On the way out of the hospital yesterday, after an incredibly productive week, I tweeted that catheter ablation was a team sport, and that our team was rocking it. They were; they do all the time.
This response was tweeted back:
…”A team sport? Ahhhh, not sure I would want to hear those words as the patient about to get the ablation.”
This quote made me realize how much heart doctors depend on our teams. For instance, on bike rides with old guys, you often hear someone remark about the fact that they are safe because a heart doctor is on the ride. That’s hooey. What they don’t understand is that without our team and equipment, docs are no more useful than a bystander with a cell-phone.
When the fury of medicine gets unleashed in the heart-rhythm lab,
good quality care requires more than just a well-trained, experienced and rested doctor. We need up-to-date equipment and a skilled team.
The equipment is boring; let me remark about the people.
The folks who stick with electrophysiology (EP) stand out of the crowd. They are not the phone-it-in types who work just to pay their bills. EP staff delight in the eccentricity of it all. They are nurses and radiology technicians by background, but little they learned in school make them good at what they do now. (That’s the same as medical school.)
What makes EP-people good at their jobs is their motivation to learn new things. Complicated things like managing sedation medicine, setting up a vast array of X-Ray and GPS systems, trouble-shooting the four computers that it takes to do an ablation, and even pacing the heart in and out of rhythm. There’s also a bit of daring sprinkled on top. Pacing the heart into a rapid rhythm and pushing the “burn” button isn’t for the lighthearted.
Yes, the EP lab staff are impressive people, but their most striking characteristic might be how well they roll with cardiologists. Let’s just say cardiologists are not the Namaste types. How would like to hear one doc say: “do something to help me,” while another might screech, “stop trying to help me.” The thick skin of EP-lab people seems to reflect inflammation. Good for them.
When I feel the hum that comes after a week of helping (or trying really hard to help) many with the wizardry of high-tech medicine, I want people to know that all that fury comes not just from the doctor, but from a well-oiled team. We doctors can do what we do because of the dedication of others. That’s a really cool part of medicine.
Like coach Norman Dale preached…There’s no I in team.