A snippy voice said "You haven't come by and signed that letter yet."
"What letter? Was I told about this before?"
"I paged you last week about it.''
"I was on vacation last week."
"Oh." Her snippiness lessened when she realized this was the first I was hearing of the letter, but she still seemed a little annoyed.
Not long ago a nurse relayed a message to me. "The pharmacy wants you to know that they are out of vitamins for the parenteral (IV) nutrition. Is it okay if they make it without the vitamins?" Well, no, it's not okay, but do I have any choice in the matter? This came a day after I found out that we had run out of yellow nipples for baby bottles. (There are yellow nipples for full term babies and red ones for premies.) How can a nursery run out of nipples? On that same day they told me we didn't have any more kits for hook ups to the breast pump, meaning that mothers of our premies couldn't pump their breast milk here. Fortunately, they found those about an hour later. We weren't out of them. It's just that nobody could find them.
Later that day I showed up in the classroom, ready to give my scheduled noon lecture to the residents and students. The second Thursday of the month is neonatology lecture day - except for this second Thursday, because without notifying neonatology, they had given the lecture slot to someone else. I don't mind not having to give a lecture, but couldn't they notify me before I had prepared it? Finally, I went to back to my office to find a voice mail from the director of medical education, chewing me out for missing my scheduled Wednesday morning lecture. Huh? I had never been asked to give a Wednesday morning lecture.
As you can see, sometimes parts of our hospital don't work so well, and it can get very frustrating. TIME magazine has an article this week about what doctors hate about hospitals, and it's mainly about medical errors and mishaps. I don't like those, either, of course, but what I hate about a hospital is when it is so inefficient it makes it a hassle to do your regular job. I don't mind tough medical problems. We expect those. It's the problems like lost blood samples, or test reports that take forever to come back, or scheduling screw ups, or - a problem particularly bad in our hospital - running out of supplies, that drive me crazy.
What do doctors want from a hospital? The ability to practice medicine with as little extraneous bother as possible. I suspect patients would like their doctors to be able to do that too.