16 July 2009

Culture Clash

One of the weird things about medicine is the hours we keep. They're kinda like "Banker's hours" only shifted three hours forward, and three hours back, on each end. I hadn't really thought about this much till recently, when a few events sort of reminded me of how the rest of the world works.

First, I went to a meeting of a charitable foundation's board I serve on. It's a big board with about thirty directors at least, and I would guess there are about five docs on the board, as it is a medical charity. One item of business was that the meeting schedule was being revised -- meetings were being moved from 9AM to 7AM, to better accommodate the physicians on the board. This seemed sensible to me and I was making the change in iCal when I noticed a lot of grumbling around the table. It seemed that everybody else was really unhappy about such an early start time. This sort of perplexed me, since 7AM is a perfectly normal time to have a meeting. I'm not in charge of this meeting, though, so I let it be and moved on with my day.

A bit later, I was at our business office, managing a few routine items with our office manager. As I left, I said "I'll see you tomorrow at the Board meeting." She responded with a sigh, "Yeah, bright and early at seven AM. Another early day." Again, sort of weird that someone would be visibly bummed about such a normal thing, but I didn't give it a lot of thought.

Then, I was trying to set up a meeting with our hospital's CEO to renew our contract. We were having trouble coordinating our schedules: he's very busy and I take a lot of vacations. Finally, in frustration, he suggested 6:00 one morning for the date and it worked for both of us, so there it was. A 6:00 AM meeting.

I mentioned this to my wife, who is what we call a "normal person," and her reaction honestly surprised me. "WTF? you have a meeting at 6:00 AM? Who the hell schedules meetings before seven?" It had never occurred to me that this would be an unusual time to have a business meeting.

My wife, an engineer by trade, set me straight. In the real world, nobody ever ever ever sets meetings before nine AM at the earliest. In fact, in the real world, most people start their work day at nine, not six or seven. Normal people can get up, work out, eat breakfast, shower, take the kids to school and still get to work on time. Weird. I've just been in the medical world fo so long that I kind of forget how everybody else lives. You get acculturated to 5AM pre-rounds and 7AM surgical start times in medical school, and after that you never look back. I'd kinda like to try that sort of lifestyle -- it sounds nice.

Just for the record, I was in the ER and seeing patients at 6:00 this morning. Some things will never change, I guess.


  1. I was just talking to Luke about this subject but it was east coast verus midwest/west. Luke has had 7:00am meetings 2 days in a row. Now, his meeting require only that he slog to the basement in his pajamas and pick up the phone so not a big deal, but normally he gets out of bed at 7 and is at work (in the basement) by 8.

    When we lived on the east coast people didn't arrive to the office until 9. 9:00 meeting hurt those folks a bit. We were just kind of laughing about how the people at his meeting on the east coast were probably grumbling about the 9:00 start at the same time he had to start at 7:00. It is all relative, I guess.

    Sometimes it bugs we to wait until 9:00 to cal a business. Once you have small children and your day starts at 6:30 am anything 7:00 and after seems civilized.

  2. Another instance that I've noticed - it's much harder to get things done on work days. I've tried to call the cable company when I get home from work several times. Oops, they're not at work at 8pm. And I have so many other things to do on my rare days off that it gets pushed back another week, so therefore I haven't called the cable company to change my service for the past 8 months....

    During a particularly tough stretch (ICU rotation as an intern), I heard someone griping in the grocery store about his boss *forcing* him to work a 53 hour week..... That was eye opening. I had just put in a 90 hour week and didn't think twice about it; and he's griping about an entire "normal" 40 hour work week LESS than mine? I bit my tongue and walked away.

  3. I currently have a pretty set schedule. Weekend nights. Other people do not understand, but I have always worked weekends and appreciate the ability to get things done during the week that others need to take time off to accomplish.

    On the down side, I miss out on all of the lovely crowds and traffic jams that go along with weekend events. I manage to suffer in silence. ;-)

    My first job was as a caddie, so this has always felt normal for me.


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