Is the ER similar to software bug fixing?

Friday evening was a long wait. My son Timothy (despise not his youth) ran his bar foot into a pitch fork. We made out way to the emergency dept in Salmon Arm, BC and the next 3.5 hours felt strangely familiar!

I watched people walk into the ER and get “triaged” just like defects in software get “prioritized”. There was a diagnosis and the “issue” was put into the queue (or waiting room in this case). It was amazing to see the similarities having worked in software development for over 15 years I could almost anticipate some of the events that would happen. As I mentioned in my previous blog there was the ever important question (and this time it is more important to answer in the ER) regarding quantity or quality treatment of the “Bug”. The ER was filling up fast with motor vehicle accidents, but also with cases that definitely did not need to be in the queue. “Bugs” that get into the queue slow down everything for everyone (except for the critical bugs that get addressed immediately).

It is harder to measure quality when it comes to the ER. In our case we arrived and were placed into the queue at 8:30pm, and were seen by the doctor at 11:30pm to finally receive the “fix” for Timothy’s wound. But one thing that I couldn’t help but notice was the atmosphere being “work harder not smarter”. Take for example the people in the bed beside us. An elderly man was in a car accident and was having tremendous difficulty trying to stand up. The hospital staff did not once offer to keep him longer until he could walk but kept encouraging him to take time and get up. In the end the couple ended up getting a local hotel room and the hospital gave them valium to ease the pain.

When I say “we want quality” this applies to every aspect of life doesn’t it? I find it unfortunate that our rare visit to the ER brought strangely familiar feelings, feelings from a distant land of cut-throat budgets, layoffs and numbers games all making sense in the minds of a small handful of individuals but not making sense to anyone else.


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