Sometimes Only a Buzzword Will Do

I literally groaned when my clerk handed me the plastic reference card to place on my houndstooth lanyard. If you work for the government or a large corporation, you know what I’m talking about.

Those lovely little laminated jewels have all the answers to every conceivable scenario or crisis. Surrounded by a 10-foot wall of flames? No problem. Just remember–“R-A-C-E” (Remove, Activate, Confine, Extinguish) and “P-A-S-S” (Pull, Aim, Squeeze, Sweep).

Of course, by the time you fumble through them, find the right one and read it, the point is moot because now you’re soot.

“Don’t worry,” he said as he watched me reach around and rub my neck in anticipation of the extra weight.  “This one’s a replacement. We’re not ‘Passing the Baton’ anymore. Now we’re ‘SBARing.'”

FYI, “I Pass The Baton” stands for “Introduction, Patient, Assessment, Situation, Safety, the, Background, Action, Timing, Ownership, Next.” As if you didn’t know, “SBAR” is short for “Situation, Background, Assessment, Recommendation.” Yes, we pay people good money to make these things up.

I threw away “I Pass The Baton,” and clipped on “SBAR.” I suddenly felt twenty pounds lighter. Now if we could just cut deficit spending the way we are our acronyms, our grandchildren might have a future after all.

Where I work, acronyms and buzzwords are thicker than gnats on a muggy, Deep South summer evening–you practically have to brush them away with your hands in order to simply breathe. I’ve survived 17 years worth of staff meetings where the latest and greatest IDEAS! are trotted out by silently playing “BS Bingo” or else drifting away to some happy place inside my head which usually looks conspicuously like one of those chillin’-at-the-beach Corona commercials.

But I’ll admit there are sometimes when only a good buzzword or phrase will do: like “stretching your comfort zone,” or “outside the box.”

My “box” is rectangular in shape, and is approximately 1800 square feet. It’s there, inside my clinic, that I’m in my “comfort zone.” I’m the ruling monarch of a pint-sized kingdom; there’s not much I can’t make happen there with just a few words or a wave of my hand.

Other bureaucratic overlords pass through from time-to-time, and while they may pick, mettle and demand a shilling or two of tribute (because that is, after all, their purpose in being), they dare not linger too long. When it comes to eyes, they are generally in awe of the great mysteries and rites taking place within my tiny temple. I am the High Priest of Eyeballs, and they know they’re a little out of their league.

But for the next week, I will venture out of my “box” to a place where the Big Question is not “Which is better, one or two?” but instead “¿Cuál es mejor, uno o dos?”

Health Talents International’s Clinica Ezell in Montellano, Guatemala is waay outside my “comfort zone,” far away from bureaucratic overlords, politicians and pundits–yes, even out of earshot of Glen Beck.

I’m going there with Eyegal and Numbers One and Three Sons (Number Two’s Spring break was last week, unfortunately, so he’ll hold down the fort stateside this time). We’re part of a team of health care professionals, their families and college students from around the country who will staff eye surgery and orthopedics clinics for the next week.

I don’t feel that I have to travel to a foreign country to accomplish a “mission.” I honestly believe that each day in my clinic is just that. But it’s been a long time since I’ve stepped outside my cozy box, and it was time to shake things up a bit and seek out some new adventure.

I know the whole experience will wrong-foot me at first. I’ll be dependent on other people who understand the lay of the land and the language better than me. I’ll be forced to improvise and make-do, to practice some basic, M*A*S*H-style, in-the-trenches eye care. But I’ll manage, and it’ll be good for me to take some time off from being a “king” and become a lowly serf instead.

So say a prayer, light a candle or wish us well that our trip may be safe and successful. Hopefully I’ll return with a t-shirt, some good coffee and a story or two to tell.

Until then: ¡Adios, amigos!

  1. laurie

    How dare you volunteer?!?  That is SO unAmerican!  I’ll bet you’re a closet commie who secretly believes in social justice, too! ;-)Seriously, though, well done.  I have always wished I had medical talents I could share through something like this.  The week I spent in small-town Mexico working at a mission — among other things hand-digging the foundation for a new computer center because the heavy equipment just isn’t there and the people with shovels are — changed my life, and my husband’s and kids’ lives too.    Please come back with lots of stories. 

  2. Mike the Eyeguy

    Thanks, Laurie. Glen said “Just leave!” so I decided to go all the way and get the heck out of Dodge–heh.

  3. Leave it to me to really get the most from this blog by missing the main point of the blog, but I sent a link to the BS Bingo game for my younger brother! He will be able to put that to good use.

  4. CarolinaGirl

    ME:  Thanks for doing what you’re doing.BTW – if you really want to talk accronyms sometime, I can tell you how to get to the PX by turning left at the BX as you pass CIF on the right and ACS on the left…..

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