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Coffee time is about much more than coffee

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 03 June 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3444

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Re: Coffee time is about much more than coffee

In addition, the coffee break used to be a significant part of the day for hospital doctors.

The following is a modified version of a letter published in the Aberdeen Press & Journal on 4 Nov, 2013.

In the distant past, after a ward round, medical and nursing staff used to repair to sister's room for coffee. Discussion about individual patients and their needs continued away from the bedside. More significantly, these brief interludes fostered team spirit among medical and nursing staff. The first nail in the coffin of this convivial custom was a management edict that henceforth doctors must wash their own cups. Soon after sisters' rooms were abolished.

Management, intent upon containment of the apparently unjustified privileges of senior medical and nursing staff, were wholly insensitive to the way in which the traditional unit system fostered an invaluable esprit de corps. The value of that aspiration was intangible but it nurtured fulfilment in nursing and medical staff and formed a basis for clinical excellence.

Managers (and politicians) would do well to reflect on the aphorism that hung on the wall in Albert Einstein's office at Princeton: "Not all that counts can be counted and not all that can be counted counts".

Competing interests: No competing interests

17 June 2014
Norman A Matheson
Consultant surgeon retired
Aberdeen, AB13 0HX