Gone at Last

Where to start …

Work has consumed me. There have been so many changes this past year – it has at once flown by and yet it feels like time has stood still. And by that I mean, it’s the same day-in-and-day-out. The type of work I do is very repetitive, rooming patients, taking blood pressures, interviewing patients, scheduling appointments … but the patients and their individual problems, needs and personalities, mix everything up so I’m NEVER bored.

I now consider working my hobby. Does that sound weird? Nearly every waking moment I’m either thinking about work or preparing for work. Not the work itself, really, but I feel like I’ve spent so much time physically and mentally preparing for every work day that I’m determined to make it pay off. In fact, I put so much time and energy into my work day, giving 150% of ME into my job that I’m entirely knackered by the weekend and all I want to do is mindlessly watch YouTube videos or play Sims 4 – anything that doesn’t require any mental energy.

I’m not sure it’s entirely healthy to be that invested in my job, but I feel like it keeps me young, it also helps that I work with 20-somethings, as well. I’m always on my feet running around and really don’t sit that often and it certainly taxes my pea brain. Our brains are muscles and need to be stimulated – I feel like this job will keep me on my toes enough that hopefully I never have to worry about Dementia or Alzheimer’s. Yes. I think about those things. Getting older REALLY, REALLY, REALLY bothers me. I think my biggest fear, and I hesitate to even write it because if I write it then will it come true? Is becoming old. Like so old I can’t control my body or my mind. So old that I become a burden on our sons. Or so old that I’m no longer able to live on my own without assistance.

I’m very determined to not allow that to happen.

My dad’s dad passed away a few months ago. He lived on his own until about two-ish years ago when he was finally unable to get around without assistance and he went into a nursing home for veterans. I never visited him at his home. In fact, I hadn’t seen my grandpa in many (decade?) years. I have no excuses – I simply didn’t take the time out of my day to see him. I’m very selfish with my time. This is not a good thing and I feel like a bad person for admitting it but it’s true. I have many, many regrets when it comes to my family and to this day, I can’t really explain why I’ve been the way I’ve been – a recluse. Which is puzzling to me because I’m a realist and brutally honest with my feelings and openly recognize my flaws. Though I suspect the reason is there, bubbling under the surface, I’m just refusing to acknowledge it, either here or to anyone, really.

I admired my grandpa. He was a very stubborn man. He hobbled around on a bad hip for a number of years, by himself, with very little complaint. He fought living on his own and continued onward after my grandma passed away. And I know her passing was a terrible hardship on him – he worshiped her. I like to think I have my grandpa’s stubborn streak. I REFUSE to allow my aging to get in the way I live my life or how my family lives their lives.

I hadn’t really planned on talking about the aging process in this post but I’m allowing my thoughts and feelings to dictate this post so here goes: getting older absolutely terrifies me. I already feel like my body is not really my own anymore. I used to be able to control it and of course, I continue to control it today, but there has been a noticeable shift. Ever since I went through “the change” my body has been thrown off kilter. I’ve noticed more aches and pains since menopause. I tire so much more easily and I’ve been playing around with supplements because I know my body is not producing the nutrients I need anymore. I’ve seen, firsthand, what osteoporosis does to bones and what terrible things it can do to people – it can back people into an impossible corner – bones so brittle they literally crack and are so thin that surgery is not an option because it’s counterproductive to put any sort of hardware in bones that won’t sustain it. So I’ve been taking calcium and Vitamin D religiously.

I’ve been taking Flaxseed daily because I read somewhere that it mimics estrogen and it’s good for your heart and I honestly feel better when I take it – I can definitely tell when I forget to take it for a few days. I’m not anemic anymore since I no longer bleed every month but there are days I can’t even lift my arms I’m so fatigued, so I know it’s time to take some iron and I feel better. My nerve endings are so sensitive sometimes that I know it’s time to take Vitamin B, which calms them down. Your body talks to you, you just have to take the time to listen to it.

I’ve been under so much stress at work – I’ve never been under this much stress in my life. It sucks the very life out of me at times – and yet, I THRIVE on it. I can’t imagine being a doctor, or even a nurse, to be honest – I just don’t think I could handle the stress though now I fully appreciate why doctors are fanatics when it comes to exercising – because it helps counteract the amount of stress their bodies sustain.

Sidenote: I’m back to using my treadmill – even walking 30 to 45 minutes several times a week HELPS SOOOOO MUCH.

I’m a Medical Assistant. And the job itself is not really all that stressful, but, when you work with someone who doesn’t do her job, it becomes extremely stressful. Because I’m a perfectionist, you see. I am not wired to do a half-ass job. I want people to rely on me and know that if I’m doing a job, you can bet I’m doing it to the best of my ability. I want people to know they can count on me – that I’m loyal, dependable, helpful, fun, and good at my job. The doctor and PA I work for are amazing. They are truly amazing people and they inspire me daily. Our team, as a whole, is organized, efficient and patients seem to like us, at least, according to the scores we get. (Yes. The government scores doctors and their pay is directly proportional to how good their scores are – Medicare/Medicaid patients that is. On the surface, that sounds great. But when the government starts telling the doctors how they can/can not practice, then it’s not that great anymore and ultimately, the very patients they are trying to protect suffer. But that sums up government, doesn’t it. ). But when you work with someone who is clearly lacking work ethic, the whole team becomes stressed and strained.

So, I’ve been doing two jobs, off and on, (mostly on), for two years. TWO. YEARS. Working late became routine for me. It was unusual for me to arrive home before 7:00 PM most nights. I had a new normal, unfortunately. No. I didn’t HAVE to work that late most nights but if I didn’t, then I would begin the next day even further behind because then I would have to finish up the previous day’s work before starting the current day’s work. And because I was fighting an uphill battle, our phone calls were out-of-control. We were getting, AVERAGE, 30 to 40 calls PER DAY. And that stressed me out even more.

Yes. I complained. Yes. We had numerous “team” meetings, though the team meetings basically consisted of one person being told she needed to do better. And it would get better, for a time, before this person slipped back into her lackluster work ethic and ended up spending more time eating and shopping than she did actually working. I tried to be understanding and helpful at first. And I kept my thoughts mostly to myself. But after a while, it became clear that I was being taken advantage of and I ended up in the ER, twice, due to chest pains. (And after a stress test and a wearing a holster monitor for three days it was determined it was likely a panic attack).

And then I became angry. I can’t believe I allowed an annoying, less-than-intelligent female to cause me so much grief. The stubborn streak I inherited from my grandpa kicked in. In my mind, allowing one person to affect me so much was allowing this person to have some power over me and I simply will not allow that to happen. EVER. So, I was on a mission to make some changes. I was no longer going to cover for this person. Every mistake she made, every time she procrastinated on something, I went to management about it. I took screen shots, I kept running tallies of things she put off for days, and shouldn’t have. Times were ugly because this person would get called into offices and lectured and still, STILL, she continued to laugh it off and/or have a ready-made excuse as to why things weren’t being done and/or why she was rude to patients.

There were areas I kept my hands completely out of in order to give herself more rope with which to hang herself. I was done stepping in and saving the day. And yes, it bothered me GREATLY and it was really hard not to take control and make things better and yes, it truly bothered me that patients had to suffer as a consequence, but if I wanted things to change, I had to allow these things to happen. I was confident that her piss-poor work habits would eventually catch up to her, and they did. Unfortunately, I can’t go into details as to what exactly happened, but suffice it to say, it was very bad and potentially dangerous. She finally got written up. But again, things did not improve. I think this girl had been so used to being compared to an “I Love Lucy” character and laughing her mistakes/antics off, that she truly thought it would save her – that people would just shrug and say, “Well, that’s _______ for you.”

No. Just no. That is not acceptable, especially when we have patients who are counting on us and trusting us to take care of them.

Finally. Finally. The doctor had had enough. He was having to step in and smooth the waters one too many times. He spoke to management. And the next thing I knew, she was being told she wasn’t a good fit and to find a new position elsewhere.

I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I was relieved. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted from my shoulders. On the other hand, I had such guilt. For though I wasn’t the one who was making the mistakes and had a piss-poor attitude, I felt responsible because I went out of my way to make sure the proper people knew about her screw ups.

She continued to work for our clinic for four weeks after she was told to find something else. Since she wasn’t technically “fired” and didn’t have any vacation time she could cash in and use, she stuck around for four weeks while she interviewed for a new position. She was present when we started interviewing a replacement nurse. She was present when our entire team went into another room to discuss the applicants’ pros and cons. She was present when these applicants were shown around our clinic, given the “tour”, if you will. To say this was an awkward four weeks would be putting it mildly. And since I was the one who had to see her every day and continue to work with her, it was hardest on me.

Which stressed me out even further.

I started having chest pains again though I told no one. I didn’t go to the ER because I knew what was happening – I was having panic attacks. I finally bit the bullet and looked up my chart and read the holster monitor report back when I wore it when I went to the ER two years ago. (I don’t have a PCP so the ER doctor didn’t have anyone to forward the results to so I never got the results). I just wanted to make sure that I wasn’t damaging an already weakened heart by NOT seeing a doctor. Everything was normal. Yes. My heart pauses at times, (skips a beat), and paused a total of 34 times in one hour at one point but apparently, it was still within the normal range so there was no cause for alarm. (Which seems weird that your heart pausing 34 times in one hour is still considered “normal??”) But the doctor recommended either magnesium and/or beta blockers for my chest pain so I thought I would throw in my magnesium with my other supplements and see how that worked. It worked, for the record. I haven’t had chest pain since starting magnesium.

This all happened in January of this year.

I was never so glad to see a month end in all my life.

This nurse and I are not friends – all ties have been severed which doesn’t bother me in the least. Not even a little. Yes. I’m a cold-hearted bitch. Tell me something I don’t know.

Look. Whenever a company is lucky enough to have me as an employee (*snicker*), I will give my employer 150%. The company is investing time and money in me, I’m going to deliver. I’m not working to become BFF’s or talk, endlessly, about my personal life with someone. Sure. If we get our work done and we have some laughs along the way, then BONUS. But to show up to work and expect to do little to nothing and be handed a paycheck? No. That’s not the way it works, or should work. As long as you do your job, then I don’t have a problem with you. It’s when you don’t do your job, that’s when the gloves come off and I get aggressive.

Our new nurse didn’t start until the beginning of March, this month. I can’t even begin to describe the night and day difference between these two women. This new nurse is enthusiastic and eager to do a good job. She cares about people and wants to help them. She’s happy to be a nurse and there is genuine joy in her. It’s such a breath of fresh air. We had a heart-to-heart the other day when our doctor/PA left for the day. She asked what she was getting into the middle of, that she had heard some things. I was completely honest with her. I told her what I just told you – do your job and we won’t have a problem. She said her interview was all about me, about how much they expected her to help me and to keep on top of my duties, to call patients back in a timely manner and to be proactive and keep on top of surgical requirements. I felt embarrassed when she told me that, I also felt honored and humbled. It’s nice to know the doctor/PA recognized the hell I’ve been living for the past two years and were trying to do everything they could to make my life easier. After it was announced the other nurse would be expected to find another position, my doctor and I had a sit down chat. He made me feel good in that he had no intentions of losing me. It made me feel appreciated.

I’ve been off the past few days, it will be interesting to see how she has done without me. Which is not to say she can’t do her job without me – any MA would be able to easily step in and do my job, but I got the feeling I was her anchor since she hasn’t really had a chance to hang out with the other nurses yet and learn the ropes. I feel sort of protective of her. She’s young though has been a nurse for a while and I guess it’s the mothering instinct in me to want to see her do well and be happy in her new job. I’m not completely heartless, you see.

My doctor is on vacation this week – he’s spending time with his kiddos for spring break, hence the reason I took a few “mental health” days off, but I’m looking forward to going back to work tomorrow and working with her. I have a lot of prep work ahead of me – getting ready for next week’s clinics and there’s a schedule I need to work on as my doctor has text me to say he will need to leave early next Wednesday so I can adjust his clinic schedule, but I’m approaching this change with fresh eyes and an open heart. I feel like Satan has really tested me these past few years and for the first time in months, I feel like I can breathe and genuinely smile again.

I Am a Certified Medical Assistant

I passed my Certified Medical Assistant test. I went through this site, in case there are any other medical assistants out there thinking about taking this test.

cmaWhat does that mean, exactly? Well, not to belittle the position because DUDE, I KNOW, it basically means I’m mentally capable of being a doctor’s minion.

The test was … harder than I thought it would be. It went beyond simply knowing the information, they asked questions that applied that knowledge. For example, phlebotomy, (which is the name of the specialty for people who draw blood). “If you’re drawing blood to test for this condition, what color tube would you use?”

ACK!

That was pretty much my first question and I immediately broke out in a sweat. And FYI: KNOW PHLEBOTOMY inside and out. There are a TON of questions on the test about this area. Oh, and EKG’s, but mostly phlebotomy.

Let me back up.

The hospital presented an incentive for medical assistants to become certified. They promised a pay increase and a bonus – you got so much money up front and if you stuck around for one year, you would get the other half of this bonus. Sweet deal, right?? Not to mention, having more certified staff makes the hospital look good, right?

For those of you that don’t know, I sort of fell into this whole medical assistant thing. I have never had aspirations of doing ANYTHING in the medical field. And my end goal is not to become a nurse – nurses are great, legendary really, but I have neither the patience nor the desire to become a nurse. I’m happy where I am, thank you very much.

No. I applied to the hospital back in 2011 because of Obamacare. I was concerned for my family’s healthcare. Kevin’s company had liquidated and he was setting up his own business, which meant we didn’t have healthcare, and the healthcare we could qualify for was astronomically expensive. I was thinking about going back-to-work at that time anyway, (I had been a stay-at-home mom for seven years), so I applied at a local hospital.

I feel like I’ve told this story before. Sorry if you’ve heard this one …

I got an interview. It was with the insurance processing part of the hospital. My first interview went really well and I landed a second interview with my peers. That one didn’t go as well. I guess they didn’t like me because I didn’t get the job.

Then I got another interview. It was for a scheduling position with neurosurgery. I didn’t even know what neurosurgery was.

I landed that job and started in September of 2011. It was AWESOME. It was fast paced and challenged me daily. So much so that I would often go home crying with frustration because in essence, I was being asked to learn a whole new language – adapt to a whole new world, really.

I took care of three, sometimes four, doctors’ scheduling needs. Once the patient had seen the doctor, they would be asked to stop at my desk and schedule follow-up appointments and/or testing. I loved it. I’ve always been a good multi-tasker and it took all of my “talents”, if you will, to do this job.

About three years into it and things started changing. The hospital needed to downsize and they were eliminating the scheduling jobs. So, we could either become medical assistants or lose our jobs.

One guess which option I chose.

I was thrust into a world I neither knew, nor really wanted, to be perfectly honest. But never one to turn my back on a challenge, I dove in, head first.

I listened. I read. I absorbed every aspect of the job. Google became, (still is), my best friend. Some of the best advice my old boss gave me was, “patients will never know you don’t know what you’re doing if what you do is with confidence.” She was absolutely right. I became a master bull-shitter.

That’s not to say I didn’t do my job correctly, I just made damn sure the patient didn’t doubt what I was doing.

I learned to take blood pressures. I learned to take out sutures and staples. I learned to read, and respond, to verbal cues and body language. I learned when to be seen but not heard around the doctors. I learned to gauge the doctor’s moods and adjust accordingly. I learned when to ask questions and when to listen.

I assimilated to a world I knew nothing about. I’m sort of proud of myself for that, truth be known.

Here’s the kicker: I don’t really like people. I mean, I’m okay being around people and I’m genuinely interested in their stories, for about two seconds, and I’m both sympathetic and empathetic to their complaints , but given the choice of being around people all the time?

Not so much.

When the hospital started pushing us toward certification, I became concerned. I already felt like a fraud because I hadn’t gone to school to do what I was doing and most everyone I worked with had years of medical experience in different departments, they already knew medical terminology, physiology and anatomy, I did not.

Most of my peers passed their certification in no time flat. “Oh, you’ll do fine, Karen. Don’t worry about it,” was their confident responses to my doubts but bottom line?

I didn’t know squat.

So. I started staying after work and studying. And unlike my peers, I didn’t tell anyone when I was planning on taking the test. That way, if I bombed it, no one was the wiser, right? I wouldn’t have to endure pitiful looks of sympathy.

This test cost $150 dollars. So if I was going to commit to this, I WAS GOING TO COMMIT. That’s a chunk of change to just throw against the wall and hope it sticks.

Studying was difficult. I felt like I was cramming four years of medical school into six weeks. But once I got into it, a light bulb sort of went off and I started to “get it.” And it was interesting. I made flash cards and started searing the information into my brain. It took me close to six months of studying after my peers had already passed their tests before I felt comfortable enough to take it.

I registered, paid my money and committed to a date.

The date approached and I started to panic. In fact, I woke up a few nights in a cold sweat and my heart going crazy. It was another panic attack. I knew I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t FEEL ready. So I called the company up and re-scheduled my testing date out another four weeks.

I hit the material harder than before. That was all I could think about for that four weeks. The date approached.

The nearest testing facility was in Aurora, Missouri, at a teeny, tiny airport. That was about 45 minutes from Springfield. What a weird place to have a test. Kevin and I drove out there the weekend before to find it because I know me – if I got all stressed trying to find the place then I would be too stressed to take the test. (It is across the street from the old drive-in in Aurora, for those of you from the area).

I took the Friday off before the test date (it was at 8:00 AM on Saturday morning) so I would have one last chance to cram for the test. I’m so glad I did that, I think that really helped calm my nerves as opposed to working all day the day before and not really having a chance to look over my notes before getting up at the ass-crack of dawn to get ready and drive out there the next day.

THE DAY ARRIVED.

I was nervous, but not petrified. I felt confident enough that I could squeak by. I needed a minimum of 70% to pass. No one would need to know my score. The only thing I needed to do was just pass the damn thing – that’s all the hospital really cared about.

I got to the airport at 7:45 AM. It was completely dark and there wasn’t a soul to be seen.

I went up to the door, knocked, cupped my hands over my eyes to see if anyone was inside. Nope. No one.

Now I’m starting to get annoyed. I went to all of this trouble of preparing, of sweating, of being nervous and no one bothers to show up?!? About the time I finish that thought, I see an SUV coming down the long road to the building. And my very next thought is, “I hope that’s the testing person because how creepy would it be to be out in the middle of nowhere and some guy drives up and I’m by myself, not a soul around ….” Then my imagination runs away with me, which is par for the course for me – was this all a set up to get defenseless medical wannabes out in the middle of no where and kidnap them? Was I going to be a sex slave?

I wonder how much they would charge for my services?

Wait. Where was I … oh yeah, the car is driving up.

A man, a woman and a teenager get out of the car. They open up the building and ask me to take a seat. About five minutes later, a guy walks in. “Is this where you take the … ” the last part of what he says fades away from me, I simply nod my head. Let’s get this party started before I forget everything! Was what I was really thinking. I didn’t want to do a brain dump before I took the test!

We checked in, he checked our ID’s, then we were asked to put our phones, purse, (well, I was the only one who had a purse), jackets and yes, even my fitbit, into a basket. We were then escorted into a tiny room off the main office area. There were two computers with a partition between them. We sat down but were asked not to touch anything. The guy pulls our specific tests up (because this is a test site for all sorts of licenses and certifications) and we are asked to log in but not to start the test.

We have one piece of paper and one pencil. That’s it. And we’re instructed to leave the piece of paper in the room, we are not to take it with us when we leave.

We have exactly 120 minutes to take the test. Then we begin.

I had already taken a practice test (well, several actually) so I knew there would be plenty of time to answer 200 questions. But still, the first question threw me for a loop and I started to panic. All of my confidence flew out of the window and I started sweating. I took a breath, forced myself to calm down and re-read the question. I processed it by eliminating the “no way is it those answers” and gave it my best educated guess. The second question was easier and I knew the answer to that one, so save for that brief terrifying moment of getting past the first question, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. However, I REALLY wish I had studied phlebotomy a bit more. Not so much the technical aspect of it, but the WHYS of it. (Let that be a warning to anyone out there wanting to take this test).

The only thing I used the paper for was one calculation on how many beats per minute on an EKG strip.

The guy who was taking a test with me got done way before me. But that was okay. Again, I just forced myself to breathe and focus on passing this damn thing. It took me a little over an hour to complete the test. But I felt like I had to guess on so many phlebotomy questions, that I left the facility QUITE convinced that I had failed.

I was devastated. I cried on the way home. But since I had to drive 45 minutes to get home, I had come to terms with my perceived failure by the time I arrived home. The big con to this entire process was you didn’t find out your score right away. But there were a few of my peers who had taken the same test at the same test site and said that I would be able to sign on to my account on Sunday, sometime, after they emailed me, to find out my score.

I tortured myself all that night. “I’m so dumb! What was thinking?!? I didn’t know what the hell was doing. Why did I just blow $150 bucks??” It went on and on.

By Sunday morning, I was already past my self-loathing stage and planning to take the test again. THANK GOD I hadn’t told anyone I was taking the test that weekend!! I’m not sure I could handle the humiliation.

Finally, about 1:00 in the afternoon, I received an email. My test score was online! I signed on and I literally closed my eyes and then peeked with dread at my score.

I PASSED!!!!!!! True, my score wasn’t as high as I had hoped it would be, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be either. And the section I did the worst on? Yep. Phlebotomy.

hoorayScrew it. I PASSED!!

A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I told my boss that next Monday and an email was sent out congratulating me. Everyone was so nice and supportive. My boss notified human resources and they got the ball rolling on my monetary reward. They gave me a new badge with CMA on it and I proudly wear that.

I do have to take so many credits every two years in order to keep my certified status. And of course I have to pay to renew my certification every two years, but the continued education are short courses you take online, through the site, that is included with your renewal cost, so it’s not all bad. And honestly, I’m sort of looking forward to reading the material because it will only help me understand my job that much more.

Damn dog, I’m a CMA!