I was at a Rotary meeting the other day talking with a retired Urologist in my community. Dr. Dave is not only a great guy, but a pioneer in building a premier specialty medical practice. Dr. Dave and I were talking about on-call scheduling (of course) and he made a great comment, he said that trying to get someone else to do the call schedule was like trying to give away a skunk. I thought his comment was funny, as did the others at my table, but it was only later that evening when I was reflecting back on my day when I started to really think about Dr. Dave’s comment.
Creating, maintaining and communicating the on-call schedule for a group of doctors is apparently a pretty crappy job. Some would say it really stinks. I have not been on the medical side of on-call, as a business owner of a software company I get calls regularly at all times of the day and night when we have a technical problem. Although I don’t have to get-up and go save a life, I do agree with the general premise that being on-call sucks.
On the flip side for the past 6 years of my professional career I have been exclusively dedicated to the trials and tribulations of creating, maintaining and communicating the physician on-call schedule. I hear over and over how much work and complexity is involved in trying to schedule a group of specialty physicians by hand. It was intriguing to me that Dr. Dave’s analogy of this job was using the most disgusting; smelly animal there is to describe a job that 1 in 10 doctors will have to do in their lifetime, and most will do it for free.
It is true that if you get to close to a skunk and it alarms them or if you run-one over with your car, it will release a foul smell that in my opinion smells just like the lunch meat, bologna. But I have also heard over the years and verified it on Google that skunks really aren’t all that bad. In fact some people even have them as pets, and those that do claim they are pretty damn cool. Apparently you can have a skunk as a pet if you have its scent glands surgically removed when it's about 4 weeks old. Thus rendering this animal into a cat-like pet. I wonder how hard it is to give away a skunk that has had its stink-glands removed? I bet not too difficult.
I think the same analogy would hold true for doctors on-call scheduling. There is a way to make this crappy job, not so crappy. Give yourself tools to help. Software exists and has for 10 years that will help you create, maintain and communicate the physician on-call in more than half the time it takes by hand or with Excel. It will not only do a better job at fairness, but can accommodate the complexity and hi-tech demands of the modern day medical specialist. The cost is reasonable and the risk is very low. Software will really take the stink away from the administrative part of this job.
Key Takeaway: If you are trying to give away a skunk, be sure you take the stink out before you try.