobia

pt: Aviso de Troll en: Troll Warning
Here be Trolls! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anyone who spends any time on tech forums are familiar of a long running feud between the loyal followers of various technology platforms.

Two recent pieces of news has brought these folks out in droves.   The release of Windows 8 and the news that the Samsung Galaxy 3 has outstripped the Apple iPhone in sales.  The first smart phone to do so since the iPhone was released.

These forums are filled with insults and derogatory language (“flames”) aimed at supporters of “enemy tech”.  I use the term enemy deliberately because these people operate with the ruthless loyalty of soldiers defending their cause on the battlefield.

Whether I  agree or disagree with these various posts has no effect on the impression I get from many of these forum trolls.

I wonder if they sit by their chosen tech and secretly,  in their heart of hearts regret their choice and secretly envy the other guy’s gear.

I believe it was Shakespeare who wrote,  “Methinks he doth protest too much!”