I wasn’t out on visits today. Instead I was on the rota as Assistant Coordinator.
It always makes me feel I should be wearing a shiny foil suit, frantically working a console of levers, buttons and dials, whilst sparks fizz up and down a V-shaped wire and a theramin plays in the background. And up on a gold & tinsel draped dais behind me, The Coordinator, a pulsating brain in a bottle, where the plasma bubbles a soothing green when They are pleased, and boils red when They are Not.
Actually what it means is riding shotgun on the computers and phones at the operational heart of a madly busy community health team. It means being able to troubleshoot a hundred things at once, each as important as the next. A better analogy would be the floor of the Stock Exchange. Although, to be fair, that’s as removed from my experience as the sci-fi scenario I started with – and if there’s anything at all you can take from any of this, it’s that I watch too many films. In a Stock Exchange (I imagine), you’d be surrounded by people shaking bits of paper in your face shouting buy, buy, buy, or sell, sell, sell. So the only difference I can see between ‘Assisting the Coordinator’ and ‘The Floor of the Stock Exchange’ is that the latter has some money behind it. Here in the NHS, despite hospital avoidance teams being at the sharp and potentially very effective end of health care – and definitely the place you’d want to invest in if you were at all serious in freeing-up space in our overcrowded hospitals – well, apparently there isn’t even the money to put enough sockets in the room so everyone can charge their laptops at once, and there’s a sign up in the kitchen asking for donations for a new kettle.
So anyway. Assistant Coordinator.
It means taking a phone call from a tearfully furious daughter who is telling you their mother turned the carer away yet again this morning despite everything that had been said about it in the past and despite all assurances, because although she’s very convincing she actually has dementia you know and needs those medications (it’s the first you’ve heard of it) … whilst three people stand behind your chair, one with a folder, one with a sheet of paper, one with laptop … whilst someone the other side of the desk divide shakes their head with their eyes closed and waves a phone in the air for the second time like that’s all I need to leap over and grab it like a salmon responding to a cleverly manipulated fly … whilst fifteen other people around you are having conversations at an unhelpfully loud volume … and you suddenly remember you were supposed to ring that doctor back … and you haven’t saved the last information you inputted on the database … or have you? … and, great, your pen runs out.
Skills required: Communicator, Counsellor, Clinician, IT whizz, Diplomat, Strategist and Life Coach. But more than any of this you need to be able to look the Coordinator straight in the boiling brain and say WTF? Shall I make us some tea?
And when you get back, gently tip it in their bottle.