Common disaster

I love this town. In the event of another disaster in NYC, I want to be able to help. So, years ago, I signed up for the NYC Medical Reserve Corps.

While I thought my services as an emergency physician might be of benefit someday, now I wonder if the most pressing need was for an interface & usability expert. Either that, or years of Google and Apple interfaces have spoiled me to the point where navigating forms online is pretty much unbearable.

The way I understood NYC Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) is this: you sign up. You give some details about yourself and your skill set. You give contact info. The city calls or emails you periodically to verify your info. We all stand ready to help.

Members recently got a flurry of emails about some kind of upgrade. New logins would be necessary, more features, etc.

Here's one small section of the process:

  • Scroll down to “To become a volunteer, click on the Join Now button.”
  • Enter NYC MRC ID and ServNY password, Click on ‘Log In’.
  • When prompted, enter NYC MRC PIN, Click on ‘Continue’.
  • To “Confirm your identity”; Enter last 4 digits of phone number or 5 digit zip code.
  • Click on ‘Continue’. You have now ‘claimed’ NYC MRC records. Continue to Step 3.

But first you've got to get a ServNY userID:

  • Change drop down box “NYC MRC ID” to ‘Yes’.
  • Enter NYC MRC ID and NYC MRC PIN from Go Live/Welcome letter. Case-sensitive. NOTE: PIN is listed as “password” in Go Live/Welcome letter.

It goes on and on like this, forcing you to refer to info from multiple websites and emails. As you fill in the fields, there's often no indication when something worked or didn't. I thought I completed the process on several occasions, only to be unable to login later, or receive a reminder email asking me to repeat the same steps.

To be fair, NYC MRC has offered to help, and set up phone numbers and better step-by-step guides. But I'm also not sure why we're even being forced to re-register. Don't they already have my contact info? Isn't that pretty much all that's needed?

I think, like with many systems and institutions, something got lost along the line, and a simple volunteer network became a massive bureaucracy. The simple act of offering to help, and providing contact information, is now insufficient. There's too many hoops to jump through, for the privilege of helping New Yorkers.

Brothers in arms

It's happened again.

Almost every day, I get a brochure or three about courses, credentialing, or some educational opportunities for doctors. I thought it would let up when I passed the boards, but no.

On many of them, there's stock photography like this:
If you're too lazy to click the link, that's ok, I'm too lazy to import the pics. I'll save you some time:

Everyone one of these pictures, and most of these brochures, feature a doctor with his or her arms crossed. Often, they're looking at the camera, with an air of seriousness and, I daresay, a trace of disapproval.

I can understand maybe patients seeing us this way -- we have some experience and education, and a lot our workload comes from theoretically preventable disease. So a doctor with arms folded might work if you're trying to sell treadmills or grape nuts.

But is this an image that works on other doctors? Are we more likely to sign up for a board review course if it's offered to us by a stern, standoffish colleague?

Then I think back to medical school, and realize: of course.