Showing Up

November 20, 2015

If no one sees a radiologist working, are they really working?

There are some brilliant folks in the medical imaging field. Cutting-edge, incredibly smart, innovative, and easy to pick out as the best and brightest. If anybody can write their own ticket, it’s them.

Below their stratosphere, the rest of us are a dense, populous crowd, in which standing out as a superstar is a wee bit tougher. Yes, you might be a smart cookie, but how much better are you really going to appear when surrounded by a bunch of others who were able to compete their way into this field? How much of a difference will it really make if you manage to be a few percent better than the rest in terms of work volume or quality?

It’s far easier to stand out as deficient. And people endlessly find ways to shoot themselves in the foot in this regard. Perhaps a little too focused on the hard-earned skills demanded by our kind of work, it seems they easily forget the most basic elements of what makes someone desirable as a member of the team. Simple things, like reliably showing up when and where expected.

Not being at your post, of course, is sometimes unavoidable. But no matter how good your excuse might be, until that reason is known to the folks who came looking for you (or those who wound up having to cover for your absence), they’ll have plenty of time to form their own negative impressions of the situation. And showing up late isn’t the only transgression: Leaving early, taking breaks or other departures from your expected location…even being physically there but functionally absent, such as jawboning on personal phone calls while putting work responsibilities on a back burner.[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_crop","fid":"43576","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image media-image-right","id":"media_crop_6745952645318","media_crop_h":"0","media_crop_image_style":"-1","media_crop_instance":"4770","media_crop_rotate":"0","media_crop_scale_h":"0","media_crop_scale_w":"0","media_crop_w":"0","media_crop_x":"0","media_crop_y":"0","style":"height: 138px; width: 160px; border-width: 0px; border-style: solid; margin: 1px; float: right;","title":"©Lorelyn Medina/Shutterstock.com","typeof":"foaf:Image"}}]]

It might seem there is greater slack for such absenteeism in situations wherein one is not in physical proximity with other members of a team, such as teleradiology as opposed to a conventional imaging center or hospital department where one rubs elbows with other rads, techs, and support staff. After all, if nobody is around to physically see you away from your post, who’s to know?

I’ve rather come to believe that this lack of direct contact amplifies, rather than hides, one’s lack of availability, even creating the appearance of absence or disinterest when none actually exists…and that those wishing to be thought of as available and on-task had best put in extra effort to compensate for this.

For instance, suppose someone phones, IMs, or e-mails with a matter necessitating a reply or other action. The recipient doesn’t promptly answer. In a conventional workplace where both sender and recipient walk the same hallways, even a brief glimpse of one another serves as a confirmation that yes, the other guy is present and accounted for, and attending to his responsibilities. He might not have gotten around to the missive yet, but perhaps the other things he’s visibly doing are properly taking precedence.

In a telerad or other offsite situation, without such direct confirmation of one another’s presence and activity, imagination has greater freedom to craft unflattering scenarios. Maybe the recipient is willfully ignoring the message. Maybe he’s not even checking his inbox. Maybe he left his home office to go watch some TV while he’s supposed to be working…who knows?

Some might fairly point out that it is not their burden to proactively compensate for this. As long as they are doing their jobs and living up to their responsibilities, if someone else out there erroneously decides otherwise let that be the detractor’s hassle.

I’ve found myself uncomfortable with the notion of letting such chips fall where they may, as I sleep better at night knowing I’ve made it that much harder for anyone to imagine me being less than reliable. Even if it means I semi-compulsively check my e-mails multiple times per day, reply to messages even if only to say “I received your request-it’s a busy week, so I might not get it done until next,” and dutifully set “out of office” automated replies when I know I’m going to be out of reach.