Staying One Step Ahead of My Stress Level

When I get stressed, my back goes out. There’s a direct correlation between my having anxiety attacks (and when I say that, I don’t have attacks where I’m feeling like I’m having a heart attack, but I get so overwhelmed I just shudder and cry. And I’m not a crier – so if I get to that stage, BACK OFF) and my back going out.

I have no idea if this is normal for other people, but it’s normal for me.

I’ve been so stressed out these past three weeks that I’ve barely made it past 8:00 o’clock at night before my brain simply shuts down. I simply cease to think or feel anything.

It’s kind of scary, if you want the truth.

We lost a girl at work. Which means we are short handed. I’ve been responsible for taking care of three doctors these past three weeks and I’m nearly to my breaking point. In addition to the extra work load, we’ve been trying to figure out how we can schedule diagnostic testing in the exam rooms without disrupting the clinic flow for the doctors. We’ve trialed this before and it was successful, not to mention patients really seemed to like it, too. But that was when we trialed it with one MA, (medical assistant), and one scheduler. Now we’re trialing it with one MA doing both jobs because they are eliminating the scheduling position.

The problem is the time factor. If one person, the MA rooms the patient, goes over the medical history with the patient and then schedules the patient, other exam rooms become available while we’re busy with a patient and that delays the doctors – who have more important things to do than wait on us.

So. We’ve been trialing some things to see one, if it’s possible, and two, to make it as efficient as possible.

I’m not saying these experiments don’t need to be done, they’re necessary, in fact, to try and offer better patient care, but when it causes me to end up being four days behind and I start having patients calling me back, not necessarily angry (though there are those), wondering why they haven’t been scheduled for their tests, it stresses me out. And management, for whatever reason, looks to me to sort of spear head the experiment, which puts additional pressure on me.

I snapped on Friday.

I had just gotten to my desk, was putting my purse down, when reception allowed a patient through to my desk. He wanted to know why he hadn’t been scheduled for a procedure and well, I told him the truth, we were short handed and I hadn’t been available to call the hospital and set it up for him. He was surprisingly understanding and I promised to call him later in the day (which I did), but for whatever reason, my co-worker went completely berserk on me. She expressed her … disagreement with my decision to be honest with the patient. In fact, she got our boss involved. Which was really the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. My co-worker sensed I was angry and confronted me.

MISTAKE.

So I vented. And when I say I vented, I got in her face and started yelling. And she responded by yelling back. And I finally had to say, “If you don’t get out of my space right now, I’m going to say something I regret.”

I think we were both surprised.

But that’s an example of how stressed we ALL are. We have resorted to yelling at each other.

When another one of my co-workers asked me what happened and I tried to explain to her the series of unfortunate events and that I was losing my mind because I was being buried by an unreasonable work load, my voice shook and before I even knew what happened, I started crying. My co-worker hugged me and advised me to hole up in an exam room until I could get myself together.

I did just that.

I don’t get paid enough to have this much stress. I just don’t. And yet, I’m not ready to wave the white flag yet, either. It’s a matter of pride, I guess, to stick this out and MAKE this work, damn it.

We had a meeting later in the day. The head nurse (who is now my boss), called all of the schedulers (soon to be MA’s) and the current MA’s together for lunch. She bought us pizza and we had a pow-wow. My old supervisor was there and I’m glad she came – she was our advocate and after we finished the meeting, I started to feel better. I think management FINALLY understands where we’re coming from. It’s like a light bulb went off in their heads and they realized that the world doesn’t stop for us when we’re working the clinics with the doctors – we’re still getting flags from the nurses and we’re still getting voicemails. In fact, when I checked my voice mails on Friday, the mechanical voice simply said, “you have over 20 voicemails.” I didn’t even get a number, that’s how many I had.

It’s all so overwhelming.

I cooled off. The girl who yelled at me cooled off and we apologized to each other. In addition to work stress, she has a lot of personal stuff going on and we both just sort of lost it. But I’ll admit, it sort of felt good to clear the air.

I’ve been losing sleep over this work situation. And I told my bosses that yesterday at our meeting. This has gotten to the point where it’s just ridiculous now. There are four MA’s who are being severely underutilized (their words, by the way), and three schedulers who are being WORKED TO DEATH. This has got to stop. In fact, one of my co-workers threatened to quit. She’s working Monday’s clinic and she said that if she got back to her desk on Tuesday only to find 15 voicemails and 20 flags waiting for her, she was gone. She couldn’t take it anymore.

I think management finally gets it. We worked it out so that her voicemails and flags would be worked by someone else while she was in the clinic.

It won’t always be this way. When we’re assigned our doctor, we’ll be responsible for one doctor. Not three, like I’m responsible for now. And I’m going to ROCK this new MA gig.

Anyhoo – I woke up this morning with the tell-tale back pain. I knew what that meant. So I did a bunch of squats, took some ibuprofen, and I think I have a handle on it.

I’ve also discovered how to keep my back from going out – squats. Which also produces tight buns – BONUS.

So yeah. Just when I got a handle on my job, felt comfortable with it and didn’t feel quite so stressed, the rules completely changed and now I’m trying to juggle my regular work while trying to learn another job AND collect data for management so they can figure out how we’re going to do our jobs. Though I appreciate management giving us the opportunity to come with our own work model, as opposed to just stnading there and saying, “this is how it’s going to be done,” it’s all too much too fast.

Honestly, I can handle stress. I even thrive on it. But it’s hard to stomach this much stress when I’m being paid pennies on the dollar to find ways to cope with it.

It could be worse, I could have lost my job. Then my family would be without health insurance and though at any other time this wouldn’t have bothered me overly much because I could have gotten another job fairly quickly? That’s not the case is today’s socialist society.

So yes. I will put up with the stress, find ways to combat it and keep my mind and body healthy while coping with it and be thankful that I still have a job and health insurance at the end of the day.