At The Workplace


Screen It, Scan It, Check It, Flip It

By Charles Stanley, R.T. (R)(CT)(MR)

Editor’s Note: "At The Workplace" will feature articles related to the workplace. Your thoughts are invited and will be shared here in this space.

One of my favorite “techno” songs is a song by the band Daft Punk called “Technologic”. According to Wiki: “This song features an electronically pitch-raised voice chanting imperative statement related to technological pursuits”. “"Plug it, play it, burn it, rip it, drag and drop it, zip-unzip it" are spoken in rhythm to a percussive beat”. Hmm, that doesn’t sound too different than some days in a busy MRI department.

We are often speaking to each other and to patients through intercom systems, quick phone calls, emails; even text messaging is used at times to communicate in a department filled with the sounds and rhythms of MRI sequences. We have developed our own language, even separate from the technical words used in our jobs. Screen it, scan it, check it, flip it, are words that were not found in the books I read to become an MRI technologist. These words tend to de-humanize our job and can make us forget what “it” is.

I am all for getting the job done and moving through the workload of the day, but I think we need to pause and remember the importance of our interactions with patients. “Flip It” is a term used in a department formerly managed by me. It is a term to describe putting a patient back into the transport system queue for returning to their room. Because of the speed at which some scans are completed, we are “flipping” them in the system immediately after confirming their arrival in the department. It is amazing that not so many years ago, MRI scans took well over an hour to complete especially; when factoring in the screening conversations and waiting for the radiologist to walk over and check scans before the patient left. Now with screening sheets faxed prior to patients arriving, with protocols as short as 5 minutes total for some things, with radiologists immediately reviewing images on PAC’s, it is possible for there to be little to no direct interaction with patients. Gone are the days of developing little mini-relationships with our patients as we partnered with them to figure out how to get the best images out of the MRI beast. I remember working with patients to obtain great exams, in spite of the machine not wanting to cooperate; a real “us versus it” partnership.

The problem is that the “its” have changed. No longer is the machine the “it”, but instead the “it” is the patient. These “it’s” are patients who are often scared to death of what you may find or confirm. They have frequently heard the MRI war stories from their family and friends about the experience of being left for hours in a cold machine with no contact. Often they share stories of overhearing conversations that could mean many different things or being talked down to as if they should just know how to do the things we ask them to do.

We should fight the urge to become the very stereotype that at times has described our profession. That is we should not be unfeeling button pushers who have no real compassion for the people in their care. We do not want to be known as technological nerds that care more for machines than people. I know this is an unfair characterization of most if not all of the people I work with; but in the adrenaline rush of getting through the day, it is easy to lose perspective. The backlog of patients or the next patient waiting becomes more important than the very patient in front of our face. Getting it done, and moving on becomes the name of the game.

I once worked for a department administrator who started requiring each division manager and supervisor to directly interact with at least one patient a day for the sole purpose of asking them how they are doing and was there anything we could do to improve their visit or their next visit. These answers were recorded and we meet as a group once a week to discuss. This type of interaction helped me tremendously to put the “it” back where “it” belongs. Instead of approaching a patient because there was a problem to fix and I am looking for the quickest way to solve or calm them down, I could actually look at someone, smile, ask them how they are doing, and then genuinely interact with them without having to worry about the schedule or what their “protocol” was. The positive effect on my perspective was great and I implemented something similar with each staff member. The results were even better patient satisfaction and employee satisfaction scores. Screen it, scan it, check it, flip it are all fine words to help get the work done, but they cannot replace the need for a warm smile, direct eye contact, and even the occasional heartfelt hug.

So here’s to putting the “it” back where “it” belongs.

Go ahead, FLIP IT…… the page I mean.