But the way that we say them. Two things this week have prompted me to think about the things that are said and the way in which they are said and the importance of how they are interpreted by others. Last night I was watching a UK hospital drama, well more like a soap seeing as it seems to be on all the time. I don’t think it portrays hospital life exactly as it is, well I know it doesn’t, but haven’t worked on a hospital ward for so long that it is best I don’t make any assumptions. A very unpleasant patient and his family were portrayed on last nights episode (now as we know not everyone is nice so it is possible that sick people can be unpleasant), and during heated conversations he told the black female doctor that he preferred to see the organ grinder not the monkey. Now this was meant and taken as a racist comment, but it can also be used as just a derogatory comment used in anger, I know this because a patient once used it on me.
As a specialist nurse I worked in clinic with the consultant. Patients were booked in to see me, usually to start on new medication, discuss progress with their condition and the like. They were always able, at the very least to have their cased discussed on the spot with the consultant and often to see him if necessary. On the day in question a man with recently diagnosed rheumatoid arthritis arrived to see me to start on new medication having seen the consultant a week or two before. He walked, or limped in, sat down. I began to ask him about his symptoms and talk about the proposed medication and in response he looked me up and down and said, hmm well, actually I would prefer to see the organ grinder and not the monkey. A little stung, but keeping my composure I told him that I would go and speak to the consultant right now and left the room.
The consultant was incensed and marched down the corridor to the consulting room and told the patient in no uncertain terms that he would not accept that kind of behaviour, that I was very experienced, but that I always consulted with him. Then calming down he examined the patient who had a particularly swollen and painful knee. A stroke of luck then ensued, because he said, well we need to get you on these new tablets and Julie will go through them now, but also you need your knee aspirating and injecting and Julie is fully qualifed to do this for you. When the man returned 6 weeks later for a follow up he was full of praise for me and from then he often came to my clinics, and never grudgingly.
The second incident is completely different but if anything more disturbing. Apparently if you are applying to adopt a second child in an area near to here, then it would be best if you called your first child’s real mother their ‘tummy mummy’ and not birth mother. Because if you are using the wrong terminology then it may put the process in jeopardy. Never mind that you are making a pretty good job of bringing your 4 year old up and that child is happy and well adjusted. Some social workers still seem to like the power they have and that is all I will say about it.