“Time Out”

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We have been implementing some quite big processing changes in the microbiology laboratory recently with significant effects on users. Examples include making clinical details pre-requisite for selected sample types, and restrictions on the use of faecal occult blood (FOB) testing for symptomatic patients. The changes closely follow best practice guidelines, but  have proved unpopular with some people. Sometimes politics plays a part, for others it is the inconvenience of having to justify laboratory requests. Occasionally it is just a general reluctance to embrace change…

This confirms to me what I already knew, that you just cannot please everyone all of the time…

And nobody likes to be told what to do. I should understand that. I hate it more than most!

Sometimes in the past few weeks it has felt like that the world is against me. At these points it is definitely worthwhile taking a step back, reminding yourself of why the changes were implemented in the first place, and trying to gain as much peer support as possible.

I have also improved somewhat at convincing others of my point of view. This is something I have always been notoriously weak at. I have learnt that “face to face” meetings are undoubtedly best for this, emails are the worst, with telephone calls somewhere in between…

In short, you need to show people that you are human.

In trying to get things done and make progress, I have also been learning that there is a very delicate balance between “unilateralism” and trying to get consensus from everyone by collaboration. You will never get agreement from everyone, but there does need to be a “critical mass” of believers in order to carry and enforce policies.

There is little doubt that a couple of years ago, I would have buckled under the pressure, reversed the changes and gone back to my lab cubicle with my tail between my legs.

My skin has become a little thicker…

I have definitely learnt to see past the initial pain, and to visualise the long-term quality gains that have been made within the department, and for the clinical microbiology service as a whole.

These things take their toll however over the weeks and months… When working on such issues without a break, both the stress and exhaustion levels build slowly over time. The two terrible twins form a synergistic relationship.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel!

Next weekend I am going on a 5 week road trip with the family across the USA, from LA to NY.

It couldn’t have come at a better time… I can forget all about the microbiology laboratory for a while, the incessant phone calls and emails, the complaints, the politics, and the bureaucracy. I can concentrate on my life outside of the microbiology lab and recharge the batteries.

And hopefully when I get back I will still want to be here!

Michael

 

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