Blog Courtesy of Joanne Dowds
End of November, its properly dark, waking up to thrumping of heavy rain on the roof and the wind rattling through the roof tiles. It is horrible weather; I don’t mind it too much I am generally feeling content, it could even be described as happy. A few weeks ago after a good night’s sleep I shared this fact with work colleagues and one split her coffee in shock. I’m not any fitter than I was 6 months to a year ago, probably less so, I am not younger than I have been anytime in the past (though inventing a time machine to go back a few years would make me fabulously happy and potentially very rich) and I am not more financially savvy or anything more. In fact, in essentials I am probably exactly where I was this time last year and not too far off where I was 3 years ago, just the few additional wrinkles. Was I a misery then or am I more accepting now? What has made a difference, what has changed?
When I was attempting to understand something that randomly upset me, an explanation for my current state of mind came to me. I was listening to the radio on the way home from work when I had an episode of pure crystallised rage. The radio show conversation meandered into the healthcare system and how we have the worse in the world. It’s an individual’s opinion but it’s not true. There is international evidence that while yes we do have areas in healthcare to work on, we are not worst, not by a long shot. This was drive time radio, a large audience listening to an opinion which will be recounted and soak further into the national psyche. I work in healthcare; I know the challenges, the financial constraints, the daily heartbreak of dealing with disease and death. I live all of that, but I also see, every single day, the evidence of improvement, of change, of dedicated people working hard to make things better. So what did I do? Well I ranted on paper a list of questions that I nearly fired off in a snotty email, but I took a breath and went to the gym to burn off the rage and thought about why I felt so mad while doing splits on a rower. It was productive- I calmed down after 15 minutes and several thousand metres. What had bothered me was the purely negative narrative, the blind acceptance that it was the truth of the matter and while it isn’t false it isn’t the whole truth either.
Healthcare is difficult and complex; life is difficult and complex. It comes in waves, never all good never all bad and absolutely never permanent. What you look for you will find. Ranting or complaining is an easy way to bind people together but it isn’t productive. If you want to make a difference, if you want to do better, be better, you need to build. Not moan, not give out or complain, not pull down. It probably is just more life experience that I have made determined efforts to not give in to the easy option; to look for solutions rather than look for problems. A solution based approach, business speak for looking for a way around difficulties rather than being caught up in them. As a human being I am very far for perfect and I have made lots of mistakes but I have done my best with the knowledge I had available to me at the time. I am slightly more flexible in my thinking which means I can always change my mind, when I know more, I can do better. I can still see all the difficulties in the world but if I try (and we all try a little bit) collectively we can achieve.
So back to my tsunami of rage, it went when I understood its source -what felt like unjustified ranting, black and white think. Healthcare (again like life) works in many variations and shades of grey. I am back to an calm emotional sea and my question to those involved in that discussion is more along the lines of tell me about why you think that? And I suspect the answer to that is a media headline. As a point of balance for I would ask that those that wish to have a more balanced view of the negative healthcare headlines would also listen to the quieter stories of success and kindness. Ciara Kelly piece on Newstalk discussing the National Patient Survey results on Newstalk is a good starting place.