Just a few years ago whilst operating, I was curious to find out about one of our unit’s patients on the ward. We still had a bit of time to go in the current case, a retroperitoneal lymph node dissection. There was a chance the patient on the ward would require surgery and being at that time of the day an earlier ‘heads up’ is always best. One of the theatre staff kindly paged our resident. It was 5.05pm. No response. The other resident who was scrubbed directed them to get the resident’s mobile phone and call direct. This did not seem unreasonable – perhaps they were tied up. Maybe the phone could rouse him? Ring ring… Finally an answer. It’s the urology team wanting an update from the ward. “Sorry I’m in the car”. Have you rounded yet? Sort of. Is there a handover? Silence. We’ll call you back later!’
I was astounded at two things – the resident having clearly left without giving a handover in person (or verbally) and the fact that they appeared to have left without the customary afternoon ward round being conducted. I grumbled and sent the other resident up to check on the patient. Was I becoming one of those ‘grumpy old surgeons ‘ whining at the ‘youth of today’? I didn’t think so as what was expected was probably the minimum expected.
Fast forward two weeks. Same time being 5.05pm and the same resident actually appears in person to give handover (were they learning?) I couldn’t miss the chance to poke at him “What a surprise – you’re still here and it’s after 5pm!” The scrub nurse and registrar and Anaesthetist all laughed having been there when he was in the car on the prior occasion. Clearly smarting he quipped “That’s what’s wrong with you and your ‘Star Wars’ generation”… “What do you mean? what’s wrong?” I quizzed. He thought… then responded: “You all think you are the only ones who have worked hard and that all Gen Y doctors are lazy… You guys shoe-box all of us… .”. I pointed out I was miffed that he had left without handover. He claimed all was fine with the ward and had no real excuse for not giving handover but no ill effects happened and the patient in question avoided theatre. “Only just” I added.
All the while the ‘Star Wars’ jibe had gotten under my skin. His blatant and underhand use of the name of a movie that was perhaps the “God amongst Gods” being a classic tale of good and evil that had delivered many new words and ideas and music to at least one generation…
I took my time. So wanting to get it out of my system I chose my words carefully: “So you say ‘I’m part of the ‘Star Wars’ generation’ so that must make you… part of the ‘Avatar’ generation?” He paused… “That’s right – you are exactly right”. This was potentially going to be fun.
OK. “So remind me, who were the lead characters on Avatar? The female lead Avatar?” Deafening silence…. “What about the actors’ names?” … Silence…… I then pointed out it was embarrassing given one was Australian and I couldn’t help but point out the other I quickly recalled being Sigourney Weaver!
Maybe I was being a bit hard – “OK, what was the mineral they were mining on their planet?” Silence …….”unobtainium!” I yelped… “Who could forget that? Alright give me a line from the movie, any line?” Silence …. “Alright hum me the ‘Theme to Avatar'”… Again, silence.
I paused, then in a friendly way with a wry smile, I stated: “May the force be with you!” and gleefully hummed the well known Star Wars theme… as he ducked off….
So was this reinforcing the stereotypes that Gen Y is all flash and glamour with No Substance?
Probably not, but it teaches us that one generation is not that far from the next (the other resident a Gen Y knew more about Star Wars than I did!!). And subsequently I have had some of the best residents ever. So it is all about attitude and understanding what is required. The resident really lifted their game after this, which was excellent and they ended up with a great report – having taken on board the veiled but constructive “criticism”.
Honesty and communication is the best policy, sometimes laced with humour and by doing this “Help them, you will”.
Nathan Lawrentschuk @
University of Melbourne, Department of Surgery and Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Austin Hospital and Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, Department of Surgical Oncology, Melbourne, VIC, Australia