You need to eat lunch and make mistakes

One of the lessons I try to convey to junior doctors (or in my case and after nearly a decade, more junior junior doctors) is the importance of getting lunch. If it’s 11am, the ward round has finished and you don’t have urgent jobs to do, I don’t care if it’s the morning – go and have your lunch. 

The nature of a hospital is that you never know what is round the corner. If you don’t eat now, you might not eat again until you leave and if it’s busy, that might not be until 7pm. That is bad for you and bad for your patients. It is a dereliction of your duty of care to them. 

It is just over 3 weeks until polling day. You need to ensure you, your candidate, your staff, your volunteers and everybody involved is healthy and not going hungry. It is bad for you and your campaign if you do not eat when you get the chance. It is a dereliction of your duty of care to it.

Imagine turning to current or former healthcare workers, paramedics, firefighters, police officers, members of the armed services, or members of the security services and saying “this is an emergency and lunch can’t wait”, about whatever it is you think can’t wait and imagine their reaction. I have told people their loved ones are not going to leave hospital, attended so many cardiac arrests that I have forgotten most of them, and have had adults and children literally die in my hands. Imagine telling me what you’re about to do is an emergency.

This doesn’t mean the committee room on polling day should turn into a place to have a conversation. It isn’t – go stand outside if you want to just have a chat and stop asking the people who are putting the data in “how’s it going?” (even if you’re the candidate). Let staff and volunteers do their work.

But if you’re a person with authority in the party, your volunteers and staff are going to make mistakes. Perhaps you think the best way to get things done is by shouting at people. Perhaps you don’t think people should be making mistakes. Perhaps you’re working full-time and nobody who works for you has admitted a mistake to you so far. If any of these are true, resign – you are incompetent and have no place in professional politics.

I’m not talking about the person who is usually calm and occasionally loses their cool. We all have a bad day. Nor the person whose behaviour has changed. That may be a sign of burnout. But the person for whom bullying and aggression is their default approach to managing their junior colleagues.

If you’re new to the party (and particularly if you’re young or this is your first job), if you’re working hard and you make a mistake, the right thing to do is tell your boss. The vast majority of the time, the mistake can be rectified and it can be rectified more easily if you let them know as soon as possible. 

But really, I’m here to tell you: you are doing absolutely fine. In fact, since you’ve given up your free time or possibly a more lucrative career to do this, what you’ve done is nothing short of amazing.

CivilitySavesLives.com is the website of Dr Chris Turner, an emergency medicine consultant in the West Midlands. His website shows and references evidence proving that rudeness and incivility lead to reduction in performance.

This is him at TEDx Exeter. Think about this the next time you shout at somebody.

* Rajin Chowdhury is a junior doctor specialising in anaesthetics and critical care. He has been selected as Sheffield South East parliamentary candidate

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5 Comments

  • “But the person for whom bullying and aggression is their default approach to managing their junior colleagues.”

    Sadly too many of those in every organisation, the LDs included. The thing is, they won’t recognise themselves reading this.

  • When I rewrote the party’s election campaign guides I made specific reference to committee room machismo saying that the traditional approach of not allowing people breaks, putting lots of milk in tea so it was cold and people drank it quicker should be consigned to the past.

    Though when I resigned from the party – after a particularly unpleasant election campaign where at one point I couldn’t face the unpleasant activists I was working with so I just announced I was taking the day off (about a week before polling day – i think those who know me would say how unusual that was for me) – because I was fed up with the bullying nature of those activists several friends/colleagues emailed me to say someone of my experience couldn’t really have been bullied and I should just stay and fight more corner. Whilst I’ve rejoined I wouldn’t get involved again.

  • Good to have you back Hywel

  • Laurence Cox 20th Nov '19 - 12:57pm

    One of the lessons I try to convey to junior doctors (or in my case and after nearly a decade, more junior junior doctors) is the importance of getting lunch. If it’s 11am, the ward round has finished and you don’t have urgent jobs to do, I don’t care if it’s the morning – go and have your lunch.

    Interestingly, when working with Army personnel I found they said exactly the same thing. If you miss the opportunity for a brew or a bite to eat, you don’t know when the next opportunity will come or what you will have to do before then (it could also be much longer than 8 hours).

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