Wednesday, April 12, 2006

What I learned

There are many authors out there who want the world to know what they have learned, and they have learned these things from all sorts of places and in all sorts of ways. Their books give a glimpse into...well, some strange ideas, frankly. Here's a engaging title: What I Learned in My Bathtub. telling where that one might lead. There are a couple of books featuring lessons in theology: What I Learned From God While Cooking and What I Learned From God While Gardening. There's one called Great Dames: What I Learned from Older Women. Then there are the books that begin with "All I Need to Know I Learned from...." or some similar phrasing. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. That's a well-known one. One maybe not so well known is All I Need to Know I Learned from Xena: War Princess. Maybe you'd prefer All I Really Need to Know I Learned from Star Trek or All I Need to Know in Life I Learned from Romance Novels.

Since so many folks want to share their accumulated life wisdom, I figured I could too.

All I Really Needed to Know I Learned as a Medical Transcriptionist

1. Everyone has an inherent desire to be the best at something. I met one of our local dictators the other day and introduced myself as an MT. He asked me, "Do I talk too fast?" I replied, "No, not at all." He frowned. "You mean I don't talk too fast? Everyone used to say I talked too fast." I said, "No, actually you are one of our better dictators." When I mentioned to him that Dr. So-and-So gave us a much harder time than he did, his frown got deeper. "What? I'm not the fastest talker you have?" I could tell he was terribly disappointed. This doctor wanted to have a position of honor - or dishonor - but at least he wanted a place of singular recognition.

2. Know when to keep your mouth shut. Ah, the new privacy laws, HIPAA for short. We are lectured several times a year about the dangers of spilling the juicy beans of what we learn on the job. But I already know about keeping my mouth shut. I learned that the first time I listened to Rachel whine about being up all night with the baby, and I said, "Oh? I had 9 hours of wonderful sleep." Zip that lip.

3. Everyone needs a challenge. People say they don't like challenges, don't want challenges, and are afraid of challenges. But in reality, they need challenges. Why? Because of the feeling they get when they succeed at one! When I was a new medical transcriptionist, I had one motor-mouth dictator whose dictation would send me home in tears, because I never thought I would ever be at all competent in understanding him. Now he is one of my favorites - and not only am I competent at transcribing his reports - I fly through them with ease and accuracy. Meeting and exceeding a challenge is one of the best things you can do for your self-esteem.

4. If you stop listening too soon, you might miss something worth hearing. So many times I have had a dictator say an obscure medical word which sent me scurrying through reference books and Internet sites to verify, when if I had only kept my foot on the pedal for a few more seconds, the doctor would have either spelled it or even would have decided against using it altogether. What a waste of time! That's what impatience will get you. If I go ahead and transcribe the rest of the report, often the word will be repeated more clearly. In pondering this life lesson, I think of Ed when he starts talking to me as I am in the process of walking to the other end of the house. He must think I'm still listening, I say to myself as his voice grows more distant. Sometimes I will be gone for 10 minutes and when I return, he is still talking. What insights from Ed I have missed! (I didn't say they were good insights, but I missed them all the same.)

4. If it doesn't make sense, something is probably wrong. How many times have new MTs heard a doctor say, "I's and O's" (for Intake and Output) and transcribed "eyes and nose"? Countless, believe me. And wise is the MT who thinks that "Eyes and nose were 2097 and 3400" does not make sense. Usually if what we hear does not make sense, we figure we might - just might - be hearing it wrong. In real life, accepting nonsensical things can get you into real trouble. Our state is airing some TV commercials warning senior citizens of e-mail scams and such. One skit had a couple receiving a fraudulent e-mail about winning the Canadian lottery. They were ecstatic, and planned right away to give out their credit card number so the scammers could pay the "taxes" on their winnings. After watching this public service spot for a minute, Ed turned to me and said, "Well, I would think it strange to learn that I had won a lottery I had never even entered! Don't these people ever say, 'Hey - I don't remember even entering the Canadian lottery!'?" If it doesn't make sense, think again.

5. We all share the journey of life, but may be at different stages in that journey. At our hospital, we have a special unit to which two groups of patients are transferred. One group consists of patients who need a little more rehab in order to be discharged. The other group is dying and needs a place to die in comfort and peace. It always seems strange to me that these two groups of patients are located in the same unit - some are there to get better, and the others are there to die. But in a way, that unit is a microcosm of life itself. We're all at different ages, different levels of spiritual wisdom, different levels of physical abilities, different degrees of intelligence, different stages of maturity - all sharing space on this planet at this time in history. Sometimes I think we have too high expectations for our fellow travelers, and it's easy to belittle those who are not on our level in one way or another. Compared to some, we might be farther along; compared to others, we have fallen way behind. But in the end, we're all in this together.

So there you have it. A glimpse into the wisdom of the MT world. I'd write more, but I need to start on my 9 hours of uninterrupted, blissful sleep. (Sorry, Rachel.)

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