My medical school always made a big fuss about training us to be “Change Agents” – so much so that I guess it sometimes became a joke to us. The idea was that we would be active role players in whichever environments we found ourselves instead of sitting back and complaining, but it often seemed like an unrealistic expectation, given some of the challenges we face in public healthcare.
As I was reflecting on the past three months, I caught myself thinking: have I been a Change Agent? (And then I automatically almost scoffed at myself. I like the idea of being an agent of change but the term is so over-used that I have come to hate it.)
I’m not unrealistic. I’m quite aware of my limitations as an intern. The bottom of the bottom of the feeding chart. I can hardly get a nursing student to pay any attention to me and I have less political clout than the babies we deliver (at least if something bad happens to them, people have meetings about it). So I don’t think I should have been able to do something BIG during this time.
But have I done small things?
I have had some ideas, but to be honest, I’ve done less of inspiring change and more of just doing it my own damn self.
It has been for my own safety and sanity, really. When I find sharps disposal bins placed in dangerous positions, I put them in less dangerous positions. The next day I’ll inevitably find them back in their original spot, and I rearrange them again. The Change Agent thing to do would have been to talk to the nurses about this, but I’m dealing with some very political nurses who are very certain that they know better than the intern who looks like she still belongs in high school. The other option is to get Occupational Health to look into the matter, I suppose.
In the beginning, I nagged nurses to find me the right size gloves. Inevitably they would take hours to find them, and then bring me gloves half a size too big and past their expiry dates (did you know that gloves had expiry dates? Now you do.) I got so tired of this that I went scouting through the hospital stores myself and managed to find the RIGHT size gloves. Now I just keep my own stash. But it seems some of the scrub nurses have noticed and all of the sudden they stock the correct gloves for me. That’s sort of change, although it took a while.
The truth is, you have to pick your battles. I’d like to get through internship without being an emotional wreck. And it does wreck me when I ask someone to find something (like, say, 5ml syringes) and they respond by clicking their tongue and mumbling. I shouldn’t have to beg people to do their jobs, but arguing with them isn’t going to bring me anywhere. So I do what I can to expedite speedy service delivery even if it does mean that I do things that I technically shouldn’t have to do.
And I hope that some of the people in our healthcare teams will pick up on that.
On a positive note, I tweeted a while ago about a concerning trend I was seeing with IV metronidazole giving-sets. I heard last night that it had reached the Medicines Control Council (thanks to a pharmacist friend of mine), so something real might actually come from that. We’ll see.