The Car

Discuss the quality of the teamwork in your current, or recent clinical placement with one of the clinicians. How do they rate the teamwork? What is their, and your, perception of the main factors that are influencing the adequacy of teamwork in this unit?

The car, by the owner’s own admission, wasn’t reliable at the best of times. It sat in the hospital carpark, a great marooned land yacht of a thing, with its hood propped up, offering a glimpse of the ancient looking mechanics lurking within. Its metallic burgundy paint gleamed in the sunlight, reflecting every cloud in the sky in crisp and deep detail. I looked on in confusion as the psychiatrist fussed about in the engine bay, twisting and tightening and adjusting all sorts of odds and ends. His crisply pressed white business shirt had its sleeves rolled up just above the elbows, as to not get his cufflinks snagged on anything.

It was a 1996 Ford LTD he’d told me, one of very few left. He’d gone on to explain the origin and particulars of the car, using jargon that seemed even more mysterious than the medical jargon he used on the ward. Something about cubic inches and gears and differentials. I’d been sure to nod along during the exposition.

“Right,” he said abruptly, bringing me out of a daydream, “this is where you come in. You have to bring your car up nice and close, close enough for the cables to reach across from your car’s battery to mine.” He walked around to the trunk of the old Ford and produced a set of red and black jumper cables.

“Um, okay,” I responded with an air of confusion.

“Okay, let me explain it one more time,” he said, an edge of exasperation creeping into his voice, “my car’s battery is dead, I’m not certain why, it’s pretty new, but I think something faulty is in the electrical system is sapping it. The only way I can get it to start, so we can all call it a day and go home, is if you help me jump start it. To do that, all we need to do is temporarily wire up your car’s battery to mine. That’s it. Comprende?”

The Spanish he threw in for good measure jolted me into action, and with a sigh I began to move towards my car. I made a quick job of parking it nose to nose with the antique limousine, and propped the hood up to initiate the procedure. At the doctor’s instruction I left my car’s motor running, and it quietly hummed away as he started making the necessary connections. “You’re paying attention to how its done?” he asked as he worked.

“I’m not sure this is in the fourth year logbook.” The length of the day and abnormality of the task at hand lent a frustrated sharpness to my response, but the psychiatrist just chuckled.

“This is more important than almost anything in that logbook, one day you’ll see.” He stopped what he was doing and turned to me. “Look, this is an unconventional form of aid you’re being asked to offer here, but on this team, you’ll see that unorthodox help is sometimes necessary.”

“Is that so?” I was intrigued.

“Of course, I mean we deal with the most confronting, most demanding, most mentally unfit patients with the lowest absolute treatment success rate of any field. We’re under constant stress, and if we’re not willing to be there for each other in moments of trouble, we’ll be admitted as in patients ourselves,” he explained, “every member on that team has something that I don’t have, and I need to collaborate everyday as a result. Whether it’s the social worker’s ability to secure housing for a patient, a reg that can talk a patient into taking their medication, or a medical student that possesses a car battery that can hold a charge, I’m always relying on the cooperation of my team.”

He turned back to the engine bay of his car as he continued to explain, “we’re a team. Lone wolves don’t last too long in this game.” He added a final adjustment to the cables. Happy with how everything was looking, he moved to the driver seat of the LTD, and turned the key. After a few moments of the starter motor ticking away and the engine labouring to turn over, the car roared to life. After a few moments of the V8’s proud roar reverberating through the carpark, it settled into a smooth purr. The psychiatrist removed the cables from the cars and proceeded to drop both of their bonnets.

He produced his fountain pen from his pocket, “in the spirit of such teamwork, I’ll tell you what, I can sign your logbook for spectating ECT. I mean, this was basically Electroconvulsive Therapy, just on my car rather than a patient.” After foraging around in my bag, I handed him my logbook, and he scratched his signature down. He returned the book and moved back to his car. “Adios” he said before shutting the driver’s door.

I looked on as the gleaming red limousine slowly rumbled out of the parking lot and turned onto the main road outside the hospital, and waited for the distinctive vintage drone to recede into the distance.


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