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PT and the Greater Good

What's Your Tipping Point?

Published January 7, 2014 5:20 PM by Dean Metz

In the year I was back in the US, a very important paper came out here in the UK; the Francis Report, which details the failings of one institution in caring for its patients. This report is having ripple effects through the entire country in terms of lots of bureaucrats creating lots of forms and ticky-box exercises to ensure their Trust doesn't repeat the mistakes of the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust. This is frustrating because it means a lot more work.

Tonight I watched a documentary called "Unforgotten." It's about the patients of Willowbrook, the state school for the disabled on Staten Island that was exposed by Geraldo Rivera in the early 1970s. It was years after Robert F. Kennedy called it a "snake pit" that any staff member spoke up and helped bring to light the horrors that went on within its walls. One of the primary problems at Willowbrook was staffing cuts. By the end, the ratio was one staff member for 40 patients. Is that trend recurring now?

I've read my fellow ADVANCE bloggers' frustrations with insufficient weekend staffing, ridiculous productivity targets, and inappropriate orders for therapy. The responses to these blogs have been even more disheartening. In one case, Michael Kelley was told, "You're being compensated for it. If you don't like it, don't write an article... get a new job."

Other times I've read other professionals talk about how they would speak out if they weren't afraid of losing their job. This idea of toeing the line or suffering the consequences just doesn't sit right with me, it never has. I got into this profession to help people and I've done a fair amount of that in my two decades of being a PT. I'm not about to shut up if I see something unfair to patients. The end result of Willowbrook, the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust, and even two previous employers of mine was a shutdown of operations. I've seen companies come and go... but I'm still here.

I encourage my colleagues to speak out about poor working conditions and insufficient staffing. Don't succumb to the bullies or the fears. Why should a patient's therapy be less on a Saturday because there's fewer staff available? Management wants a seven-day service? Then staff appropriately for it! Management wants productivity targets? Then give the necessary tools and support to reach them! It's time for long-term thinking and planning, not short-term profits.

I think I shall be more patient with the bureaucrat tomorrow. She's just trying to keep Mid-Staffordshire from ever happening here.

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About this Blog

    Dean Metz
    Occupation: Staff Development Specialist
    Setting: New York, NY – Newcastle Upon Tyne, Great Britain
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