Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Work Hangover Wednesday: Dropping Like Flies
What an emotional couple of days these have been...
Tuesday I worked on negotiating the terms of what's called a relief position, at work, which would give me some hours but I wouldn't be putting in these long shifts or back to back exhausting days anymore.
That would start as of October. It would give me a way to transition out, and restore my health, and start putting energy into things that help me move forward, like going off on my own.
It was an exhausting day, I went home after work and crashed for an hour. Today it was busy, we had barely enough help and then got slammed at mid-morning.
By 6 pm it was all I could do to make it through another three patients when I'd been going since 8, plus a 4 am killer calf cramp that woke me up to my own screaming out loud, then being unable to go back to sleep.
The saving grace was around 10 am when I was about to start an IV, and a friend stopped by to drop off a bottle of water for me, and told me to drink it. Being up early, I'd facebooked him about the calf cramp, and he surprised me.
But by the end of the day I couldn't wait to get out the door.
Another nurse is leaving. She resigned and came by to tell us today. When she did, one of the nurses on our staff cried. "How can this be happening every day," she said.
Great nurses, the best nurses anywhere, leaving. Nurses who learned to practice under the best and most supportive of conditions and took pride in the work they did.
On my way back from lunch today I was in the stairwell and ran into a nurse from another unit. She told me she's been hearing about my blog. She said, "You could be our leader."
Well as one person I have very little power. I can write my heart out because I am a writer, it's what I do. That's how I process things. As a writer who happens to be a nurse I can write about nursing. I can write about the workplace. I can write about health care. I can write about how demoralizing it is to feel like there's a mutiny going on.
I can't be the only one, though. It takes more than one voice. If no one believes anything will change, that's because there aren't enough people making enough noise to make the people who have the power and resources to change, change.
I have already felt the backlash, that certain people don't like me writing about what's going on, they are embarrassed, they feel it reflects poorly on them. They are fearful of the competition, which is coming.
Well you can try all you want to blame the people with no power and no resources to change things, but that doesn't make it okay for the people with the power and resources to go ahead and trample the resistance, like in Tianenmen Square.
It's a result of inhumane resources. No, it's not a new department name. It's the misguided use and distribution of resources that ends up hurting people.
When people feel like they work for an organization that doesn't care about them, that they are bodies filling shifts, that they are disposable, especially after years when they had all the support in the world, it's a hard landing, like crashing on concrete.
Strong organizations have clear direction, strong leadership, strong accountability for those in the highest ranks of the organization, know where they're going and allow employees to do their best work, and provide the conditions for that.
They don't blame the people who are hurting as a result of cutthroat policies and have little outlet for their frustration, and lack power and authority to change things. They don't make excuses by slashing already marginal pay and benefits from the people who do the dirty work, they cut the fat from the top if they're smart.
There has to be several million dollars to save in excessive salaries and perks. For example, Vanderbilt University, which in 2008 paid $20 million dollars alone to just 10 of it's top positions, several of which are health care executives. Instead of going without nurses, how about going without a CEO or President?
Strong organizations don't flinch too much if there's competition coming. If they are secure in what they're doing, there's no reason to worry. If they give consumers a reason to stick with them, show them why they're superior, then they end up winning. Like in an ultramarathon, you wouldn't go out and run as fast as you can in the first few miles because everyone else is doing it, when you risk crashing and burning. You run your own race, you conserve your resources, and in the end you end up way ahead of the competition.
Nurses, you wouldn't hesitate for a second to advocate for your patient's needs. But when it comes to yourself and your coworkers, why are you silent? When you have to get tough with a physician who is resistant to returning your calls, when you need an order NOW and you're not getting a response, when some jerk doctor acts like a prick and is condescending and pulls rank that they fantasize that they have but they don't, you don't take their bullshit. You don't get bullied into silence when it comes to your patient.
The fear of losing your job is one thing, but losing a job that is taking advantage of you and making you miserable- isn't it worth the chance of setting some things right? of making something better? If they continue to demoralize the workplace anymore, you'll be too sick and too tired to keep your job anyway. Case in point, right here behind the keyboard.
I really don't care if people think I'm idealistic and live in a fantasy world with justice and treating people fairly. I hate that the corporate world works the way it does. We as citizens have allowed it to get to this point. But when enough people are hurting, doesn't it make you want to do something other than zone out on Facebook? Can't we do something about it? One small thing? Today?