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Saturday, April 2, 2011

On the Road Again

Remarkably, I've only taken three work trips so far this year.  Luckily, I have been doing transcons so my mileage balances and quest for elite status aren't suffering too terribly (12 segments and 17,000 qualifying miles in 2011).  That said, I haven't had a lot of travel stuff to report lately but here is a summary of this week's travel highlights.

Read a Great Book...maybe not suggested in-flight reading
I've read all of Atul Gawande's books and generally I enjoy reading non-fiction, memoirs, or other books/essays that can be digested in snippets since I don't get a lot of focused un-interrupted reading time.  His latest book (that I am finally getting around to reading), "The Checklist Manifesto" was no exception and I was easily able to tear through it on the flight from SFO->IAD (San Francisco to Washington Dulles).  A lot of the book tells stories of avoidable aviation disasters and the response to those issues in flight so be advised that maybe it is a little too chilling to read while actually on an airplane.  I thought it was really well-developed, interesting, and it still has me thinking about how I can apply some of the concepts to my daily work.

I am not a surgeon or a pilot so my work isn't exactly life or death and I really do have time to ponder through problems and work out the right solutions.  However, just because I have that luxury of taking my time, should I really waste the time when I could free myself up for other more interesting assignments or simply produce more?  I just want to get things done. Right. The first time.  So using a checklist isn't about writing down a procedure from nuts to bolts.  It is about identifying what the critical or gating points are of any process and making sure those are done correctly and in the right sequence so that downstream errors are avoided.

Some of the common problem areas we experience in clinical operations are sites that are not recruiting enough subjects, delays in study timelines or deliverables, and failure to communicate critical study information in a timely fashion.  I'm still thinking of others.  I really liked this book and I do recommend it.  I hope to develop a related blog series at some point after I have let the concepts percolate a little longer.

TSA Full-Body Massage
It may surprise many of you that I have all but avoided the new backscatter scanners since they were implemented last year.  I've just been careful about choosing the right security line, booking the right airlines, and avoiding the wrong airports.  Also, I've been lucky.  However, yesterday in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida I had my first opt-out.  The agent motioned me to the machine and I said, "No, thank you."  She explained that she would perform a secondary screening and asked me to go sit in a chair in a glass box off to the side of security.

I opt-out because these machines have not been independently tested for safety and only my husband gets to see me naked.
Did I mention my flight was boarding in 10 minutes?  Luckily I could see the gate from security and I knew I had an upgraded boarding pass waiting for me so I wasn't too worried.  Another TSA agent gathered all my belongings and followed me to the glass box.  He placed my items in bins outside the box and motioned for me to keep them in my line of sight.

The female agent came over and explained the pat-down procedure.  She told me what areas of my body she would touch and when she would use the back of her hands.  She then asked if I would like a private room but I declined and allowed the security theater to continue.  I confirmed that she was using clean gloves.  She reached inside my collar, inside my waist line, and touched all of my private areas (I was wearing thin/slim black pants with no pockets -- mental note, do not wear skirts to the airport). The whole thing took about three minutes,was generally uncomfortable, and I didn't even get a kiss.   It was handled very professionally but I hope to dodge it in the future.  Thank goodness for the upgrade to first; I really wanted a free cocktail and a bath in Purell sanitizer after the TSA rub-down.

Southwest Emergency Landing
At least I wasn't flying Southwest.  Over 300 flights are cancelled today and they have grounded part of their fleet to review the integrity of almost 80 aircraft following a "mechanical failure" where the skin of an airplane ruptured following ascent over Phoenix and caused a hole in the fusealage, rapid de-pressurization, release of oxygen masks, and an emergency landing.

Here's to hoping that I will be booking more work trips soon on my carrier of choice, avoiding the TSA circus-act, and that none of my future travel will be on Southwest.

1 comment:

Isaac Kuria said...

I enjoyed reading your insightful adventures Nadia. Hello John!!

Isaac, Cary NC.

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