Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Don't worry, be happy (Musings on the loves & hates of a lifetime in transfusion medicine)

In honour of Valentine's Day, February's blog is about some of the things I've loved about transfusion medicine over the years. See how many jive with yours. And don't worry, the blog won't be too sickeningly sweet. That's not me.

The blog's title comes from a 1988 ditty by Bobby McFerrin


1. Organized chaos in the transfusion service laboratory

Phones ring - timers go off - specimens and requisitions arrive - perform historical checks in computer - RBC needed STAT for gunshot wound - aortic aneurysm has blown - start massive transfusion protocol - thaw frozen plasma - night tech calls in sick - patient has positive antibody screen - identify red cell antibody - exclude possible antibodies - open donor segments to antigen type - pos control doesn't work - repeat the test - short of O Rh neg RBC - call blood supplier for more - patient specimen arrives whose ID doesn't check with what's on requisition - call nurse on ward, take flak, stay calm and explain - etc. 

Whew! Time to leave already? How time flies when you're having fun.  Brief next shift and go home feeling satisfied and proud of what you do.

2. Managers who...
  • Don't play favorites and develop transparent processes for how perks, if any, are allotted
  • Regularly thank staff for a job well done
  • Tell you when you screw up (in private) and suggest how to improve, so that you can
  • Don't stay cocooned in their office but instead walk around, observe, and talk to all staff 
  • Go to bat for staff with higher ups and other departments and never, ever diss staff in front of others
  • Encourage staff to learn and, whenever possible, offer accessible, inexpensive opportunities for continuing education and professional development
  • And especially practice Steven Covey's advice for building trust by being true to those who are absent.
Being true to those who are absent means never discussing one staff member in a disrespectful vein with another, i.e., not gossiping and backbiting others. 
A manager with a track record of talking about others behind their backs quickly loses trust.
3. Colleagues who...
  • Keep positive inside and outside the lab, as opposed to holding bitch sessions at coffee about the latest 'rotten' thing that management or 'the system' did
  • Put in close to 100% effort or more, most of the time, realizing that we all have bad days
  • Share knowledge and experience generously as mentors and consciously model how experts think about problems
  • Practice reflective thinking about work-related issues (technical, clinical, educational, etc.) and their own lifelong journey to develop expertise
  • Have empathy for new staff and students, realizing that if one person is elevated, we all are. 
  • Motivate colleagues by holding up a mirror and showing them a positive image. 
As George Bernard Shaw said of friends, 'The only service a friend can really render is to keep up your courage by holding up to you a mirror in which you can see a noble image of yourself. '
4. Health professionals (physicians, nurses, technologists, pharmacists, etc.) who...
  • Respect laboratory and all health professionals for their unique skills and expertise
  • Treat colleagues in different health disciplines as equals, regardless of relative status in the health care pecking order
  • Show respect and kindness to all staff, especially non-health professionals who do the scut work in hospitals and blood centres with little pay and status
5. Students and trainees who...
  • Accept constructive criticism, even when it hurts, realizing it's the only way to improve
  • Recognize that educators and trainers are people too and cut them slack from time to time
  • Ask questions and challenge the status quo 
  • Listen carefully
Obviously, the opposite of the qualities above but also
  • Manufacturers and suppliers who distort truth about their products and services, even a little, in order to gain sales and maximize profits
  • Health professionals in senior positions who become cozy with industry and end up becoming their de facto poodles
For all colleagues who practice my 'loves':
And for Valentine's Day, many songs fit but I favour this one by Canada's Celine Dion
As for 'hates', I try to practice the advice in Bobby McFerrin's song
In every life we have some trouble - When you worry you make it double - Don't worry, be happy...... 
I'm sure I'll add to the list in the following days. If you have any loves or hates to suggest or argue with, please comment below. 


  1. Anonymous7:13 AM

    This is great Pat! I love your organized chaos statement-all reasons that I love my job. I do try to be that kind of manager-don't always succeed but I keep trying. Have a great week

  2. Thanks, Anne. We're kindred souls. <8-) Agree about trying. As Emerson said, 'Life is a journey, not a destination.'