Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Day The Anesthesiologists Stood Still

Anesthesiology is great. Anesthesiology is wonderful. Anesthesiology is considered one of the best jobs in America. But working in anesthesiology is not all peaches and cream. Like any other job, there are issues with salary, peer relations, the bosses, working environment, the bosses, fairness, and, did I mention, the bosses.

In an attempt at projecting empathy, our department sent out anonymous computer surveys to every anesthesiologist that asked how much we liked working here and how the department could be improved. Everybody received almost daily emails encouraging us to complete the survey as the results would be shared with the hospital administration to gauge the health of the anesthesiology department. Many people were excited by having their voices heard instead all the secretive grumblings that normally take place in the anesthesia lounge/break room/call room. The promise of anonymity was especially conducive to airing out all their grievances about the group and having the possibility of the hospital administration itself understand some of the unhappiness and resentment that some colleagues felt working here. Some of the unhappiest people were almost giddy when they typed in page after page of their issues with the group. At last, somebody would do something about this place.

After the survey was completed, we didn't hear anything about it for a few weeks. We began to wonder if anybody had even bothered to look. Then one day, a memorandum came down saying there will be a staff meeting for all anesthesiologists to discuss the results. Attendance was required. Oh goody, we all thought. We can finally see how everybody in the group feels about this place and what our bosses were going to do about it.

Late in the afternoon, after most of the cases in the OR were finished, we dutifully assembled in one of the conference rooms. Sure enough, sitting in the room were members of the hospital administration. But also present were our bosses, including the Chief of Anesthesia and the Godfather. After they deemed that enough people had entered, they started a slide show presentation of the survey results. In general, the questionnaire showed that people enjoyed working at our hospital. We also liked most of our peers. Where the marks plummeted was in the perception of transparency and fairness with our bosses.

This last item brought some consternation with the administrators. They certainly didn't want a dysfunctional anesthesiology department seething with resentment towards their leaders. They then opened the floor to comments and asked us to verbalize why we didn't particularly appreciate our superiors. You could have heard crickets at that point. The initial ANONYMOUS survey was now being aired in front of the whole group while our bigwigs were sitting right there.

Well, nobody was a fool. After all, we all finished medical school. After a few uncomfortable minutes, when not a word was uttered, somebody finally spoke up. That person changed the subject completely and said she wished we had better relations with some of our surgical colleagues. Our chief was visibly relieved. The administrators made some platitudes about how anesthesia and surgery should try to get along with each other. When no more brave souls volunteered any information, the meeting was adjourned and our dear leaders walked out of the room with their administrator buddies with their heads held high.

As you can see, and the anonymous survey proves, there are no morale issues with our department. No sir. None at all. We are just one big happy anesthesia family.

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