I worked in Information Technology (I.T.) for many years and for much of that period I had responsibility for recruiting I.T. support staff, the people who would fix your computer, show you how to use software, put toner in the laser printer, those sorts of jobs. By the time I’d advertised the role and reduced the number of candidates to a manageable short list, I was already confident that each of the people on the short list was technically qualified to fulfil the role. That meant that the job interview was less about technical qualifications and more about what I termed ‘People Fixing’. I defined ‘People Fixing’ as the ability to communicate with anyone at any level, empathise with the computer user’s problem and understand the broader context of that problem e.g. a looming deadline, potential loss of revenue or simply the user having a bad day.
It is my contention that we should expect the same ‘People Fixing’ from our doctors, consultants and surgeons.
With two notable exceptions I’ve been lucky that most of the people involved in my care have, on the whole, been good ‘People Fixers’. The first exception was a consultant responsible for my pre-dialysis care who never struck me as being technically competent in Renal Medicine and certainly wasn’t a ‘People Fixer’. The second exception was a consultant responsible for my post-transplant care with whom I couldn’t establish any sort of rapport. This lack of rapport made me reluctant to discuss any problems I had even though I had no doubts as to his medical competence.
When we meet those professionals charged with our care, we take on trust that they are technically competent. However it is the softer skills of ‘People Fixing’ that we remember and ultimately that make the difference.