Annoyances, Work Stuff

Things That Annoy Me #2

( I seriously can’t stop laughing at this little girl’s expression!!)

“Good morning. Welcome to our team. I expect you to work faster than your peers, update every little detail if older than six months, answer all calls live NO MATTER WHAT and you must have all rooms full so that our doctor is NEVER idle. You have to run everything through me – you are not allowed to think for yourself. I don’t trust you and no one is as smart as I am. You are not allowed to put orders in, even though your peers are allowed to. You can not schedule a patient unless you run it by me, even though your peers are allowed to. And by the way, I need you to be flexible because the way we do things on this team changes DAILY. Which means, the way you did it yesterday? Doesn’t apply to how we do it today. Why are you frowning? Aren’t you happy? I don’t understand why you’re miserable. Why is this job affecting your health? We’re the best team on this floor! We run efficiently and we do everything right! In fact, every team needs to run exactly like us because we’re PERFECT.”

I’m paraphrasing, of course. But this is an example of what our assistant manager thinks and it’s frustrating, unrealistic and insulting to insinuate we don’t know what we’re doing. Can we improve? Of course. But to imply that what we’ve been doing, what we have been doing for YEARS, is not correct, well, let’s just say insinuating this to the entire clinic was enough to nearly cause mutiny.

Here are some signs you’re being micro-managed: (Source)

  1. They avoid delegation. Since micromanagers can’t believe anyone else will do a decent job, the only solution is… to do everything themselves. While they might get the results they want at first, this can’t possibly last. Eventually, they’ll come to discover that there are only 24 hours in a day. Without assigning tasks to others with specialized skills, supervisors will inevitably take on work that they aren’t as qualified to produce. If your boss is a micromanager, they might also think it’s faster to revise your work than to give you feedback on what could be improved.

Oh my gosh, YESSSS. This is EXACTLY what is happening right now.

2. You’re not allowed to make decisions. If even the smallest tasks require sign off from your supervisor, it could be a red flag

3. They complain constantly. The funny thing about mistakes is, if they’re all you look for, they’re all you’ll find. A boss that doesn’t trust their employees is always going to look for evidence that validates their paranoia. And they’re going to find it, even if it’s a typo in a calendar reminder you only sent to yourself. This type of manager can find fault in anything, no matter how inconsequential. While they might tell themselves that they are pushing for excellence, they are only sapping the motivation of their staff.

Oh my gosh, YESSSS.

4. They won’t pass on their skills or knowledge. It’s inspiring to work for a boss that you feel you can learn from. Supervisors can act as role models for junior employees who are starting their careers. For a fresh new employee, finding out that your boss has little interest in mentoring you can be a crushing disappointment. To these micromanagers, knowledge is currency. If they share that knowledge, they’re depleting their own value.

5. Feedback falls on deaf ears. While a normal boss-to-employee relationship should have feedback flow in both directions, a micromanager is more interested in a one-way conversation. Because they’ve put themselves under enormous pressure, they are more irritable and explosive when faced with criticism. They might respond to your critique with some variation of, “Well, that’s just how things work here.” Micromanagers aren’t interested in what they can do to improve–they only look for the weakness in others.

These issues are EXACTLY what we’re dealing with at work right now.

As with any job, you have your ups and downs, your hills and valleys. There are times things are going great and there are times things are definitely NOT great. I’ve been with my current employer for almost ten years – it will be ten years this coming September – and I can count on one hand the number of ups we’ve had. And by this I mean, everything is going great, we’re fully staffed, we’re all getting along, etc. On. One. Hand. All other times, there is some drama, people are quitting, a process is not working, or management is micro-managing us. In fact, I feel like we’re micro-managed, a lot.

I get why this happens. Medical assistants work under the doctor’s license – everything we do is on behalf of our doctor so any mistakes we make the doctor could potentially be responsible. It’s a big deal and shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, when you work for a management team that wants everything run through them, you can’t do anything without running it by them first, it’s suffocating.

I read somewhere that micro-managing is the number one reason why people leave their jobs. When a person is not given an opportunity to prove his/her worth, to live up to his/her potential, it’s suffocating. Our clinic right now, is definitely at an all-time low. People are dropping like flies and we all know what the problem is, but no one is willing to do anything about it. It’s like we’re all on the Titanic and we’ve hit an iceberg – now the question is – do we find a way to save ourselves or do we just sit back and wait for it to sink?

I’d like to figure out a way to save us, thank you very much.

It’s funny. I never really wanted a career in medical, I just sort of fell into it. But now that I’m here, (and I really do like the work I do and I feel like I’m good at my job), I just can’t sit back and watch our ship sink.

I need a plan. I need to convey my concerns, along with examples AND potential solutions and present them to my director. He’s the head honcho. The big cheese. The man with a plan. (I hope). I had a long talk with my nurse today about these problems and how to approach them and she gave me some really good advice. Now I just need to compile these thoughts into a nice, neat outline and present it to my director in my best “professional” voice.

Enough with the micro-managing. It’s time to take a stand and get off this hamster wheel. It’s insanity to continue to do the same things over and over again and expect a different outcome. We all agree there is a problem, now we need to get together and come up with a better plan, try different solutions. One is bound to stick, right?

Will they listen to me? Who knows. But if this ship sinks, at least I will know that I did all I could do on my end.

Don’t micro-manage me, it brings out my aggressive side. And let me tell ya, folks, it ain’t pretty.

Work Stuff

Welcome to My Work Office

Happy Friday!

Today, in the office, my office, not the TV show, I am furiously calling patients to prepare them for Monday’s clinic, making sure charts are compiled and ready for my doctor on Monday, returning phone calls and working flags (messages) from various sources from the week. I’d like to say Fridays are our quiet day, but alas, they haven’t been lately. I don’t know if that’s because people are freaked out because our office will be closed for two days and OMG, I NEED TO CALL MY NEUROSURGEON’S OFFICE, or if it’s just a coincidence, but I can assure you, there is no sitting around waiting for the phones to ring.

Actually, we don’t have a dedicated person answering our phones. We don’t have a receptionist whose sole job is to wait for patients to call. I wish we did. We do have a secretary, and she does answer our calls on clinic days, but we share her with another doctor so we only really get to use her on clinic days, off clinic days, it’s up to me. Patients don’t understand that. And I don’t blame them, that’s just the way our office is set up. The MA’s do the bulk of phone work. We triage the calls and the nurse returns calls she needs to, post op questions, medication questions, surgery questions, I do the rest.

Anyway. I thought you might be interested in where I hang out 40 + hours per week. I purposefully stayed late one night when everyone left so I could take this video. I had to film it several times because I would come across patient information and of course, we can’t have patient information displayed anywhere. I apologize for the quick turns but I was nervous someone would see me and it wasn’t so much I was filming that made me nervous but my “explanation.”

“Um, oh, hi. Yeah. I’m just filming for my blog.” *embarrassed smile*

Just feels weird.

Thanks for watching!

 

Work Stuff

The One Where I Embarrassed Myself in Front of a Patient

Did I ever tell you about the time I made a complete fool out of myself at work? In front of a patient?

I mean, it pretty much happens on a daily basis though not necessarily in front of a patient. I either say something stupid or I trip over my feet.

Does anyone else trip over their own feet? No? Just me?

Well, I AM old, cut me some slack. lol

The floors in our office are wood, though I think it’s more like fake wood, to be honest. You know the kind where it sort of snaps together? I could be wrong, but I think that’s more like the wood we have at work. Not that that matters, the floors don’t have parts coming up where it becomes a tripping hazard or anything. No, when I trip, I trip over my own two left feet.

Maybe that’s part of my problem, I have two left feet. (I’m kidding, though I feel like I have two left feet most times).

No. My problem is, I simply don’t pick my feet up when I walk. I sort of … shuffle. I have to consciously think about picking my feet up whenever I walk. And I get pretty nervous when people are walking behind me and I have to mutter under my breath, “don’t trip, don’t trip, for the love of God, don’t trip.”

OH – that reminds me of another time I embarrassed myself! I’ll save that story for another time.

Anyway. I wouldn’t say I have drop foot but Kevin tells me I do sort of drag my right leg and I develop a limp, especially when I’m really tired.

I feel like I’ve had this problem for years. My whole life, actually. I’ve always had something weird going on with my legs. I remember having to wear braces on my legs when I was little – I think I was pigeon toed? (Mom?) But I don’t think I had to wear the braces for very long, at least, I don’t remember having to wear them for very long, or it didn’t feel very long.

Remember, I’m old – that was a LOOOOONG time ago. lol

But I’m grateful for those braces because I walk straight now so they must have done some good. I’m digressing. (This is why I never really have a hard time blogging, because once I get going I just sort of keep ………………………………………………………………………… going).

Anyway. (Let’s see how many times I can say that in this post). Because I don’t fully pick my feet up when I walk, I am constantly tripping over myself. It’s like the toe of my right foot doesn’t quite lift off the floor, then hits the floor and the rubber on the sole of my sneaker adheres to the floor and stops me in my tracks so that I’m constantly stumbling forward. I do this about ten times a day and it’s always in front of someone, which is so embarrassing. I’ve caught some other people doing it too so it’s not all me. When you look at our floors at work, they are a bit warped.

But I digress, that’s not my embarrassing story.

(Focus Karen)

We have these chairs at work … I mean, what workplace doesn’t have chairs, duh, bear with me, but they have high backs and curved seats. Meaning, the sides of the chair are thick enough to grab and they sort of bend upwards. For some, this may be comfortable but for me and my child-bearing hips (i.e. big butt), it puts a strain on my back and by the end of the day, my back KILLS me. So, I avoid sitting in the chairs for that precise reason. Instead, I sit on stools. The same kind you see in exam rooms. Where the seat is juuuuuuust big enough to accommodate your butt. But I like them. They are comfortable (probably because there is nothing holding my side butt cheeks from overflowing) and it forces me to sit up straight and not slouch. (Though let’s be honest, I still slouch).

Side note: Have you ever sat on one of those fitness balls? I work with a nurse that has a big fitness ball in her office and she swears by it. I could never use a fitness ball to sit on all the time. I would want to bounce around like a child and maybe throw it at someone because I’m annoying like that.

(Focus Karen)

So, I sit on exam stools all the time. In fact, I have one stool I wheel around with me at all times – from my office to my desk I use on clinic days and back to my office, it’s like a puppy. (If that makes sense). The seat is nearly all black now and looks disgusting but that’s why I continue to use it because I figure I’ve ruined a perfectly good stool with my cheap black scrubs, there’s no sense in ruining any more.

My point being, I’m USED to sitting on exam stools. Keep that in mind.

Well. One day, back in the days when we actually saw patients in the clinic, pre-COVID and pre-Telemedicine days (oh how I long for the good-ole days of physically rooming patients), I showed a patient and his spouse back to a room. We have these little tables that we can adjust up/down that we put our laptops on whenever we show a patient back to an exam room and then we sit on the stool and type on our laptops as we’re interviewing the patient.

The patient and spouse take their seats, I pull the table around, put my laptop on it and pull the stool toward me. I’m talking to the patients, probably cracking a joke because for some reason, patients find me hilarious (they also feel like they need to tell me their life stories – I have one of those faces, I guess) and I’m in the process of sitting on the stool, not paying attention when it happens.

My butt cheek catches just the edge of the stool, it rolls away from me, hits the wall with a BANG, I lose my balance and fall flat on my ass, bumping into the trash can which makes a loud THUMP as it hits the wall.

In other words, I made a lot of NOISE when I fell. The patient and his spouse just look at me in horror. Their mouths gape open and I feel the tips of my ears starting to burn and I know my ears are going to be bright red in about five seconds. (They do that when I’m embarrassed, pissed or dehydrated – in other words, pretty much all the time).

In those split seconds, I run my options through my head:

  1. I could make the situation worse by acting embarrassed thereby embarrassing the patient and his spouse even more
  2. I could leave the room and re-enter, in essence, start the whole damn thing over
  3. I could act like nothing happened and awkwardly get on my hands and knees and attempt to stand back up knowing full well I would look, and sound, like a fallen hippo or
  4. Laugh it off.

Can you guess which option I chose?

Yep, I laughed it off. I simply took their folder (because I kept hold of my pen and the folder as I fell – impressive, I know), leaned back against the wall and simply said, “I’m just going to finish the interview down here, if you guys don’t mind.”

They laughed, I laughed and I fully intended to continue my spiel from the floor but I made such a racket going down, my nurse comes barging into the room. “Hey! Everything ok in here? I heard a crash.”

Perfect, I thought to myself, she will distract the patient just long enough they won’t really pay attention to me as I huff and puff my way back to my feet.

After I got back onto my feet, grabbed FIRM hold of the slippery stool, sat my butt down and placed my hands on my laptop did I look at my nurse and say, “Everything is great. Why do you ask?”

She just shook her head and left the room.

The patients thought I was hilarious and couldn’t stop smiling the rest of my time with them. I’m pretty sure I could have passed my little incident off as if I did it on purpose if given more time.

Yes people, I’m THAT good.

Anyhoo. My coccyx (get your mind out of the gutter, that simply means tailbone) was pretty sore the rest of the day because I wacked it pretty hard but I survived. And now, I am SUPER careful whenever I pull my stool around and sit on it though I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that I’ve had SEVERAL near misses since that day.

But no worries, I have a lot of padding back there, I’ll be fine.

Work Stuff

Navigating an Escape Room – Did We Do It?

Hint: see picture.

From left to right: Me, our medical secretary, our doctor, our nurse, our physician’s assistant.

We’ve been a team now for … nearly four years (?). We are a close-knit group and I’m very blessed to be a part of this group. It’s so rare to find people that you genuinely like, let alone want to stick around for that long together. We all recognize how blessed we are to have one another and we don’t take advantage of that. We celebrate our birthdays, medical secretary, nurses, physician assistant and medical assistant weeks together. We all know our roles on our team and we work well together. We just click.

I figure I have about ten more years before I retire. That will closely coincide with my doctor’s plans as well. He’s younger than me but being a surgeon is hard on your body so doctors typically retire younger than the rest of us mortals.

I know him pretty well and he has come to trust me. I’m very loyal to my doctor because he had my back when I was dealing with his nightmare nurse. And I stuck it out. I put up with her for two years and it got so bad it started affecting my physically and I ended up in the ER with what I thought was a heart attack. Thank God it was only anxiety. Something I never had before in my life before that nightmare on legs waltzed into my life. (And she was a legit nightmare – she was one of those people who loved being called a nurse but didn’t really want to be A nurse. Don’t get me started). And when I say loyal, I mean, he chose me over his nurse. I will forever feel grateful for that. I don’t know that anyone has ever really stuck up for me like that.

Telemedicine has been super hard on all of us. It’s completely reshaped who we are as medical professionals and in how we approach our processes. And Dr. M has seen how it has affected us, his team, and he wanted to show his appreciation by taking us out for Christmas.

Last Wednesday, we had a short clinic and after clinic, we all went to an Asian-inspired sandwich shop. We were all a little nervous to eat there because we didn’t understand half of what was on the menu but it was fun to try something different. I played it safe and stuck to good ole chicken but DAYUM, the chicken I had was delicious! It was heavy on the breading but it melted in my mouth and was so good!

He bought all of us presents. He gave me a foot massager. It’s not one of those with water but you stick your feet into the machine and it massages your feet. I haven’t tried it yet, but with my plans on getting back to walking, I’m looking forward to using it.

After our gift opening, we headed to the Escape Room. We checked in and Dr. M was kind enough to reserve the room so we wouldn’t have to worry about sharing it with strangers. He knew we would have much more fun if it was just the five of us. The name of our mystery to solve was “Missing Musician.”

Your mentor, and one of the world’s premier musicians, has gone missing.  On the precipice of releasing his masterpiece that would put his name with the great musicians of the past.  He’s always been a bit of a strange fellow, to have that kind of talent requires some level of insanity.  Over the past few months he’s become paranoid and reclusive and now he’s vanished with the only clue being a letter directing you to his study.

You decide to investigate but once in his study the door has shut and locked behind you.  Was there foul play involved or has he simply run off to never be heard from again?  It’s up to you to find out what happened to him and figure out how to get out of his study.

After going over the rules, they locked us in the room and we had one hour to try and figure out how to get out. There was a sofa, a cabinet with a box inside, pictures on the walls, something in the wall we had to open, sort of like a safe, a piano, and a bookcase. There was also a suitcase with three locks on it. The piano bench also had a lock. The piano cover had a lock on it and there were a few keypads around the room. In essence, we had to figure out codes and combinations to open the locks and punch into keypads. There was a large, flat screen TV on the wall and it all started with a short video explaining what happened to give us some context. If, after about ten minutes, we didn’t discover and solve the first puzzle, a clue would appear on the TV. We did not discover the first puzzle but we were able to figure it out after the clue was given. It all started with a cassette case in a box on the bookcase. On that cassette tape was the order in which we would find clues. That was hugely helpful but it was still very challenging.

I’ll be honest, we had a lot of clues. At one point, we found a key that opened a drawer in the wall which had another key and a flashlight/black light. We used that key to open another door which started a disco ball thingie on the coffee table turning and loud music to play. It also threw the room into a black light setting which allowed us to use the flashlight to illuminate clues on the walls. (I neglected to mention there was graffiti on the walls). After unlocking the padlock on the piano bench, we pulled out a series of music sheets that we then had to use on the piano to unlock another puzzle. It’s all very complicated and hard to explain, especially since the whole experience was a bit of a frenzied blur, but suffice it to say, I did little more than offer ideas now and again leaving it up to our nurse and physician’s assistant to solve the harder stuff.

Oh. There was one part where we had to place an aux cord into a power board using the clues we gleaned from the black light clues on the wall but for whatever reason it wouldn’t work. We KNEW we had it right but nothing happened. After about five minutes, one of the Escape Room workers popped his head in to see what was happening and he said they had had a power surge the night before and the board wasn’t working. Obviously, he gave us the next clue so we could move on and gave us extra time which was greatly appreciated.

The next to last clue was trying to figure out some hieroglyphics on some sheet music and once we figured it out, one of the pictures on the wall dropped scaring the beejeebus out of all us. All of us girls actually screamed and it was pretty funny. That was our jump scare, I suppose.

The last step was a series of levers that we had to either lift up or down, depending on the clues that we had and that gave us the combination to put into the keypad to unlock the door.

WE WON! We had six minutes to spare though to be fair, if we hadn’t been given extra time because of the malfunction it would have been SUPER close. But damn, it was fun. I think Dr. M had a lot of fun, too.

After we took our picture, we all got back into Dr. M’s truck (yes, he drove us all – how nice!) and headed back to the hospital. The day wasn’t quite over so me, our medical secretary and our nurse all went back inside to finish the day.

That is an odd feeling – to go out, have loads of fun and then immediately go back to work. lol

Anyway. I think it would be fun to do something like that with the family. Maybe I can talk them into doing something like that, we’ll see.

It was a great Christmas gift and we were able to forget, just for a time, the COVID nightmare for a little while. Though we all wore our masks the whole time so we couldn’t completely forget about it.

Have you ever done an escape room?

Work Stuff

Nursing Shortage – Bracing for Impact

Let’s talk about work –  bae-bee … (referencing this song)

I haven’t talked about work for a while so let’s bring you up-to-date on the madness that is my 40-plus hour work weeks ..

For those of you that don’t know, I’m a (reluctant) medical assistant. I say reluctant because I never, not once, as in, it never crossed my mind, had any desire to work in the medical field. I never had any aspirations to be a nurse or anything else inside the field but it just sort of happened and before long, I found myself eyeball deep in a “career” not-by-choice. If you’re interested in hearing/listening to how I stumbled into the medical field, you can click on these links: Podcast: Being a Medical AssistantI Got a Promotion! (Sort of)Accidental Health Care Career

But suffice it to say, I’m here and I’m giving my job 150% of myself. It’s exhausting, challenging and rewarding every day. I don’t see myself doing anything else (I have about ten years until I retire – but don’t quote me on that – you never know what life will throw at you), nor making an effort to be anything more than a medical assistant. (Again, don’t hold me to that).

This past year has been tough, I don’t have to tell you that. We’ve all had challenges but I’ll be honest, it’s been especially challenging for healthcare workers.

I have it easy, honestly. I work in an outpatient clinic for Neurosurgery. There are nine surgeons in my office and though I help wherever and whenever I’m needed, I work primarily for Dr. M. Dr. M’s team consists of him, his PA, his nurse, me and his medical secretary. And if you think that’s a lot of people surrounding one doctor, you would be right, but he needs all of us to handle the work load he alone generates.

He’s not special (though I think he’s pretty special – ha!), all of the doctors in our clinic have the same number of staff. Our jobs, broken down are as follows:

  • Dr. M evaluates patients in clinic and does surgery. (duh)
  • Physician’s Assistant (PA) or Nurse Practitioner (NP) compiles detailed information on patients in clinic and assists with surgeries.
  • Nurse sets up the surgeries and are available to patients after surgery to help manage post-op questions/pain and after care.
  • Medical Assistants (Me) set up his clinics (appointments, making sure patients have images and everything is ready for clinic) and clean up clinics, meaning patients are scheduled for testing and any follow up appointments.
  • Medical Secretaries help answer phones, request images from other facilities, fill out FMLA paperwork, etc.

These duties are simplified, of course, as we all have many other duties that we’re in charge of but you get the gist of what we do and what we’re responsible for.

We are a unique group. We’re not any more special than anyone else but I mean we’re unique in the way we’re set up when compared to other outpatient clinics.

Most clinics only have one nurse and the doctors have their own MA’s. Not very many clinics have both both a nurse and an MA for each doctor. Our clinic started out as an independent clinic from the hospital and that is how the doctors wanted it when they structured their practice. But then the hospital bought the practice and we integrated into the hospital structure and though the hospital wanted our clinic to get rid of the nurses (thereby saving them a ton of money), the doctors said no and kept their nurses.

I’m very thankful for that fact as again, I wouldn’t want to be my doctor’s sole “go to” clinic person and quite frankly, I don’t want that responsibility.

COVID changed the way we see patients. Our doctors never once even entertained the thought of offering Telemedicine visits. But then COVID hit and we were left with the challenge of how are we going to keep seeing patients, thereby keeping everyone employed and generating money for the hospital by continuing to do surgeries if we weren’t allowed to actually SEE anyone?

Enter, telemedicine.

To say it’s been a challenge, and continues to be a challenge, would be sugar coating it. I have grown to hate Telemedicine with a passion. At first, I loved it – I didn’t have to actually deal with patients in-person and it was a challenge. Now, I’m over the challenge and frustration and I’m MORE than ready to go back to in-person visits. But alas, my doctor is not ready for that and he continues to insist on only offering Telemedicine visits. So. I continue to grit my teeth and practice more patience that I ever thought I was capable of and somehow we get through the technical difficulties of Telemedicine.

There have been times, (and continue to be times), I just want to throw my headset down and walk away. Seriously. I can’t tell you the number of times I have allllllmost walked out. Screw this, I can make more money at Hobby Lobby and have a lot less stress. There have been times, (and continue to be times), that I want to throw my laptop through a window, but of course, I haven’t. I have stayed because ultimately I didn’t want to upset and disappoint my team. I’m quite attached to them and I genuinely like them. It’s a good thing too because honestly, and I’m being dead honest here, I would have left a long time ago if I wasn’t so attached to everyone.

We’re now to a point that I’ve gotten pretty good at Telemedicine visits. I have clawed my way through troubleshooting moments and I can pretty much talk a patient through anything. The only line I draw is when a patient tells me they don’t know how to access his/her email. If you don’t know how to access your email, I can’t help you. I’m done. My doctor continues to insist on Telemedicine visits and doesn’t want to see anyone in the office until the vaccine is being widely distributed to the general public. I can respect his decision but it doesn’t mean I have to like it. Luckily, or unluckily, due to the rising cases of the disease and the fact that we’ve had 150 patients with COVID in the hospital and a number of employees out because of being positive for COVID, it hasn’t been a hard sell at this point. However, there will come a time that selling Telemedicine to patients will become harder and harder. I don’t think Telemedicine will ever go away entirely, it’s really handy for patients who live hours away and it saves them a trip to town, but locals will not likely accept it as easily.

But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. We’re not there yet.

My nurse and her entire family had COVID. She was out for three weeks. She was very sick for about two weeks of it and too weak to come to work the third week so she worked from home. That was a long three weeks for me and gave me a small taste of how my working life would be different if we didn’t have nurses.

I could handle it. It would take some (major) adjusting, but I could do it. I couldn’t do all of it, obviously, I’m not licensed and do not have the authority to give medical advice when it comes to medications but I could certainly put in meds in a patient’s chart with the PA’s guidance. And I could learn to put in surgery orders. But I wouldn’t have the knowledge to round or visit patients in their rooms nor the knowledge to give medical advice to patients with various medical issues. Not having a nurse could be done but thankfully, we don’t have to deal with that.

But with that said ….

We are about to be down five nurses. F.I.V.E. We currently have nine nurses, one for each surgeon, well, ideally we have nine nurses. We’ve been down two nurses for quite some time. Another one quit (being a clinic nurse is not for the faint of heart), another one is going PRN (which is Latin for “as needed”) to go to nurse practitioner school and another one is retiring.

Big deal, you’re thinking, just hire more nurses.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Except the big challenge is – we haven’t had any applications. NOT ONE. And the positions have been posted for MONTHS. In fact, when speaking to the charge nurse on the floor we send our patients to after surgery, she hasn’t had any applications, either.

There are simply no nurses to be had.

I don’t know if this means there is a nursing shortage overall, or if every available nurse out there is being utilized to take care of the influx of COVID patients.

Maybe both.

When speaking to my nurse about this, she poo-poos the notion that there might be a nursing shortage.

According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing site:

I think a lot of people who thought about going to nursing school has declined in recent years because of the threat of socialized medicine programs (which means less money and more work), the cost of schooling, which has skyrocketed in the past few years alone, and the fact that most people want a quick buck and don’t want to work for it and let’s face it, nursing is HARD.

So yes, I think the nursing shortage is going to be more keenly felt now more than ever – COVID just pushed it down the hill much sooner than anticipated.

Once again, screw you COVID.

All of this to say, we’re coming up on yet another hard curve in the working road. Hopefully, we can take the turn slow enough that we don’t skid off the side and careen down the cliff exploding at the bottom into a fiery ball of skin and bones.

How’s them visuals?

Our clinic is finally fully staffed with medical assistants. There for a while, we were down a few MA’s and we had to all work together to cover each other. But now, it’s the nurses’ turn to be short staffed and we’re going to all have to work together to help them out as much as we can. Each nurse is going to have to consistently cover two doctors and that is going to take a lot of patience and cooperation from us.

It’s so weird, because this situation used to be exactly opposite. We couldn’t find decent MA’s for YEARS. It wasn’t a field that people went into, let alone really knew about. And many people think you have to go to school to become an MA – not true. A lot of places will hire you and train you on the job – at least, it used to be like that. But now that more people are going into the field, employers might be a little more choosy on who they hire and NOT hire someone who hasn’t had any schooling.

Being a medical assistant isn’t hard, but you do have to have a lot of patience, superior multi-tasking, communication, and time management skills, If you’re not very good at juggling several balls in the air at the same time, being a medical assistant is not the job for you. I’m just keeping it real.

So. Once again, our clinic is getting ready to enter a challenging time. It’s rare to have a time period where everything is going great and we’re fully staffed before one domino falls over and before long, we’re scrambling to rebuild the entire thing. But I supposed that is the case for every industry in one form or another.

Anyway. All of this to say, that’s the biggest reason I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve been busy working overtime and filling in for my nurse. But now that my nurse is back, the challenge has shifted and who knows how much I will be needed with the upcoming nursing shortage.

I guess, all we can do is live our lives one day at a time, right?

I can say this for our clinic though, we are a tough crowd. We have been through some CRAZY hard transitions over the years and most of us are still standing. Yes. We’ve lost a few people over the years but the majority of us have stayed.

That says a lot about us, I think.

Work Stuff

Thankful to Still Have a Job

Isn’t that picture pretty?? It’s my hope to some day go to Washington DC and see the cherry blossoms, to walk this path, breath the fresh air, feel the sun on my face and just EXIST, stress free for a few moments.

Alas, that day is not today.

But it’s a nice place to visit in my imagination, especially right now.

I hate to be yet another person talking about this damn Coronavirus, but I wanted to document the crazy that our world is right now so that at some point, hopefully, in the near future, we can look back at this time period and think, “WHAT THE F*CK….”

First off, I’m so sorry, I’m so TERRIBLY sorry for anyone out there that is not working right now. I feel so bad for the people whose companies have shut down leaving them without a reliable wage. I can’t imagine, and I pray I never have to imagine, what that feels like. I’m sure there are a lot of scared, freaked out people right now and the sooner we can get back to normal, the better for all of our mental health.

I’m so very thankful, SO THANKFUL, that so far, we have not been asked to stay home. It was touch and go for a while, there was talk that the hospital would disperse us and “re-allocate” us to other areas of the hospital and my first thought was, “but I don’t WANT to wipe patients’ butts!” Translation: working the floor terrifies me. Largely because I have zero experience working the floor and I know I would be more of a hindrance than a help because people would have to spend their precious time training me and then going back later and re-doing what I did because it was wrong.

And let’s not forget the wiping peoples’ butts thing …

We have been given the option of working from home. We can check messages, call patients back, work on upcoming schedules, etc. and I’m very, VERY thankful that we have this option. I haven’t had the chance to take advantage of that option yet, but I hope to soon.

The week of Spring Break, when our doctors were out, was the longest, darkest week I’ve had since working this job. It was the uncertainty, and the rumors, and the daily updates and changes that were being made so fast it gave me daily headaches just trying to keep up with it all. I tried not to get sucked into the vortex of doom, but I’m only human and I too have bills to pay and retirement to save up for so I would be lying if there weren’t times my heart beat a little faster out of purely selfish fear.

But then, our doctors came back, ready to work but no surgeries to fill their time. And they’re bored and they want to see patients, but the hospital has cracked down on the number of people being allowed in so running clinics as usual was out of the question.

My doctor, who is freaking awesome and whom I just adore, is always open to new ideas. And our mid-level, who is like a spunky little sister, suggested Telemedicine. GENIUS! So, we started looking into our options. And we trialed our first Telemedicine clinic on Wednesday and I think it went pretty good for our first time trying something completely different and out of our comfort zone.

Our team has been the guinea pigs of the clinic – if what we do succeeds, then the other doctors will follow suit. And a few of them have already tried it.

My lovely daughter-from-another-mother nurse and I have been SUPER busy vetting patients and setting them up to try this Telemedicine. The technology is there, the problem is people don’t know how to use/activate their webcams and/or microphones, so I spent a large portion of my day trying to talk them into finding the right settings and then basically using it.

However, I’m proud to say that we “saw” nine patients via Telemedicine on Wednesday and it went relatively well. Sure, there were glitches and things we needed to improve, but I’m confident it will only get better the more we use it.

And patients seem to LOVE it.

And my team seems to really like it.

And it gives me an excellent excuse to go to work every day and keep my job.

WIN-WIN!

So, for the foreseeable future, until this craziness passes, we have found our new normal. And I predict just when we get used to our new normal, get everything down to a science, this craziness will pass and we’ll go back to our old normal.

I’m okay with that. I’m nothing if not flexible.

In addition to the hospital not allowing unnecessary visitors in, they are now taking our temperatures every morning to ensure we are not exhibiting flu-like symptoms. I get it, they have to protect the workers and patients, but I confess, I breathe easier once I have “passed” the test and get the colored sticker of the day on my badge. (We have colored stickers put on our badges every day to mark who has passed the screening).

The hospital has also erected a huge triage tent just outside the ER entrance so that can ensure they are not allowing someone with symptoms into the ER waiting room to potentially infect all who are sitting in the waiting room.

The hospital is also constructing a floor within our hospital to serve as a “MASH” unit, so to speak, to house potential Coronavirus patients. Which, on the surface, sounds admirable, but then my mid-level pointed out that it will actually bring the hot zone to us because of all of the nurses and personnel that will have close contact with the infected patients and then go to the cafeteria to mingle with the rest of us poor unsuspecting saps.

We honestly can’t win for losing here.

I do have hope, though. Watching President Trump’s latest press conference where he talks about ending the shut down soon because we HAVE to get back to work, is encouraging. The government is just trying to figure out how to go about that. I don’t envy them that job.

And side note: Did you know that CNN and other news outlets are either cutting away from the press conference in order to avoid the hopeful message that the president puts out there or they have stopped airing the conferences all together? Why would they do that? It’s almost as if they WANT to prolong this hell … (answer: they do)

In other news, Brandon’s 25th birthday was yesterday. He turned 25 on the 25th and we didn’t even get to go to his favorite restaurant to celebrate, though we did order take out from his favorite restaurant. We had a very lively discussion about the current state of affairs and I think we gave him a lot think about. To our chagrin, he thinks a lot like the majority of young people nowadays and we do our best to give him a dose of reality while trying not to sound too adult-ish.

Though it was a small, low-key birthday, I bet he doesn’t forget his 25th birthday.

Hang in there, peeps, this too shall pass.

In the News, Work Stuff

Be Alert, Not Anxious – COVID-19 Update

Hi.

How are you doing?

I think this might have been the longest week of my life. I’m sure you can relate.

The world has gone crazy, are you keeping up?

On second thought, don’t keep up. Ignore the news. Or at the very least, tune in one or twice a day – no more than that.

I strongly believe we are where we are today BECAUSE of the media. They have taken great lengths to thoroughly and completely stir people up into a panic. Well done, media. You have induced mass hysteria.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t take the Coronavirus seriously, but again, when compared to the common influenza numbers, I don’t think it warrants the reaction that it has gotten.

Flu season is hitting its stride right now in the US. So far, the CDC has estimated (based on weekly influenza surveillance data) that at least 12,000 people have died from influenza between Oct. 1, 2019 through Feb. 1, 2020, and the number of deaths may be as high as 30,000.

The CDC also estimates that up to 31 million Americans have caught the flu this season, with 210,000 to 370,000 flu sufferers hospitalized because of the virus.

So how do these numbers compare to flu deaths in previous years? So far, it looks like the 2019-2020 death toll won’t be as high as it was in the 2017-2018 season, when 61,000 deaths were linked to the virus. However, it could equal or surpass the 2018-2019 season’s 34,200 flu-related deaths.

Overall, the CDC estimates that 12,000 and 61,000 deaths annually since 2010 can be blamed on the flu. Globally, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that the flu kills 290,000 to 650,000 people per year. Source

So, why the mind-numbing fear? The unknown, I guess. It’s something new and different and since the media have done such a good job of scaring the shit out of people, and fear is one of the, if not the most, powerful emotions humans can experience and only breeds and feeds off itself, people have completely lost sight of reality.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t treat the Coronavirus seriously, but seriously, get a grip.

This too shall pass. Take precautions, be proactive without being irrational.

You can’t control what is happening but you CAN control how you react to it.

What tightens my sphincter is how everyone is reacting to this latest crisis. Wow man, get a grip. It only takes a handful of people to freak out and buy all the toilet paper before human instinct kicks in and other people follow suit.

“Wow. The selves are empty. What do other people know that I don’t? I should stock up, too. It doesn’t matter that I already have two giant rolls of toilet paper at home, I need MORE. I need to protect ME and MY FAMILY. What if we’re sequestered for weeks? Months? Years??”

This is a natural progression of thought and I would by lying if I told you that I didn’t feel the pinch of fear as Kevin and I were doing our normal weekly shopping as well. It’s tempting, very tempting, to give in to this emotion and lose touch with reality for a bit.

We’re human. It’s how we’re programmed.

But the selfish tendencies of people during times like this really shine. Stop. Breathe. Think. What about the people who have nothing?? What about the people with bare shelves and no options? Buy what you need and leave some for other people.

I realize that some people do this because they are grasping for control over a situation they have no control over. I get it, I’m the same way. But I force myself to stop, breathe and think before simply succumbing to that dark monster of fear that likes to whisper in my ear from time-to-time.

And I would get the mass hysteria when it comes to groceries if there were no other options. THERE. CONTINUE. TO. BE. OPTIONS. Restaurants are still in business, you just have to use the drive-thru or the take out option. I honestly don’t think people are remembering that option. And these poor restaurants are just trying to keep their heads above the water so that they can provide a little work for their employees, let’s help them out, shall we?

Which brings me to the biggest part of this crisis that worries the most: the financial fallout.

Businesses are being shut down and people are losing their jobs. Jobs they depend on for money so they can pay bills and buy food. I think part of the hysteria is the fact that people are scared of that either happening, or happening, to them. It’s already  happened to my nephew. He works at a restaurant and he’s been laid off. I have no idea if they are giving him an option of coming in to help with take out orders, but I sure hope there is some option available to him until this virus burns off and we can get back to normal.

Some businesses may never recover – what happens to the poor people that worked there?

I predict it takes MONTHS for our economy to recover. I hope it doesn’t happen, but I also predict we’re heading toward another recession. Think of the travel industry, they have shut down entirely. Disney has shut down and announced they are going to continue paying their 750,000 employees. Though admirable, where does THAT money come from? Employers are trying to do the right thing for their employees, and that’s certainly admirable, but at some point, the money will dry up if they’re not allowed to open back up for business. And even then, it will take them some time to play catch up.

People like to snarl and point out, “but it’s not about the bottom line, Karen, it’s about the people.”

Precisely my point. Who does the bottom line ultimately affect? THE PEOPLE.

And if we’re reacting this way to something that is relatively minor in the grand scheme of things, (remember the influenza numbers? And that happens EVERY YEAR), how are we going to react if something like the black plague happens?

It will truly be a Mad Max scenario, I fear. I pray I’m wrong but judging by what is happening now? I think it’s a distinct possibility.

So, how is this affecting me personally? I work at the hospital, remember?

This past Tuesday, our hospital went into lock-down mode. Meaning, only employees and patients can pass the doors. And any other people who want in have to be screened and have their temperatures taken. And most entrances to the hospital are closed, you can only enter/leave by certain entrances.

It’s spooky, but I totally understand the precautions and I appreciate them. We had the added advantage of being on Spring Break at work, meaning most of the doctors were out any way to spend time with their families but what about next week? Are we going to cancel clinics? And if the clinic closes down, what about the rest of us? What does that mean for our jobs?

I’ll be honest, and a bit selfish, but that is my biggest concern.

The nurses will be reallocated to other areas of the hospital, that’s a given. But what about the rest of us non-licensed saps? The hospital has done a great job of communicating with us and letting us know how they will respond if that happens. And it’s already happened to quite a few departments – those people have been reallocated to other areas. Human resources is keeping a running tally of places that people can go to help out. But what happens when there are no more places to put people? Because we’re talking about A LOT of departments have been affected by this outbreak.

We can use our ETO (Earned time off), but what if we don’t want to use ETO? Then unpaid leave it is. But what about our bills? Money to live off of? Because let’s be real, most people live from paycheck to paycheck – I’m saying that’s wise, but it is real.

Kevin and I have talked, at length, about what we will do if I’m laid off. Because if there aren’t very many jobs and it comes to me or someone I work with who is not as financially secure as we are, I’m going home, hands down. That other person needs the work more than I do. And Kevin is self-employed and still working, so at least we have one income. And we have savings, etc.

But I really hope it doesn’t come to that. Some of our doctors have canceled clinics for next week but not all of them. Some doctors have proposed a telemedicine sort of compromise and we might end up doing that for my team, but at this point, we’re just taking it day by day. All elective surgeries have been canceled, probably for the next month, but our doctors need something to do, I guess.

In the meantime, one of the ways I cope with stressful situations like this is to gather information – facts. I don’t give a shit about a pundit’s opinion or prediction, give me the facts then shut up.

I stumbled across this Ted Talk on YouTube and thought I would share it. It’s worth a watch:

I found myself rolling my eyes at the part where she talks about climate change because I’m coming to this conversation with a pre-conceived notion, thoughts and opinions about climate change – i.e. I don’t believe it’s man made but I can’t dispute that our climate is changing – it’s circular in nature so of course it changes – where do you think we get our average temperatures from? However, I’m forcing myself to be fair and to listen, really listen, to what she’s saying because I think it’s important that we ALL start to retrain our brains to listen and stop jumping to conclusions, because when we do that, we stop listening.

It was interesting what she said about the structure of the Coronavirus and how it originates from animals and that we will continue to see outbreaks in the years ahead simply because we will continue to meet and encounter animals in various ways through societal ways. I don’t know why I’m surprised by this, I guess I was hoping that once the Coronavirus expends itself we would never see something like this again but I guess I’m being too optimistic. I do hope, though, that it’s several years before it happens again.

And it WILL happen again, on some level. I just pray we learn something from this experience and take proactive steps in the future so that we are better prepared and emotionally equipped to handle the stress of it all.

I also really liked what she said about better and honest communication so that we can talk about these sorts of things WHEN they happen to avoid misinformation, panic and agendas that do nothing but destroy and further alienate people from one another. I wish people would critically think before they react – the news media IS NOT YOUR FRIEND. They could give a rats ass about you, or about society: they are all about getting clicks, selling ads and generating enough buzz that you will choose them instead of their competitor the next time you need “news.” Fear is a powerful, POWERFUL emotion and it doesn’t take much to ignite that match. Fear muddies the water toward a rational, workable solution and I don’t know about you, but the faster we can educate ourselves and make wise choices, the faster we can move on to happier times.

Be CONSCIOUS of your surroundings. Be CONSCIOUS of things you touch throughout the day. Avoid opening doors with your hands, carry a tissue, or a rag, or something to use instead. Don’t push elevator buttons with your finger, use your elbow, or the back of your hand. Don’t touch  your face. Wash your hands after leaving someplace public.  Sneeze and cough into your elbow -NOT YOUR HANDS!!!!!! These precautions should be part of your every day life, not just when there’s an outbreak.

I’ll stop talking now, I just wanted to document what is going on right now and to hopefully give you, dear reader, some hope moving forward. Be alert, not anxious.

If you take nothing away from this post, then take this: The precautions in place now should ALWAYS be implemented. Every day. No matter the season. Watch this video of how germs spread if you don’t believe me.

Stay healthy, friends.