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Train of Thought...
May 2006 - Brake failure!

I have recently been tussling with the conflict between beliefs and expediency. I am sure many of you have heard the comments from Doctors that "We don't have time for calibrating instruments" or I haven't got time to spend doing 3 or more blows when doing spirometry", or from a 'scientist' "They wont even allow time for QA activity". It is perceived that it is better to spend that time getting an extra patient through the door. Similarly I have difficulty when asked to review a document or presentation and get torn between seriously critiquing it and offering revisions or do I just say "The style is different to mine, so be it.", even when I believe that the messages contained are potentially open to misinterpretation and consequently the objective will not be met. My New Year's resolution this year was to pull back and make myself a priority instead of work and the Society assuming ascendancy. Needless to say, I have discovered the brakes need some serious servicing as they have proven quite ineffective!

Life today seems to be driven by the need for quantity - quantity of money, quantity of outputs, quantity of trappings. Quality does not feature strongly anywhere. The greater the apparent bargain, the more kudos seems to be awarded. In many respects we are in another industrial revolution yet ironically this time it is cheap labour and shortcuts replacing craftsmen rather than machines replacing craftsmen.

How does this impact on us? The members of this society are an exception in that most of us are not in the field for personal gain but rather to contribute to the welfare of those less fortunate than ourselves. We are, however, all squeezed increasingly hard by the environment in which we work. Pressure to get more bums through the door, lack of active support from physicians and a refusal to replace equipment that is falling over, all take a major toll on those of us trying to provide a quality service. At what point does the cost exceed the return?

My belief in quality and passion for teaching frequently puts me in conflict with what is actually good for me. Hard as I practice saying "Do I care?", my belief system always wins the day - much to the chagrin of those who have sought my advice. Perhaps I naively think I can make a difference and continue raising the bar. Perhaps I am just stubborn and bloody-minded. Perhaps both of the above. I really don't know.

I took great heart from Paul Enright's exhortation in Canberra to "Challenge Authority". Trouble is, that feeds right back into the dilemma "To care or not to care." I have a deeply rooted passion to endeavour to ensure that the next generation of practitioners will do a better job than I have been able to do. This means that if I can apply the brakes and decide I no longer care, then my vision starts to crumble.

Maybe the brakes really cannot be fixed and my New Year resolution was not a SMART objective. Oh well, at least my ill-deserved reputation as a stirrer remains intact!

K

May, 2006

kevin.gain@health.wa.gov.au

 

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