Conversations about Professionals

My father expected professionals to be just that: professional. He consulted the best in the field, always paid top dollar and if ever concerned, he would get a second opinion.

He was difficult as a patient. He was demanding. He would ask thorny questions. He would expect availability. He would offer his opinion and assistance. The one professional who got the better of him was the big strong nurse who clipped the laceration in my forehead when I fell in Aegina in 1970. She tucked me under her hairy armpit, her starched uniform scratching me as would her moustache if she kissed me. My father made a move to follow her into the procedure room and she turned, said the famous “oxi” – no – , and closed the door in his face. It was not often that happened, as he always managed to get a foot in the door and force it open.

I would love to have had him when I am called out sometimes. My best trick is just to listen sympathetically, to try pick up all the ques that I saw my father giving off and then address them with a verbal answer, sometimes throwing in a big medical word to put them off the trail, or just nodding and touching their forehead or hand. After so many years in the business it’s not difficult to take a deep breath and diffuse any situation.

One thing my father never quibbled about is fees. He expected professionals to charge and never quibbled. Unlike all the people I see today who have off-road motorbikes, cell phones and Sony play stations for the injured children, and then still question my fee.

The other thing my father did not tolerate in professionals was incompetence. He acknowledged clearly that if there was a problem that was insurmountable then defeat in the hands of the professional was acceptable. But the communication from the professional was important. But he had disdain for professionals that should be qualified for routine problems and are not. Like the lady doctor who called me last night panic struck with an old man with a three hour old dislocation of his shoulder. She woke me at midnight with the call, telling me that she had sedated him and given him morphine, and could I come help. She sounded nice, but as I woke from my Christmas Day lunch slumber I asked if she had attempted to reduce the dislocation.

“Oh, no “she said, “I just gave him the dormicum and morphine because he was in so much pain!”

So I politely asked her to reduce the shoulder and call me. It took her 40 minutes, no doubt during which time a professional nurse and one of the experienced ambulance paramedics helped her reduce the dislocated joint.

My mother could have done a better job. I suffered from recurrent dislocation of my right shoulder as a teenager and most times my mother would gently manipulate it back into place without causing me pain. She could feel the tension in the muscles and worked around that quite professionally. It was the doctors who hurt my shoulder when they tied to reduce it.

And this young lady doctor hurt my concept of what professionals are at midnight of Christmas Day.

Peter Stathoulis, The Professional

Peter Stathoulis, The Professional

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