Tuesday, July 21, 2015
Anesthesiologists Are Like Herding Cats
First of all, I get a small, small pay raise. It works out to about an extra $50 per week. Hooray! That doesn't even cover the cost of taking the family out to the movies. My new job description also doesn't include the ability to hire or fire anybody. That privilege still resides with the current Chief of our group. However what I do get to do is hear everybody's grievances about each other. And there are a lot of that.
I have to entertain complaints from anesthesiologists about nurses, surgeons, and fellow anesthesiologists. If a surgeon doesn't like the way his anesthesiologist is working, I get to hear about it. When a nurse feels one of our partners is too engrossed in his cellphone instead of on the patient, I'm the one who has to convey the message to the offender. Don't even get me started on the petty complaints our partners have against each other.
Before I got this promotion, I was totally oblivious to all this backroom drama. I came to work in the morning, shut myself in the operating room for the next eight to ten hours, then left the hospital after a job well done. Not only do I still have to keep doing those same tasks, but now I'm answering emails and text messages all day. Then there are the meetings. My work calendar has never been so full of meetings. There are conferences that meet regularly to try to resolve earth shattering disputes like how to get the janitorial services to clean the operating rooms more quickly. Or why the break room doesn't have enough shelving for everybody's lunch bags. Or how some anesthesiologists talk too much during an operation.
As any newly promoted manager will tell you, once you are not your peers' equal, you are no longer "us". You suddenly become one of "them". Which means there are no more sharing jokes about the incompetence of the group management because now I am one. The previously chummy relationships have become more formal, even a bit frosty. Edicts on proper conduct in the OR that come from above are now my responsibility to enforce to my colleagues. And that's when I realized why some surgeons dislike anesthesiologists so much.
Managing anesthesiologists can sometimes feel like herding cats. We are so used to working independently in the operating room that we don't take kindly to having somebody telling us what to do. So when I was tasked to pass along a message to a colleague that he is getting complaints about his slow inductions, causing the surgeon and the whole OR staff to wait, I not only got a frosty reception, I was nearly thrown out of the room. Since I have no powers of enforcement, like monetary penalties or job termination, my fellow partners can do that to me with impunity. In fact, some have turned the tables around and complained about me to our Chief, claiming my newly high handed and authoritarian demeanor was not tolerable.
Don't get me wrong. I love my new responsibilities. After working so long in the loneliness that can be the workday of an anesthesiologist, I suddenly feel the added tasks I do make my job interesting again. I enjoy my fellow anesthesiologists coming to me for help when they have a problem they need fixing. Or sometimes all they need is an ear for them to unload their issues. I feel I'm good at that kind of thing. And my bosses think I am too. I would take on these new duties even if I had to do it for free. But don't tell my Chief that.