Stethoscopes missing from public health toolkit
Posted on 20 December 2012 by Susanna Mills
The transition from clinical medicine to public health was accompanied by a distinct shift in scale, pace and method of approach. But the dramatic adaptation required to interpret the different jargon found me completely unprepared.
I attended my first meeting, about the quality assurance of cancer screening services, in a distinctly observer role. This decision turned out to be fortunate, as I marvelled at the nuanced meanings attached to formerly familiar technical terms.
‘Have you pulled it together?’ the director enquired, and I blushed slightly on behalf of the consultant radiologist he addressed. But the doctor responded warmly, furnishing the conversation with further active imagery.
‘Yes, we’ve almost drawn up the plan,’ she replied. ‘But we’d be wise to spin out the suppliers.’
At length, she described the proposed scheme, with the assistance of an entire toolkit of verbal elaborations. A feedback tool would perform this function, while a finance tool would perform that. And all were proposed to rake in significant project benefits.
I felt myself very much at the communication periphery, and wondered which garden or household equipment might appear next to embellish our conversation. After descriptions of pumping for available resources, cutting back or pruning those no longer required, and drilling down to the key issues, I felt my active imagination exhausted by the dialogue.
Yet no one else appeared fazed by the absence of the customary medical lingo, such as complex endocrinology acronyms, or the MEWS of an observations score. A BRACA reference was my only solace.
But I kept quiet, and tried to remind myself this was only my first meeting. I had much to learn, and didn’t wish to put a spanner in the works just yet.
Susanna Mills is a specialty trainee 1 in public health
Ways of working
public health medicine and community health doctors