Lesson 105 Everybody Needs A Good Checklist

Lesson 105 on Drills for everything


When I think about best practice in the places where I worked, it almost always had to do with basic organisation and culture. There was an attitude that certain things were expected of all staff and that particular key things must be done to a specific pattern.

As a result these things just became second nature.  However inconvenient or awkward it might be, you followed the drill.

In Mandy’s school we had a non-accidental injury checklist which was treated as holy writ, but we also had an attempted suicide drill.  In a school full of adolescent girls from difficult home situations, attempted suicides were not uncommon.

It was usually somebody’s best friend who alerted a teacher or Mrs Nurse, and the moment the alarm was raised, the drill was followed to the letter.  Not a minute was lost.  Medical assistance was obtained with the least hold-up possible. 

The worst time was Friday afternoon, when Mrs Nurse went home early, and the designated First Aiders were busy teaching. Normally one or other of these would accompany the pupil to A&E, while a senior teacher contacted the parent or guardian and also tried to glean any helpful details from the informant.

There was no panic or rushing about.  Everybody knew what to do. No energy was wasted on dramatics.

But on a Friday afternoon it would end up being me who went to A&E.  On one such occasion it was Kirsty who said she had taken “some pills”.  Quite honestly I didn’t believe her.  She couldn’t give any details of what she had taken or where she had got them or what sort of container they had been in or what she had done with it. But the drill had to be followed.

Halfway to the hospital, she told me she was lying.

“It doesn’t make any difference, once you’ve said it, we’ve got to go!” I wasn’t feeling overly sympathetic. 

“But I don’t want to go to the hospital.  They might pump my stomach!”. Kirsty had heard tales of this from others.

“Saying that just makes it worse! You might be lying now, because you’re scared of what might happen at A&E!  It’s too late – I’m afraid we’re both stuck with it now!”

Kirsty looked miserable.  I was fed up too. Together we were a gloomy pair.  We sat in A&E waiting for her mother to arrive. She wouldn’t be best pleased either.

Kirsty sat close to me and sniffled.  “I’m sorry Miss!”  I began to stop feeling bad tempered and gave her a friendly nudge instead.

“Well, next time just come and tell one of us what’s upsetting you. Then we can try and do something about it, without having to spend hours in A&E first! OK?”. Kirsty nodded, and we resigned ourselves to whatever action the medical personnel might decide take.

The following Monday morning my group were sorting themselves out and chatting.  Balvinder had had a bad weekend.  She sympathised with Kirsty.

“I was so fed up of things on Sunday” she said matter of factly, “I decided I would kill myself!”

“That sounds a bit drastic!” I exclaimed.

“Well, they drive me up the wall!  You don’t know my family! I can’t get away from them!  Weekends are worst, all the aunties and their horrible children come round.”

“So how come you’re still here?” asked one of her friends with interest.

“I went to the bathroom to find some pills, and I was going through the bathroom cupboard, but it took a while because the names on the labels were hard to read.”

So?” prompted her friend.

“People kept knocking on the door and asking what on earth I was doing in there and when was I going to come out, because they needed to use the toilet.”

She tossed her head in disgust as she gathered up her things for the next lesson.

“See, Miss, you can’t even get enough peace and quiet in my house to commit suicide!”