20 April 2011 (Wednesday) - The Future...?

Today’s lunchtime seminar at work was on the latest Government’s initiative “Modernising Scientific Careers”. This is something with which I’ve been trying to get to grips for some time. The talk went on for the best part of three quarters of an hour, and in retrospect I can’t honestly say that I’m any the wiser.
But from what I can discern (and I could have this wrong), apparently there is a need to standardise scientific training in the health care professions and this will take place in conjunction with a rather radical overhaul of the jobs that we do in the laboratory. Historically we’ve (effectively) had four tiers of staff in the average path lab.

  • Workers who do all the mundane donkey-work (where I started!)
  • Technical bods who do the scientific stuff that needs a bit of understanding (like me!)
  • Managerial types who run the show (like I used to be!)
  • Consultant-clinical types who liaise with the doctors (like I chose NOT to be).
This is all to change. Effectively the managerial types will be out on their ears, and with the advent of modern robotic blood testing technology there will a major expansion of the role of the worker grades at the expense of the technical bods (like me!)
Those technical bods remaining (like me!) will in future be greatly reduced in numbers and will be trained alongside medics at a small number of nationally recognised institutions and will operate in a far more patient centred manner.
Or that’s the theory. And it has to be said that this is a theory with a lot of unanswered questions. Exactly what was wrong with the current condition of the workplace was never made clear. Who (exactly and specifically) will run these labs of the future? How exactly does a blood-tester work in a far more patient-centred manner? How do we encourage these clinical-scientists of the future to relocate to district general hospitals when we currently struggle to recruit staff at the equivalent pay bands? What would I personally do in this lab of the future?

What will actually happen in practice is anyone’s guess. My personal (and rather cynical) view is that it will go one of two ways.
Either the whole thing will be abandoned in favour of another crackpot scheme hatched by a different politician to the one who thought this one up.
Or it will take so long to implement that I will be safely retired before the consequences of the change affect me personally.

And so, after a rather stressy day at work I came home to find the postman had tried to deliver a parcel and had given up. So I had to go collect my package. As always I parked half a mile from the collection office, paid the obligatory 80p to park, and hiked off to get my delivery. As usual the delivery staff were at their most obnoxious. They made a point of demanding to see multiple identifications from the chap in front of me, presumably because he wasn’t brandishing any. But when I tried to show them my passport to prove my bona fide, they rudely dismissed it.
As I walked back through the car park, a mad woman started regaling me the tale of all the money she’d put into the car park’s ticket machine. I nodded politely – it took a few moments for me to realise she was expecting me to do something about it. After she’d ranted at me and then apologised to me, it turned out she thought I was some sort of official because I was wearing a tie. She rather hinted that if I was going to go around wearing a tie, then I should expect this sort of misunderstanding.

And so home again to unwrap my parcel – my Kindle has arrived! Having ordered it through my Amazon account it came pre-programmed with all my details, and it’s great. I’ve already downloaded four books onto it; three of which were free.
On reflection I can’t help but think that the joy of e-books will be the ease of purchasing them. Using the Kindle’s own software and 3G wotsit I can order a book and be reading it less than a minute later. There will be no mucking about going up to town and mingling with the Great Unwashed (bless them!), or having to go to the post office to collect parcels.

Something else abut the Kindle which is frankly amazing is its storage capacity. I have eight book shelves at home. All are overflowing with books. I’ve taken one shelf at random – it has seventy six books on it. Which (in theory) means I must have about six hundred books. Actually it would be quite a bit less, as many of my books are hardbacks, and take up a lot of space. But even taking six hundred as a reasonable estimate, my Kindle can hold five times that amount of books, and it is smaller than the average paperback.
I just need to find some way of storing the DVDs in such a space-saving way….

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