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Train of Thought...
June 2011 -End of the Line?

I was searching through Google Images the other night looking for a picture of "The end of the line", with a railway context. Track overgrown with weeds, piles of rusted tieplates and spikes, broken buffer stops seemed to characterize what I found. It was all a bit dismal really. The phrase "The end of the line" clearly has connotations of decrepitude and decay, of something that has outlived its usefulness. This puts me in mind of the patients I see who are either in dread of their looming retirement or, having retired, are bored out of their minds with it.

I suspect many of us have had a celebration when old equipment has been written off and taken away. Shiny new gizmos arrive to take its place. While there may be many very valid reasons why frustration has built and equipment has to be replaced, there are few guarantees that the replacement will be frustration free. Many times it is a case of "The Devil you know, is better than the one you don't"!

My old Morgan gear had indeed become cranky but over the many years I worked with it, on both sides of the Tasman, it taught me most of what I know. The ability to get into the gubbins of the software and understand how the numbers were being processed was one of the strengths of that equipment. Rolling seal spirometers were also much easier to deal with than most pneumotachs are. In fact there was a request on the web-site recently for a rolling seal device. Pensioned off, maybe, but still with something to offer.

Manufacturers are today looking for technologies that don't need to be understood, can be calibrated by a computer and purport to be more user friendly. Whilst the old equipment may have reached the end of the line, I fear it is the skilled scientist rather than the equipment that is being pensioned off. This is an insidious transition driven by shareholder returns for both manufacturer and user, and, left unchallenged, does not bode well for our patient's future.

The election of new Regional Representatives, and other Office holders within the Society, should also be an opportunity for positive change. Where one person or one organisation has filled a role for some time, a change brings a new perspective that benefits all and can revitalise a region. This in no way means that the present incumbent has become decrepit or having outlived their usefulness. Rather a new chapter opens up where the present appointee can mentor new blood into the organisation thereby catalysing a new round of growth and development.

"The end of the line" for older technologies, and indeed 'older' people, shouldn't represent decrepitude but rather the opening of a new chapter. Whether that chapter is enthralling or boring depends partly on the 'author' and partly on the 'reader'. Putting our heads in the sand achieves nothing, and indeed is more than likely to be detrimental. I see change, other than change for change's sake, as being an opportunity to grow and develop. Certainly change brings challenges, but those challenges can be harnessed to provide inspiration and, when met, a great deal of satisfaction. We need to be open to change and the opportunities it brings with it. We have a choice, contribute to the change process, or be dragged screaming and kicking into the new order of things. Being prepared to become involved in the change process allows us the opportunity to influence our futures. Screaming and kicking may be fun at the time, but is, frankly, a waste of energy.

'til next month,

K

June, 2011

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

 

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