Saturday, February 28, 2015

Things got a little busy.

There was an ice storm. And Friend Abilene Rob and his lovely bride-to-be Alice moved closer (hooray!). And The Boyfiend started physical therapy, and finished it, and now doesn't think he had a failed back surgery. Which I had been telling him, but when does any Boyfiend ever listen? Never.

We're also ramping up for That Yearly Festival That Makes My Commute Hellish, aka South By Fuck You. And our supplies manager's son died of septicemia, which is something you really wouldn't imagine happens any more, but apparently it does, so we were out of supples for about six weeks. Like, no insulin syringes for two weeks out of supplies. Which is horrible, but not as horrible by a long shot as watching your only child die of septicemia.

Also Friend Lisa's husband died, which was scary. He's my age, and he had a sudden heart attack. Just. . .went to sleep, as my mother says, and woke up dead. I assured her, when she asked the other day, that he felt nothing. Just went to sleep and woke up saying "Dafuq?" at the Pearly Gates.

Then another bout of bad weather, although not as bad as the first. I got the stomach bug that was going around and lost nine pounds in six hours, all fluid. Then I got better.

And through all of that, I felt really burned out. Not just burned out on blogging, but burned out on nursing in general. I was looking for jobs outside of nursing. I was considering learning to code, even though dealing with computer scientists is the last thing on my list of Things I'll Do Someday Before I Die, and last on my list of Things I'd Do If The Alternative Were Being Stuck In The Eye With A Bamboo Sliver.

See, we've had some changes at Sunnydale. As a result, we've lost probably thirty-some nurses, the same number of nurses' aides, half a dozen doctors, and not enough Manglement. We've been so short lately that people are calling safe harbor every shift. Manglement's focus has been on getting us new monitors, new isolation gear, and new urine-sampling devices, so it's been. . .well, it's been a recipe for burnout.

It's bad when critical-care nurses call safe harbor. It's really bad when rehab nurses call safe harbor.

It's been really bad.

I started thinking: I deal with people every day who are in extremis. Most days, I can't go home and leave my job behind. Part of that has to do with the job itself; part of it is the fact that I've become the de facto manager of my unit and the de facto mentor for several new nurses. I took a couple of days off--literally two--and came back to people with their hair on fire, asking where I'd been, a stack of paperwork six inches high on a desk that I don't have, and a new nurse having a crisis of confidence.

And I thought, where is the benefit to me? What on earth am I getting from this, aside from a steady, if variable, paycheck? I used to feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. No matter how bad things had been, I knew that there had been one person, at least, who felt less pain at the end of my shift than they had at the beginning. Now, it seemed like, I had so many people yanking me so many different directions that I couldn't even be sure of that one simple thing.

I went in stressed, I worked for twelve hours frazzled, and I left feeling guilty and like I simply wasn't enough.

Most people go to work, get a paycheck, get insurance, get vacation time, and that's enough. Those things are the benefits that they look for. Their work is a thing they do, not the thing that they are. They turn off at the end of the day, shuck the coder/garbage man/shoe salesman/flight attendant skin and reveal their Real Person skin.

It's not that way for nurses. It's not that way, I suspect, for teachers or ministers or doctors or God only knows what other professions. Maybe if you're born to be a garbage man, you never take off that skin. Who'm I to say? Point being, if you're one of those people who's in one of those professions, it's bound up in you to the extent that being a Good Whatever is the main benefit of your job.

So, for about a month and a half, I was burned. the fuck. OUT. Not only was I not wanting to be a nurse, I was not a nurse. I had no curiousity about nursing stuff. I didn't care about medicine. All I wanted to do, and all I did, was explore the wonderful world of Amazon Prime Bad Movies and rearrange my closet. I went to work depressed, left more depressed, and didn't sleep well that night.

Then something changed. I don't know what it was. I knew, going into the period of burnout, or brownout, or whatever you call it, that it was temporary: this has happened every year or two for as long as I've been nursing. Still, the thing that pulls my head out of Burnsville is always a mystery.

This time, it was maybe palliative care for a Mohawk woman. There are lots of tricky technical, cultural details to be aware of when somebody from the Confederation dies. Maybe it was the kid with Ehlers-Danlos type 4, who reminded me of another bright, driven person with the same disorder and the same prognosis. Maybe it was the birthday card my pal Abbs made for me. I don't know.

Six weeks ago I left my job feeling like I wasn't enough. It was a gaping wound. Yesterday I left my job knowing for sure that I hadn't been enough, but that I had done my best, and that I would be enough for some other person some other time. And that was okay.


Unknown said...

so glad you survived it all

Unknown said...

Oh and you may enjoy this Nurse from Australia's web/Blog/page thingy, I think it's great

Dr. Alice said...

I'm going through The Burnout right now. It sucks. I'm hoping to pull out of it soon; glad you are doing better. I hope work improves for you.

RehabRN said...

Wow! Rehab nurses get their s@$t handed to them regularly, so yes that is scary.

I had to look up safe harbor though. We don't call it that in RehabLand.
I found this:

I have had the same issues, illnesses and all. Will be interviewing for some non-bedside, non-clinic, non-manglement nursing positions.

I know the shoe will drop. I'm just trying to be ready when it does.

Anonymous said...

Have you considered teaching? A lot of nursing schools even offer some online classes, which might be right up your alley.

Anonymous said...

Ohhhhh. I'm a PT and I know. Different ways that we are inadequate but at the end of the day the burden is the same. Some days our job is to just be there and care even when we can't. You're important and you make a difference. Even on the days you can't tell.

Lynda Halliger Otvos (Lynda M O) said...

Jo, so good to see you back; I had worried that a health crisis had befallen you again. And my heart goes out to you in your untenable work situation; I hope it settles down and you are able to be there in total again soon.

Know that nurses are held in the highest esteem by me and so many others who truly appreciate you for what you know, teach, do and love.