Saturday, February 09, 2013

WakeUp 100 - How much impact do you make?

I happened to spend a few hours at a hospital in a town. The hospital is a fairly well-known brand. There were a few nurses working in this specialized unit that deals with dialysis - people who have kidney failure undergo dialysis; a process that tries to compensate for the loss of kidney function. The patient's blood is purified by passing it through a machine (it removes excess water and waste). The machine itself is a sophisticated one with tubes and displays.

The patients in the unit were from the lower income group; they had some form of government cover that enabled them to avail subsidized dialysis twice a week. The process is no simple task - it takes about four hours for the machine to purify the blood; it's like having all the blood from the body flow through a machine for four hours. Add to it the waiting time, travel time and all and it would be like a six hour ordeal every three days. The risks are plenty – people can lose consciousness, contract diseases and even die; and you can see from the patients that the process is very tiresome – all the blood being drained out and injected back in.

The nurses were fairly young in their career. They went about their regular job of putting the needles in the patient and hooking up the machine. I noticed that during the course of the dialysis there were a couple of machines that kept raising an alarm. The nurses would just snooze the alarm and carry on with their work - which included a lot of gossiping. After a few minutes the alarm would start again and the nurse would do the same thing. When asked what the alarm was about, the nurse would brush it off by saying that she didn't know and it was the procedure they always followed – if it rings, just snooze it!

It was only later that I learnt that the alarms actually have a lot of significance. They could signal a multitude of things - an incorrect setting in the machine, the needles not being right, the purification not happening and so on. You can be pretty certain that most of the patients who came to that unit, barely knew how the machine worked or the significance of the alarms – they just knew that their blood was being cleaned for their survival to live another day.

But what about the nurses? They operate the machines daily; they've been working in the unit for more than a year; isn't it fair to expect them to know about it? The machines quite literally play with a life and it was so disappointing to see the way the nurses were so casual about the whole thing - the life of a person in their hands. How would the patient feel if he knew about it? They go through so much and at the end of it realize that the so-called experts dealing with them hardly know the work they do!

It made me wonder if I do justice on the job; you might say that we don't deal with the life of a person in our work; but think about it - it is very likely that whatever you do does affect them; maybe their bank balance, some booking they did, some utility bill, their transportation, their safety etc. Even something like data reconciliation which some consider as boring has a huge impact.

Do we take that extra interest to know more about the work we do? Do we know how it affects a person? Do we look at enhancing our knowledge in the area we work on? Do you?

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