Thursday, 5 April 2012


Geese on a river bank
I know, geese don't say 'bleep'
Now that I work on hospital wards, I am deemed important enough to be given a bleep. In theory, I can be contacted any time, any where, by anyone needing urgent dietetic input.

This is a slightly absurd statement, seeing as there is virtually no situation where dietetic input can be considered urgent. We generally don't work evenings, weekends or on public holidays, although I think one senior dietitian may be on call for Intensive Care. Even if no nutrition is given, a patient will most likely suffer no side effects for at least four days, unless they were at the point of death to start with, in which case they would probably appreciate medical or surgical input a great deal more than someone advising on their nutritional intake. In a crisis, I cannot imagine a call going out asking: "Is there a Dietitian on the plane?"

But never mind, I have a bleep. At the point when it was given to me, the spring clip fell off so it couldn't be attached easily to my person. For a while I carried it in the bag I take around with me, but sometimes that is on a table while I am across the room, and the bleep is not that loud, so I missed most calls. Then I found a kind of wrist band with a clip on the end, which I can attach to my belt loops, although the bleep then dangles around my hips in an annoying fashion. But I could hear the bleep when it went off, and found that most calls were for a different dietitian who used to have my bleep number.

The latest trick the bleep played on me was the failure of some of the LCD bars in one of the characters on the display. I started to find that the bleep displayed numbers that were unobtainable, or where the person answering thought it was most unlikely that the Assistant Manager of Human Resources would have bleeped a dietitian. Eventually I worked out that the failure was in the lower left side of the third digit of five, so generally I only had to try three or four different numbers to discover who it was that actually bleeped me. Even then, I sometimes couldn't trace the call.

I tried to the get the damn thing fixed at the start, when the clip was broken, but was told that the damage had to be a good deal more serious before they would consider spending any money on repairs. I had a much better case now that the clip was broken AND I couldn't tell what number had bleeped me. So at the end of the working day I trudged over to the Switchboard department, which also manages bleeps, in a building in the middle of one of the car parks. I showed them the problem with the unintelligible characters. And that the clip was broken.

"Has it been dropped?" they asked. If you have dropped a bleep, then your department may be charged for the repair. If you have damaged your bleep by negligence, your department may charge you personally for the repair or replacement. I said no, it hasn't been dropped. The clip was already broken when I got it.

This lame denial was accepted at face value, and another bleep was produced and 'programmed' so that it became my bleep, with my bleep number. It was a newish looking bleep, with an undamaged clip, so I skipped off joyously at the thought of not having a bleep dangling off me any more, and being able to answer a call the first time by dialling the actual number shown in the window rather than having to guess the number on the basis of the balance of probabilities.

Except that next morning I was in my outpatient clinic at the start of the day, and the bleep went off. "Hooray, it works!" I thought. I dialled the number shown, and reached the switchboard. "Did you bleep a Dietitian?" I asked, confidently. "No," they said. "We didn't."

Well, this was no better than before! Just an error typing the number, I thought. It could happen to anyone.

In between patients later in the morning, the bleep went off again. I dialled the number, and reached the Labour Ward. "Did you bleep a Dietitian?" I said, not so confidently, because the chances of a lady about to enter the throes of childbirth requesting the services of a Dietitian is about a trillion to one against, at a conservative estimate.

"No, I bleeped the On-Call Obstetrics Registrar." That seemed a whole lot more likely.

"Out of interest, what number did you bleep?" I asked.


Well, now this started to make sense, because my bleep number is 2141. Through the morning, I would guess that the On-Call Obstetrics Registrar was quite a popular person, because that bleep made more noise than it had done in the previous two months, including a very shrill interesting noise that I can only assume meant there was some sort of obstetric emergency going on. I was closeted with my clinic outpatients throughout, and could only apologise to them about 'my' bleep going off all the time.

After clinic was over I made my way over to the building in the car park, and it was raining this time so I got cold and slightly wet, where apologies were proffered and the correct number programmed into the unit. Of course, it hasn't gone off since. But then, nobody really wants an emergency Dietitian, do they?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...