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Gosh, It’s Quiet – Does Saying the Q-Word Bring Disaster?

January 31, 2020

Written by Aaron Lacy

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Mean overall workload in a medical microbiology team was not significantly different when the word “quiet” was uttered compared to when it was not.

Why does this matter?
There are two camps on the matter of the Q word: it is nonsense or it has the power to summon a mass quantity of work out of nothing.  The feeling behind this is almost entirely anecdotal, but we are all competitive and curious enough to want hard evidence to back up our claims.

Did you really just say that?
In an impressively robust manner, a randomized controlled non-inferiority trial was done to evaluate whether the use of the word quiet increased workload in a medical microbiology lab in England. The study took place over 61 days, with 29 days being assigned to someone saying, “today will be a quiet day,” (intervention) and 32 days with no one saying the word quiet in any context (control). With an average 139 clinical episodes occurring on controlled days compared to 144.9 episodes on intervention days (95% CI 12.9-24.7), there was evidence for non-inferiority between the groups. In four subcategories; clinical related phone calls during the day, clinical related phone calls during the night, clinically significant results, and validated results processed, there was also non-inferiority. The authors did acknowledge, unfortunately, that the study was unable to control for all confounding factors, such as black cats or cracked mirrors.

I have always been in the camp of the q-word being nonsense, and now I have some primary literature to support my claim. However, the paper does end on a more sobering note, highlighting that staffing, burnout, and wellness is a continued issue both in the UK and abroad. It’s important to take care of each other, no matter what camp you fall into regarding the Q word.

Q fever-the superstition of avoiding the word “quiet” as a coping mechanism: randomised controlled non-inferiority trial. BMJ. 2019 Dec 18;367:l6446. doi: 10.1136/bmj.l6446.

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Reviewed by Clay Smith

What are your thoughts?