Being Poised for Post-COVID-19

May 11, 2020
Eric Postal, MD

Paying attention to imaging volume changes can have you standing at the ready to resume a more normal reading schedule.

On a scale of 1-to-10, I’d rate my attentiveness to the news an 8 or 9, depending on whether there’s something big going on at the moment (say, a COVID pandemic). I check headlines 2-3 times per day, digging into stories of interest, and if I’m exercising where there’s a TV, it’s tuned into one of the 24/7 news stations.

Thus, while I could be more obsessive about it, I consider myself pretty clued-in to what’s going on and what’s expected to come next, whether it be worthy of network news or some small niche-interest I share with a handful of other people. Being ready for what’s on tap is the whole point of keeping informed: Having the best chance to endure, if not thrive, in the setting of whatever’s coming down the pike. Being poised.

So, keeping a metaphorical finger on the pulse of imaging volumes in my rad group, I had a feeling that my unwanted semi-retirement was about to start winding down. I’d seen mass emails about various facilities’ plans to re-start non-emergent imaging, and local surgi-centers resuming elective procedures. More directly, I’d noticed that, when I was working some of my reduced hours, the worklists were less and less anemic.

I, therefore, expected that, prior to an announcement restoring everybody’s regular allotment of full-time hours, there would be days when work-volume fluctuations exceeded the skeleton crew’s capacity. Having previously underscored to the Operations people that I would like to be kept in mind as someone to call in when they needed extra help, even if only for an hour or three, I wanted to be sure I was ready for action if such a call ever came. Again, in a word: poised.

So, without knowing on any given day whether I’d be working the next morn, I set up my schedule as if my phone would be ringing. This meant getting to sleep at an appropriate time (no burning the midnight oil by watching just a few more episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, for instance), and getting up in time to have my pre-work morning routine done before business hours began. During the ensuing day, I made sure to have the phone within earshot if not arm’s reach and chose activities that I would be willing/able to discontinue if the chance arose to fire up my workstation.

Did the phone always oblige? Nope. But, whenever it did, I was ready, and I have the RVUs to show for it. And, I trust, I have an appropriately favorable reputation with Operations as someone they can rely on, when needed, in these uncertain days.

Even the most poised individual in the world is going to find himself held back if his team, or, indeed, clients, are themselves insufficiently poised. Under such circumstances, the individual’s poise might yield frustration. He’s set to operate at 100 percent, but the materials, personnel, and/or systems provided by his employer hamstring him to 50 percent. I’m ready, the prepped one might think, why isn’t anyone else?

This is not a concern with my current digs. The Operations folks had sized up the situation, formulated a plan, and proceeded to execute it. Each day, they saw volumes cresting earlier and were themselves poised to start phoning rads who they knew were ready and willing to join the effort. Then, in later afternoons, as volumes went down, they sent out an “all clear, go ahead and log off” notification so excess personnel weren’t sitting around and fighting over stray X-rays.