hope you’ve been well

I feel like this has become a common opener in emails in recent times. Hello, hope you’ve been well… Usually it’s work emails to/from other companies, and usually it’s a supplier that I need to ask about something, and I haven’t corresponded with them in a while. Sometimes the supplier is interstate, in a state that has recently had severe weather or a wave of virus, or some other event that has made the headlines.

It just seems polite to show some concern. My usual contacts also use it when starting a new correspondence with me, so it goes two ways. But I’m pretty sure people didn’t always do this. Or maybe they did, but it didn’t mean as much as it does now. Maybe the pandemic made people more compassionate or something.

For the record, yes, I have been well. I have been very absent from this blog, and I’ve been keeping busy with other things, but I always intended to come back.

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wait and see

I’m currently reading The Cider House Rules by John Irving, and there’s this recurring theme of “waiting and seeing”. The main character, Homer Wells, is an orphan, and knows all about waiting and seeing. This week, I’ve also come to know a lot about waiting and seeing, but perhaps in a different way.

At some point in the middle of last week, it started raining. We’ve had a lot of rain this summer — part of the deal with the La Niña weather system — so when it started and didn’t stop, no one really thought much of it. But then the rain continued into the week-end, and it was unrelenting. Creeks were filling up, the river was rising, and damn levels were climbing steadily. By Sunday, countless streets were flooded, people were evacuating, and many had lost power.

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surviving

The first four weeks of this year have been a hellish rollercoaster. The last few weeks of 2021 went reasonably uneventfully, but then 2022 came roaring in, gnashing its teeth.

The first three weeks saw various staff members, across all departments, in and out of isolation because they either tested positive, or were a close contact to a positive case. Isolation rules of the time required seven days of isolation once a positive result is confirmed, and people could only return to work after two consecutive days of negative tests.

Having one person away for one day is usually ok. We can shuffle staff around, or find ways around it. We might stay back a little bit to finish up on work that would usually get done earlier, but it’s not so bad because we know it’s just one day. It’s a lot different when it’s multiple people across all departments, for at least seven days.

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a pause in the chaos

Well, it’s that time of year again, when I’m reminded, by the lack of traffic on the roads, that most other people have time off from work/study. Of course, I’m not complaining. Does it sound like I’m complaining? It’s nice not sitting in traffic, and equally nice to not have to get up earlier to compensate for time spent sitting in traffic.

Anyway, there’s still a very nice long week-end ahead for me.

I had a very brief chat to the cleaning person at work today, and it went something along the lines of “well, someone’s gotta do the work”, and so we will both be back at work in those days between Christmas and New Year’s.

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disgruntled workers

A thought occurred to me earlier in the week: You can not get rid of disgruntled workers.

This could be taken two ways. The first, perhaps more obvious, is that no matter what employees come and go from a workplace, you will always have disgruntled workers. That is, there will always be people who are unhappy with the work and/or the workplace. It almost seems part of human nature to be constantly discontent at something (well, for some people, anyway).

As a colleague of mine once said, everyone wants the money, but no one wants to do the work. (He was exaggerating and oversimplifying, of course.)

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a small win

A big part of what I do at work is checking chemotherapy order forms and batch sheets — making sure patient details and treatment details are correct, and making sure these have been correctly transferred onto batch sheets so that we can compound or make each dose for each patient.

In the course of checking an order this week, I noticed that my colleague had omitted what would appear to be the patient’s middle name. This usually wouldn’t be a big deal — we never include middle names on the batch documents — but this was not an English name. I recognised the name as Chinese, and for a number of Chinese people I know, the “middle name” is actually part of the first name. 

I considered the situation for a minute: There were other patient identifiers on the batch documents, so it was very unlikely that the patient would be misidentified or that any other treatment issue would arise from the omission of the second name. However, it seemed disrespectful to omit it just because we’re all used to seeing names consisting of a one-word first name and one-word surname (including when it’s hyphenated, which makes it count as one word).

So I emailed the team and explained it gently in a “you might not have realised, but just thought it would be good if we added this in” kind of way.

I sent that email pretty early in the morning, and got no response all day. I asked a colleague if he’d seen the email, and his response was that he agrees, but everyone else seemed unconcerned. I went home feeling despondent and agitated. I didn’t want this issue to be ignored.

The next day, contemplating how I could bring it up again, and at the same time wondering if I should just concede defeat in this matter, I happened to receive another order for a patient with a Chinese name. And this time all three names were included on the batch documents! It actually brought a smile to my face because this was not the colleague I’d spoken to (the one who already said he agrees) but one of the others who had seemed unconcerned the previous day.

It felt good to know that I helped bring about this change, and it felt even better to know that I was capable of helping to improve cultural awareness in my workplace. It is one thing to continue to learn, but it is another to help others learn as well.