No, this is not another article about my fascination with driving. This is about a trend from days of old which seems to be more rampant nowadays, or perhaps those persons with whom I relate have become more intolerant of this unsettling behavioural pattern. Bajans have perfected the fine art of remarking on the appearance of other persons and never seem to be able to do so quietly which is a significant sore point for several of my friends.
However, this is not the talent I wish to speak about today. It seems to me that Barbadians have become specialists in veering into the lanes of others. I think the best way to illustrate this worrisome trend is by using a few vignettes which I have experienced or have been told me by reliable sources.
As a treat for my recently celebrated birthday, some friends and I happened to be at breakfast at a popular hotel. We decided that in addition to other breakfast foods we would try the specialty omelettes to get that real ‘special’ feeling. Whilst in the short line, another customer came in complaining about how dark the ambience was and this was met by a chuckle and wry grin from the chef preparing the eggs.
I struck up a conversation with her only to discover that during her shift she was told by patrons that the pan was too hot; the white part of the egg needed to be removed; she needed to wash the frying pans; she was adding the cheese at the wrong time. I thought to myself, and I told her as much, that she was in the right job because I would have lost my job for my responses to those persons.
In a completely unrelated arena, I was speaking with a manicurist who in my estimation is very good at her job. In order to maintain a level of efficiency and ensure customer satisfaction, clients are advised to submit desired nail art designs prior to their appointments. During her consultation, this particular client mentioned that she was not sure that the manicurist would be able to get the design just right but she could go ahead and try. Imagine my horror when I learned that the desired design was a standard French tip. Jaw to floor! To add insult to injury after complaining that the manicurist didn’t get it quite right, she telephoned later to say how impressed everyone was with her nails!
Let us discuss another all too familiar situation. We were on a bus and the driver missed the turn and had to reverse up a hill on a narrow road. Before I proceed, let me declare that this driver is someone who drove professionally in the United Kingdom for several years. His qualifications made no difference. There was a cacophony of ‘lock hard’, ‘you cannot make that turn’, ‘press the gas’, ‘there is a pole behind you’, ‘press the brakes’ and any other instruction one could imagine. And for the record, not one of those ‘drivers’ has ever driven a bus.
How many times as drivers we find ourselves being instructed by passengers on the best way to manoeuvre certain situations on the road? I am not sure if anyone else has experienced a passenger saying to the driver that he or she should look out for that child, or the minibus doesn’t look like it is ready to move yet or stop and let out that person there! Or better yet, what about those who are pressing the brakes on their sides of the vehicle when the driver is miles from the vehicle ahead?
Apart from the last scenario, all the above references are related to those persons who provide a service and are in the field of customer service. In previous years, this was not so much a plague affecting the medical fraternity but with the advent of search engines we have not been left unscathed by this malady.
A friend remarked to me a few weeks ago that the worst social injustice has not been economic depression or brain drain but the easy availability of a smart device and a data plan. It was very funny but there is a sage truth behind those words. In accompaniment to progressive technology, doctors and nurses have been seeing an increase in the number of ‘specialists’. These individuals are able to tell nurses where to position a thermometer and how to bathe a newborn baby. They can also tell the individual collecting a blood sample at which angle the needle should be held for best results. Doctors are now being told how to doctor and which investigations must be done for the best patient results.
The practice of medicine has changed over the centuries from the paternalistic ‘doctor knows best’ method, to a more patient-centred approach. In the latter category, the patient is the focus of the consultation and all other entities are working towards achieving the best possible patient outcomes. Whilst this is the ideal, it appears as though some patients and relatives have misunderstood the concept and have, as it were, veered into the lane of the practitioner.
Medical personnel have spent several years, and in the case of true specialists (not back seat drivers and the like), decades honing their craft and seeking to enhance the provision of service to their clients.
Consequently, we fall into the bracket of customer service providers as well. Medicine is one of those things that cannot be truly learned on the internet because it requires a certain fund of knowledge and experience to safely take care of an individual. Patient input is obviously invaluable in patient care and so there is to be discussion about any concerns and uncertainties about en vogue topics during the consultations. However, in the same way a chef should not be told how to make an omelette or a manicurist directed how to do the ideal French tip, shouldn’t it be the same for health care professionals?
(Rénee Boyce is a medical doctor, a wife, a mother and a Christian, who is committed to Barbados’ development. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org)