Life, Work Stuff

The One Where I Get Paid to Watch a Cadaver Lab

Even though I was paid to go to work yesterday, I did very little working.

I work for neurosurgeons (brain/spine). There. I said it. So when I tell you that I work for some of the most brilliant minds in the country, I assure you, I’m not exaggerating. The doctors I work for are SMART COOKIES, ya’ll.

And every year, they have a neuroscience conference where they ship cadavers in and practice techniques, compare notes and teach residents what they know. It’s an esteemed conference and quite coveted – only a select few residents are invited to participate and that’s mainly because there simply isn’t room for all of them.

This conference is not open to the public, for obvious reasons. But since I work for these wonderful doctors, they invited the clinic staff to visit the cadaver labs and watch them do what they do best – fix people.

I went with five other co-workers yesterday. We all piled into the company van and drove to the conference. We arrived while the doctors/residents were still in a presentation, so we walked around and enjoyed the sights. The conference center was located in the heart of the Ozarks and the view was breathtaking. Even though I live in a county close by, it’s still nice to visit neighboring counties. And it’s really cool to see what I’ve grown up around with fresh eyes whenever you talk with someone new to the area and they point out all of the beauty that has been surrounding me my entire life.

Missouri really IS a beautiful state, ya’ll.

You should visit sometime.

Anyway. When the presentation was completed, we followed the doctors/residents into a different ballroom and patiently waited for them to put on scrubs and gather around the cadaver of their choice.

The day before, they worked on brains – I wasn’t sure I could handle that (considering I’ve never been to a cadaver lab before), so I opted to go on the day they would work on spines.

I braced myself. A lot of people cautioned me about the smell, but I was pleasantly surprised – there was virtually no smell. (Save for the occasional burnt hair smell when the doctors cauterized nerve endings). I later learned, that the cadaver escort carefully cleans them on a daily basis to help keep the smell down. I must say, she did an excellent job because there was virtually no smell.

And that’s something else – these cadavers? Are treated with the utmost respect, ya’ll. Everyone appreciates the sacrifices these people have made to science and it’s mind boggling how their contribution helps our doctors come up with new and improved ways of saving future people. It nearly brings tears to my eyes, it’s so moving.

Anyway. Once the doctors/residents settled in, we, the handful of invited spectators, walked around and simply … observed. We consciously stayed out of everyone’s way, but quite honestly? Everyone was SO NICE!!!!! I was shocked by how helpful and informative everyone was. We had doctors, PA’s, and even residents, pausing to explain to us what they were doing and why. I know they were getting something out of the impromptu lesson, too, because it helps to learn something when you have to explain it to someone else. One of the doctors I schedule for directly worked on a cadaver that had a big TV screen attached, so we had a really good view of his work. It was terribly interesting and not at all gross. (Well, okay, it was a little gross, but not as disturbing as you might think).

Our group walked around and watched various procedures. The other cadavers didn’t have TV screens so it was harder to see, and hear, what they were doing, but it was almost as equally interesting, to me at least, to simply watch the doctors interact with the residents. The residents were so serious and intense as they soaked up what their mentors were telling them.

We stood/walked around all morning and the doctors finished up their procedures around noon. They were scheduled to have more presentations that afternoon, so our group left and we headed to Garfield’s for lunch. We were seated around a round table and it was fun to compare notes and talk about clinic stuff while we ate.

We arrived back at the clinic around 2ish. I had numerous calls, and a few fires (i.e situations that required my immediate attention) to put out and I ended up working until 4:30 p.m.

It was a long day, but it was a satisfying and interesting day and it was SO NICE to get out of the clinic and break up the monotony.

I feel so honored to have been invited to observe the cadaver lab. Not many people can say they’ve ever done that and it’s certainly something I’ll never likely forget, that’s for sure.

(Oh. I forgot to mention that one of the PA’s invited us to don surgical gloves and touch an exposed spine. I’m embarrassed to say that I was too chicken to do it. I regret it now!!)

You know what’s sad? I really like this job. I mean, I REALLY do!! Which makes this next part that much more frustrating to me.

The problems are: it’s WAY TOO STRESSFUL for the money. AND, the hospital has implemented a new policy effective this year: get the flu vaccine or be fired.

Period. End of story.

And yes. They can legally do that. Because Missouri is an “Employment at Will” which means: An employee can be hired and fired at any time for any reason. And because of this, I don’t have a legal leg to stand on.

Unless I was part of a union, which probably could fight the “get the flu vaccine or be fired” stance, but alas, I’m not part of a union so I’m screwed.

(How ironic. I don’t really believe in, nor agree with, unions and yet, I’m in a situation where being in a union would actually help me. One of the few cases, that I can think of off the top of my head, where belonging to a union would be a GOOD thing).

So – I have until November 9th (my birthday – HAPPY BIRTHDAY!) to get the flu vaccine or lose my job.

Swell. Freaking swell.

Now, ya’ll KNOW how I feel about the flu vaccine. I’ve made no secret that I think it’s wrong and poisonous and I’m now even more determined than ever to NOT get it because now they’ve backed me into a corner and I resent the hell out of it.


However. I’m also realistic. Jobs do not grow on trees right now (thank you Mr. Obama and your attempts to socialize our country), so I truly have been backed into a corner. My personal beliefs versus financial obligations.

Kevin will likely kill me for saying this on the internet, but it’s no secret to anyone I work with (because my boss pulled me into her office, along with the head nurse, to tell me that she rallied for me with the hospital administration about my situation and how she DID NOT WANT TO LOSE ME, which made me feel good that she went to that much trouble, but was told this was how it was going to be, period, and she thought having the head nurse in there to help “alleviate” my fears [I don’t fear the vaccine, I simply don’t agree with the necessity of it] and hopefully convince me that it wasn’t all bad [they did not succeed] and was honest with me and wanted all of us to be on the same page when/if we got to the November 9th deadline and I hadn’t gotten the vaccine) that I’m now in a standoff with my employers.

It’s a game of chicken, if you will.

I’m going to put off getting the vaccine as long as I can and in the meantime, yes, I’m looking for a new job. I don’t want to – I like my job and I LOVE the people I’m working with, but now it’s a question of compromising my morals (and my body, quite frankly), and I simply can not allow that to continue.

However, like I said, I’m realistic. Jobs are not easy to come by right now … so, if I haven’t found a job by the deadline, I will get the flu vaccine and buy myself another year.

Either way – my time with this company is on a countdown.

I have so many mixed feelings about this situation that I can’t even adequately write about how I feel – but what I DO know is that NOBODY BACKS BABY INTO A CORNER.

So, people, I’m begging you. Let’s vote this socialist out of office so businesses will feel like it’s safe to come out from under their rocks and start hiring again so it’s not quite as hard to find jobs.