Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Tools for Nurses vs. Nurses as Tools

It's that time of year, we're approaching Nurses' Week, drawing the ire of millions of nurses across the U.S. May 6-12, to be exact. It's the week where we are reminded of the hand we're dealt, the King of Diamonds versus the Queen of Spades- the analogy is the rich mostly male executives wielding their power, watching over a mostly female workforce being forced into digging their own graves.

In 2015 on the TV show The View, the hosts mocked the Miss America contestant who was a nurse, asking why she had a "doctor's stethoscope". Apparently unaware that nurses are the ones who do physical assessments and actually use those tools more often than doctors, it came across as crass and uninformed to the large number of nurses who saw and heard the remarks. The good thing that came out of it was a flood of activism which resulted in formation of the group now known as Nurses Take DC, to fight for safe staffing and safe patient limits in the workplace.

Playing Cards

Skip ahead four years, and another uninformed comment from a prominent person got the whole nursing world riled up again. Washington State Senator Maureen Walsh made a comment about nurses playing cards most of the day, again inflaming nurses' collective frustration with the ignorance and disrespect with which nurses are treated, especially in the workplace by those decision makers around staffing. Chronic understaffing, overwork, burnout, moral injury, and unsafe conditions for adequate patient care plague the healthcare industry in its sociopathic pursuit of profit.

This time, in response to Senator Walsh's comment, and her weak, non-apology that is now becoming a whine-fest-she's complaining about all the mean comments she's received, nurses have mobilized again.

To Senator Walsh, sorry ma'am, but if you go into politics, you're a public figure and you're going to get public scrutiny. Next time watch what you say and if you screw up, offer a real heartfelt apology and start making amends.

I don't condone people being rude or disgusting. They should be harsh AND tactful at the same time- it IS possible.

First nurses depleted the supply of playing cards in Amazon's warehouse by sending her thousands of decks of cards in the mail. Then there was a petition circulating that gathered some half a million signatures.

Hung by our Stethoscopes

So my question is, if over half a million nurses can unite over a stupid comment by a politician, why can't they unite over the stupid actions of healthcare leadership, including organizations such as the archaic and hypocritical American Nurses Association, which claims to represent us but instead acts in the interest of hospital and healthcare executives in the healthcare corporatocracy? Here's the example in Senator Walsh's own state... supporting the pathetic "staffing committee" proposal to undermine and subvert the aims of safe nurse staffing.

Sure, there's plenty of money for the industry executives to lobby for their own interests but somehow they can't afford to staff safely for patient care? Where are the half million nurses when it comes to these types of decisions? Half a million nurses signed the petition to get Senator Walsh to follow a nurse for an entire 12 hour shift. Half a million nurses should be signing this petition for National Legislation.

Nurses are afraid to speak up in their communities and workplaces because they have no power and can easily be harassed or threatened, and they don't want to lose their jobs, licenses, and livelihoods. The tactics used by management are ugly. In the vast stretches of our anti-union, anti-labor plutocratic country, we have diminished workers' control over their working conditions and job security. And we are seeing more deterioration in the workplace, in the form of violent attacks against nurses.

Furthermore, with the consolidation of hospitals and healthcare facilities under bigger corporate umbrellas, near monopolies have been established, making it harder for nurses to find alternative companies to work for if they don't want to or can't relocate.

Stop the Bleeding

We need a giant set of hemostats to stop the hemorrhaging of nurses and their working conditions before healthcare implodes and completely collapses, resulting in more medical errors, more deaths, and more violence.

Executives use their excuses where they can to manipulate the workforce- using data like HCAHPS (patient satisfaction) scores as a cudgel to terrorize employees around their job security. They never count the human cost of abusive manipulation of employees and their families. These big corporate entities feel no responsibility toward the communities where they exist and employ people who live there, trying to make a living, and being worked harder with fewer staff and deteriorating compensation. It's a sociopathic system and there is no empathy- it takes a true sociopath to buy into the corporate data-pushing bullshit.

Here's are some small examples, and I mean small because they don't directly impact patients- wage theft by employers when nurses they have more work to do than they can finish in a 12 hour shift- by forcing them to clock out after 12 hours and work without pay. Also, when nurses don't get a break they are not allowed to charge for working straight through- they lose pay. And if they try to recoup those wages, nurses are subject to disciplinary action.

Healthcare is a human service, it cannot be run like a factory. Our lack of a human-oriented healthcare system is costing us more and delivering worse outcomes than other industrialized countries and it's not getting any better. Pissed off patients and families who come to expect "customer service" as if they were in a hotel or restaurant will act out aggressively when they are tired of waiting for overworked, rushed healthcare professionals without adequate support staff.

We can let it fall apart and pay an even higher price in the form of more morbidity, mortality, and trauma, or we can use that same fervor we unleashed against a politician's dumbass comment to unify ourselves, watch each others' backs, and take back our control and power over the situation. There are more of us than there are of them. But we need to be unified. We need to join together and speak in one loud strong voice.

I challenge every nurse to take a first step by joining a grassroots organization in taking back healthcare for everyone- especially for the good of the patients we are supposed to be caring for. (bonus: you don't have to pay dues) Don't be fooled by organizations that claim to represent you then backhand you when you're not looking. Sign the National Nurse Patient Ratios Petition.

I promise you, signing a petition like this and joining a group like Nurses Take DC will give you more satisfaction than your job has given you in years! Take back your power over your future in healthcare. Lives depend on it.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Another Existential Crisis: The 24 Hour That Wasn't

I am so glad it's a new week. I had big plans for last week and everything sort of fell apart in one way or another. Nothing earthshattering, just a series of progressive and cumulative disappointments, but I ended the week on an upswing.
Bomb Cyclone

This time of year I usually plan a few days out of town to go to my favorite hot springs resort in the mountains to take a relaxing few days away from the grind and my inboxes, to get a massage or other spa treatments, and sit by the pool soaking up rays, listen to the creek and the breeze, and watch the clouds roll by the still-snowcapped mountaintops.
This year I asked my friend Crisann to join me and we drove up Monday morning, taking in the amazing scenery of Colorado's mountain banana belt. We went for a hike and sat by the pool in the spring-like weather, then later we went into town and had dinner at a fairly new Asian restaurant.
I had the best Panang curry of my entire life there- and we discovered a new favorite beer on tap- Soulcraft Coconut Milk Stout.

There was a storm expected to move in around mid-week. We planned to spend Wednesday in town and check out some of the shops, Crisann is a quilter so we were going to those shops and then wine tasting at my favorite winery down the road, and explore downtown. We figured we'd spend most of the day Tuesday at the pool, I scheduled a hot stone massage and scalp scrub in the afternoon, and the rest of the day I read a friend's new book that I've been meaning to finish. Tuesday was nice but it was getting cooler and windier by the hour.

We checked the weather forecast and as usual, since the news corporations can't sell "snowstorms" as well as they can sell "bomb cyclones" we had a bomb cyclone forecast, and it looked like it was going to hit the Front Range (where we live) around mid-day on Wednesday. Since we have to go over three mountain passes to get back home, we decided to leave first thing Wednesday morning and get home ahead of the storm. Turned out to be a good plan, because we arrived in Fort Collins around 10 am Wednesday, and it was already raining. By 1 pm it was dumping snow.

Circling the Drain

I was also scheduled to run the Palmer Lake 24 Hour run over the weekend, and the weather was looking sort of horrendous. I asked my friend Sasquatch, who is a real-life meteorologist, about his plans and he gave me the weather forecast. Last year it was nasty enough weather at Palmer Lake, but this year was shaping up to be way worse. I asked another friend, Sandee, who lives there, and she said expect 6 inches of snow on the course and that we'd need traction because of the mud if it thawed. I am not a fan of slipping and sliding for 24 hours and I sure as hell didn't want to wear my Kahtoolas that long. A nagging groin injury is not something I'd enjoy dealing with.

By Friday morning I decided I'm not going, and nearly all my friends who were planning to go had also backed out. I cancelled my hotel room, and decided I could put a few miles in over the weekend at home in better conditions. Saturday wasn't looking too great but Sunday was supposed to be a lot nicer. I'd planned to do 80 miles at Palmer Lake so I thought maybe, if all went well, I could pack 80 miles into two days at home.

Friday afternoon I found out that we didn't get the grant we applied for to expand my cancer survivor program at the nonprofit I'm working with, so that pretty much put a nail in the coffin of the entire week.

Flushing the Toilet

I decided that I would take it easy on Saturday and get maybe 20 miles in, and leave the rest of the miles for Sunday. I didn't get started until about 11 am on Saturday and went out to do my slow 20 on the Power Trail. It was cold and cloudy, which fit my mood perfectly. For the first 10 miles I had to work through my feelings about not getting the grant. It's not the end of the world, there are other grants to apply for, but it does slow my progress in developing the program and in the research I've been doing. This is my pet project, I've developed the program from scratch, it shows promise empirically, and despite the lack of interest from mainstream corporate healthcare, and now I have quantitative and qualitative data to back up its benefits. It's frustrating dealing with the slow pace of research and the academic world, as well as traditional healthcare, but I know it's making a difference in real people's lives, because they tell me it is.

But when I describe the program to dull-eyed executives their eyes light up with interest until they realize it's not a reimbursable service so they can't make money off of it. Anyway...who cares about that as long as I can keep doing what I'm doing. My purpose in life is not to enlighten their inflexible and shortsighted minds. I left the hospital because of that rigid and self-serving mindset, and I've had a lot of satisfaction doing my own thing. The thing that hurt the most was the message that you have nothing of value to offer us, we just want you to shut up and be our robot, stay in the lane we have designated for you. Sometimes it's enough to make you say, fuck it all, I'm taking my toys and going home. I'm used to this recurring theme in healthcare. But I'm not ready to retire yet. One of these days, I will be.

While I've mostly recovered from that, it can be very disappointing to have setbacks like this and I spent the first ten miles on the Power Trail Saturday morning purging my emotions, thankful that there weren't many other people on the bike path. By the second half of my day, I was over it. I met my friend Emma and she did six miles with me in the afternoon. I ended up with 20.2 miles for the day and felt good.

Dennis took me out for sushi, which further cheered me up.

The Sun Always Rises

I woke up way too early Sunday morning, around 3 am. I decided to make coffee and try to get out before dawn so I could have a shot at mega miles. Maybe 60 was still possible if I felt up to it, I thought. I knew it would take until late at night to finish, but I decided to see how I felt all day. Sasquatch was coming to my house at 9 so I figured I'd take a short break before meeting him there and we could do as many miles as he felt comfortable with, given that he's still recovering from his aortic valve replacement.
I started in the dark, going through the neighborhoods north of my house until I reached the north end of the Power Trail.. Light was starting to fill the horizon in the east, and when I got to Drake I turned east, facing into the sunrise. I stopped by the old barn and took some pictures, but saw something moving in the grass about 20 meters away. First I thought it was a cat. Then I saw the white stripe... I backed up as quietly as I could. That was close!
I continued down the hill and then up the hill on Ziegler as the sun was rising. That was enough to make the missed sleep worthwhile.

I headed back to the house, got some food and refilled my bottles, and waited for Sasquatch. I was feeling physically fine, but my motivation wasn't there. I felt a bit washed out. When Sasquatch arrived we did 6 miles by Warren Lake and then I had 20 when I got back to the house again. Sasquatch took off and I hung out for a while, thinking. I felt fine physically, my feet felt better than they did at the end of yesterday's 20, but I didn't have the drive. I decided to go out for another 10 and see how I felt. I ended up doing a little over 11 on the lower Power Trail and was feeling good, moving well, but I didn't have the desire- I just wanted to come home, drink a beer, and relax.

I finished up the day with 31.45 miles, a hair over 50K, and called it good. Before I went hoe I made a detour to the liquor store and bought a bottle of Coconut Milk Stout. I earned it.

I was in bed by 7 pm and was ready to go this morning, went to boxing class, and here I am. Ready to face another week. A better one. Gotta be.