Tuesday, January 31, 2012

More On the Job

I just had a text back and forth regarding work with the guy who's turned out to become a great friend at work-- a friendship that'll continue, I'm certain, after we both move on from the job. More on that later.

I ended up having a day off-- a badly needed and helpful day off. I've mentioned before that the scheduling snafu is one of the things I hate about the job. I understand that as acute care nurses, we need to be flexible. But this has gone beyond flexibility; the "schedule" is more like some abstract impression of a schedule. I've mentioned before that the unit had an ill-fated scheme to cut back on overtime in which some members of the unit would work 6 am to 2:30 pm in the "acute" room (where nurses and techs do two patients at a time) and be relieved by people working 2 pm to 10:30 pm; the people working the afternoon/evening shift would pick up a "solo" patient in the evening if needed. This scheme came unravelled immediately. I was one of the two people first scheduled for the 2pm to 10:30 pm shift, and worked it exactly twice. I came in at all hours-- noon, 2 pm, 4 pm, etc. and left at all hours-- including, one day, 7:15 am. And never once at 10:30 pm.

At the monthly staff meeting last month, they told us they were discontinuing that schedule. They did not. I worked, ostensibly, the 6 am to 2:30 pm shift-- with an actual schedule that was similar to last month's, except starting very early. And often ending very late.

At this month's staff meeting last week, they said they're discontinuing that schedule and going back to the old one-- 3 or 4 twelve/thirteen hour shifts a week plus a "call" shift every week to two weeks. It's rigorous, but works for me, and most of the other nurses and techs.

I have other beefs. They regularly schedule some of us for over 40 hours a week-- and then complain that we have lots of overtime. They are getting worse and worse about stocking. The fact that they've gone from having three drivers delivering to one-- they bragged at the last meeting that one of the drivers, who was, according to co-workers the best and most reliable-- was fired for "excessive overtime." Yeah, hilarious. So we all hoard supplies, knowing we may have trouble doing treatment if we don't have those supplies, or take longer to do them-- incurring more overtime-- if we don't have them. And we are constantly being criticized for hoarding supplies.

Communication is a constant problem. For starters, we are dispatched to our patients by an archaic paging system-- yes, pagers. That's how backward we are. And once in a while it doesn't work. Since our schedule is chaotic-- sometimes we have a day off when we're scheduled, and sometimes we're called in when we're off-- one would assume that if you're not paged, you're not working. But since the paging system is unreliable (sometimes not only do we not get a page that was sent, but when we call to confirm our assignment, sometimes that fails to go through too).

Another communication problem: there's a hospital chain that is our main account. We are all set up to sign in and chart at all the hospitals in that chain. A couple of months ago, word came down-- 2nd, 3rd and fourth-hand-- of a new way to chart the dialysis treatments. It was, we were told, mandatory. Here's the problem: five different people told me five different ways to do this mandatory way of charting.

But never fear! We finally got an email with an explanation of this way to chart. Problem is these instructions are hopelessly muddled. I'll do my best.

Today, I was relieved to be told that our patient census was low and I had the day off. It allowed me to do a bunch of errands-- groceries, laundry, cooking-- and to think about it all. I've decided to tough it out. I'll try to make it to August, when it'll be a year. That year is magic in the profession. Once you have that year, jobs open up.

In the meantime, I'm trying to make the best of it all. And remembering some of the fine people I work with.

My first day in "the field"-- my first day working in a hospital with another nurse/preceptor, I worked with Molly. She's literally about half my age-- 25 or 26. If you didn't know her, you'd think she was a sorority girl. But when you get to know her, she's anything but a sorority girl. She's smart and got a wicked sense of humor. When I'm working in the same hospital, she always checks up on me, and she's someone I can always call for advice and information.

Another person who's good for advice and information is Ben. I worked more with him than anybody else when I was training. He and I shared a love of music and being parents-- though, at 28, he's just starting the parenting game-- his kids are 3 and a newborn). I'm at the tail end of it, with kids who are 17 and 15. Ben, who is Filipino-American, grew up just a few blocks from where I grew up in Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood, but obviously decades apart. When I have larger nursing questions, I talk to Ben, who I think would be a great teacher.

In my training class, I became friends with two guys-- Neil and Brent. We're all close in age, and doing nursing later in life-- Neil and Brent are in their late forties (I'm 50). I always enjoy running into Neil. He's smart and sardonically funny. As we've gotten to be friends, he's opened up about his life a little more. He comes from a tight Irish family. He's been with the same guy for some time now; they're trying to decide whether or not to move in together. He worked as a nurse for a couple of years before this job, so he's also someone I ask for advice at times.

The guy I've become really tight with is Brent. At first, he annoyed the shit out of me; he was, at times, way too eager. He was one of the only ones who would wear his scrubs during the classroom part of training. He talked a lot. But pretty quickly, he and I became friends. In the end, we had a lot in common; we came from different fields than the medical field (he ran printing presses for one of the Chicago newspapers, and I was a teacher) and we both have kids (and ex's).

Once we got in the field, we not only became better and better friends, but came to depend on one another for help. Our cellphones were lifelines, texting back and forth, sharing experiences, observations and new information. And in one case, when we were training, commiserating about an unbelievably awful preceptor. As the job has turned more disappointing and frequently more stressful, it's been great to have a friend and ally to talk to. It's turned into a total Bromance. I know Brent's always got my back and I'll always have his.

Looking ahead, I know that I won't work at this job until I retire. At this point, I'm hoping to make it a year. I know that the next job will certainly have a its share of nonsense-- what job doesn't? But there will be a next job. Knowing that is helping me tolerate this job.

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