Thursday, January 11, 2007

Unrestrained Cat.

My mom and dad planned to drive thirty-five-hundred-some-odd miles from Seattle to Mexico with their cat. They planned to do so with the cat not in a carrier or behind some sort of grille, but unrestrained in the vehicle.

"Dad", I said, "Do you think that's a good idea? Because I think it's spectacularly bad."

"Some cats like to ride in cars*" was his reply.

Never mind what universe Dad hails from; the phrase "Unrestrained Cat" has come to signify, for Chef Boy and me, a wheels-off moment that lingers or a day so bad that no amount of Knob Creek will take the taste out of your mouth.

I yelled at my Big Boss.

More to the point, I carved her an entirely new alimentary canal, from tonsils to asshole.

We all know That Nurse. You would recognize That Nurse if you saw her; she's busy either talking incessantly about her latest date or surfing the Web on the hospital computers while her patients call repeatedly on the intercom. She's the one who doesn't open charts until fifteen minutes before the end of shift and who holds up report because, even after ten years on the job, she still hasn't learned to report concisely.

I had to charge a few weeks ago with That Nurse on staff. I redirected her as best I could and kept her busy the best way I knew how. It didn't sit well with her, so she complained to my boss.

Who called me in to gripe at me for being mean to That Nurse.

I'm not ashamed to say that I completely lost it for a good two and a half minutes. "You mean to say, " I began, "that I get here early, get out of report first, stay late, routinely take one or two more patients than the staffing sheet calls for, and do half of your managers' jobs for them," and here I paused for breath, "only to be called on the carpet for making sure somebody else does the minimum required for her job?"

Whereupon The Big Boss told me that she herself had not noticed any problems with That Nurse and hadn't heard any complaints about That Nurse.

The Big Boss hasn't even been on the unit for going on six months. Her sub-bosses are either concerned with getting out early (in one case) or sleeping with the other nurses (in the other) and so aren't really worried about what gets done or what doesn't.

So we went round and round.

Finally, I told her that telling her everything that went on was not my job. If she or her minions couldn't keep an eye on what was happening on the floor, or if they were just too unobservant, something needed to change from the top down. Further, if there were six nurses on the floor and five of 'em had a problem with the remaining nurse (That Nurse), the problem could probably be traced to That Nurse rather than the folks who were busting butt to keep call bells covered and doctors happy.

Then I told her this: since my annual employee review in July, the only feedback I'd gotten from anybody in Manglement about my work was *this one meeting*.

This whole situation makes me very sad. For one thing, it's not like we haven't been communicating with Manglement about problems on the floor. For another, Big Boss was a good small boss before she got promoted; she used to keep her eyes and ears open and know what was going on.

Worst of all, though, is the general feeling that anything can happen on the floor, up to and including management snogging employees in the stairwells, and nobody gives a damn.

It's not just me. It's really, truly not just me.

I feel like a big baby in one sense: I'm ashamed that I want positive reinforcement for being a good worker. In every job I've ever had before this one, it's been forthcoming, even when I worked for a Giant Soulless Corporation in a bookstore. I miss hearing a "thank you" when I, say, sign off sixteen charts or take an extra patient or two.

On the other hand, I'm angry. I'm deeply angry in a steely, awful way. I used to be proud to work for this hospital. I'm not any more; since we got acquired by A Larger Soulless Corporation, things have just gone to hell. Manglement's attitude and absence are symptoms of a larger problem.

I love my coworkers. Nine of ten of 'em would walk through fire for me, and I'd do the same for them...except for That Nurse. And That Nurse has, in the last week, become the focus of everything on the floor, thanks to our Big Boss's inability to tell a bullshitter from a handsaw.

I'm staying in my job for now. I'm staying for my other coworkers and for the patients...but I don't know how long that will last. I need to know that I have the ability and freedom to do my job. I need to know that I can depend on the people around me. And neither is looking likely at the moment.

*Apparently Dad was right, for only the nine-millionth time. They all got to Mexico with no trouble at all. Dammit. I hate it when he's right.


shrimplate said...

Get out.

There actually are places that have no That Nurse on staff. I am lucky to have found one such place, and it makes all the difference.

shrimplate said...

One other thing: we are a Four Cat Family and we have been for some time. I have *never* owned a cat, ever, that *didn't* just go completely way-down-the-road-past-Jack-Nicholson's-house batcrap crazy when we put them in a car.

Engranon said...

I hate those days when you sure that your head is going to explode and then your mouth goes off first. It does save your brain.

It could be worse: You could work on Grey's Anatomy. Even we threw a pillow at the TV tonight.

woolywoman said...

Oh, hell. I'm sorry. That happened to me and I had to leave my lovely unit- because it had become un-lovely, and because I couldn't make up for the work that wasn't done when I wasn't there, and, well, because. Look for a place that is better for you- and hell, nothing sends a message more than droves of nurses leaving. Maybe a bunch of you could transfer to a new, more soulful hospital. Won't hur to know what other jobs are out there. And on the annecdotal evidence? email me.

Anonymous said...

You are NOT being a baby. There is no shame in wanting positive reinforcement for doing your work well. Wanting to be thanked isn't immaturity or insecurity. It's a sign of self-respect. Don't fall into the trap of "nurses are selfless". Everyone wants to be appreciated. Everyone.

There are days when I leave work feeling a small sadness that no one thanked me. It's a sucky feeling--I busted my ass all night and then the day shift comes on preoccupied by their own issues, their little jabs at things that didn't get taken care of on nights (sometimes these are legitimate, but mostly they are just wishful thinking), and I feel deflated.

Here's what I've learned to do: say thank you to the nurses aides before I leave. Appreciate them for their contributions. Say goodbye to the patients and wish them well. That generally gets me a thank-you and a good feeling to take home with me. Say "thanks" to the nurses I give report to, thanks in the sense of "it's good to know my patients will be well cared for in your hands."

I sometimes think of myself as "The Pollyanna Buddha" but this attitude of appreciating others really helps me feel good about my work. Even if it doesn't lead to a sincere thank-you from someone else, I still leave work feeling like I've made a positive difference. It's all about "what goes around comes around". So I guess what I'm saying is, appreciate the good. When things suck, it's okay to speak the truth about why they suck--and then either move into action or move on. Change what you can change at work--would self-governance make a difference? Different forms of leadership or communication? And if things really can't be changed and work is a downer, then go elsewhere. There are better options for those who seek them.

And let me add, I really appreciate your blog. I'll post more later about exactly why, but know that you are making a positive difference to me.

Anonymous said...

Jo, I really understand, and that is why I left hospital nursing. Too many idiots trying to find someone to blame for everything (except the person who did the thing.) Just wanted to tell you there are a million jobs out there where brains and spine are really appreciated. I am in hospice nursing now, the most independent job ever. When you call orders you tell the doctor what you want and he says, OK, whatever you want. No more calling MDs at 3:00 in the morning for a tylenol order and getting yelled at.
Nurse managers stay in the office. I even like the driving, it's time to be alone and gather my thoughts. I love your blog, Jo, you give hope to all nurses.

Janet said...

Good for you,Jo. More nurses need to talk to Manglement like that. I hope they don't make your life miserable from now on. The other nurses need to complain about That Nurse as well. On a unit as busy as yours everyone needs to pull their weight. You bust your ass every day and your deserve some recognition for it.