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.

Prompt: Accidental Healthcare Career

Tell us about your first day at something — your first day of school, first day of work, first day living on your own, first day blogging, first day as a parent, whatever.

It’s Obama’s fault that I work in healthcare.

I never, in a million years, even TOSSED the idea around of working in healthcare before our glorious dictator, erhm, leader, (*said with sarcasm*) started the current nightmare we’re living in right now. (Have you guessed that I DESPISE the man?)

It never even occurred to me to attempt it. I knew I could never be a nurse. Not so much for the gross factor (though there is that – KUDOS to nurses!), but I get so impatient with people who are sick or in pain. (Just ask my family). My first reaction is to say, “suck it up, buttercup.”

Not exactly stellar bedside manner, right?

This attitude applies to me, too. It drives me CRAZY to be sick or have some pain I can’t seem to control or get rid of.

But when Obama waved his scepter and deemed Obamacare to be the law of the land (*snicker* – yes, I’m being bitchy), I knew I had to DO something to protect my family. I had been a stay-at-home mom for the past seven years – the kids were old enough to take care of themselves and it was time to get back to work. But where to work? I could try and use my degree (I graduated from college in 2003 with a Technical Writing degree – more on why I didn’t pursue this later), but what if it took me forever to FIND a local job in that field? Time was of the essence, who knew how Obamacare would screw everything up for us?

Kevin was (is) self-employed. And with me not working, we were paying ASTRONOMICAL fees for family health insurance. And we were looking at even higher fees once Obamacare passed.

What were my options? I could go back to retail, banking or even the restaurant business. I have a lot of experience in all of those fields, but even then, how much would it ultimately cost us for health insurance?

I admit, the main reason I applied at the hospital was because I wanted to thumb my nose at Obama and his stupidity. How ironic would it be to have health insurance through a healthcare facility? Oh sure, I know that Obama will never know, nor care, about my decision to work in healthcare simply because of his God-like complex to ultimately control his minions (again with the bitchy), but I figured, on some level, that it might be the safest option in order to protect my family.

So. I applied and to my utter astonishment, I got the job.

Actually, that’s not true. I applied first to the insurance processing center and made it to my second interview. I sat at a table with four other women, the women I would be ultimately working with, interviewing me and I guess they didn’t like me because I didn’t get the job. I didn’t give up though. There was a scheduler’s position at the neurosurgery center that I went for and got. I was now responsible for scheduling testing for two neurosurgeons.

I was both excited and terrified. I bought my required scrubs (at that time we were wearing a different color every day so it was quite expensive initially) and my first day on the job consisted of all-day training, becoming familiar with the hospital rules and regulations, signing up for benefits, etc. We were allowed to wear business attire for my first two days of training.

There were a handful of us – maybe around 20? I remember feeling VERY THANKFUL because the economy was tanking at that time and I was just grateful to have ANY job, let alone the job I landed. I felt extremely grateful to be there.

That feeling quickly dissipated when I started my first day at the clinic. It was on Wednesday and after my boss took me around the clinic and introduced me, I began to fully appreciate what I had gotten myself into.

I knew nothing, NOTHING, about the medical field. In essence, I had to learn a whole new language. I had to learn new software; I had to learn how to be what they wanted me to be by constantly adjusting and readjusting my expectations and my personality. I was absolutely terrified and I wondered, on more than one occasion, just what the hell I was doing there.

I also came very, very close, to walking out several times. (Even recently).

I was so stressed. Just when I thought I had “gotten it,” something, or someone, would throw me a curve ball and I was left floundering. I suppose I did a good job of hiding my terror because months later, when I had become comfortable with my position and the people I worked with, I told them how I felt when I first started and my co-workers were shocked – they had no idea, they said.

I guess that was something, at least.

I could BS my way through patient interactions. I’m telling you, the most helpful class I took in college was communication. It taught me to understand different personalities and how to get along with those personalities. It taught me patience and how to word things so that people didn’t take offense but at the same time, it allowed me to maintain control over the situation.

I think everyone should be required to take a communications class like that (and I’m talking about the art of communication – studying Aristotle and the likes. It sounds boring, and it was, for the most part, it was also difficult to digest, but once that light bulb went off in my head, I feel like I can pretty much handle any personality now).

What stressed me out the most, and still does on many levels, was interacting with the doctors. As if rubbing elbows with doctors in general is not nerve-wracking enough, I’m rubbing elbows with BRAIN SURGEONS. To become a brain surgeon, you have to be the top 1% – these guys are SCARY SMART. Human, but Einstein smart.

I would feel nauseous anytime I had to speak directly with a doctor. Did I ask my question plainly? Should I have been able to answer my question without going to the doctor? Did I present myself in a professional manner? Will they like me or ask management to get rid of me?

(Hey – that’s actually happened before).

The doctors TERRIFIED me. I drove home, on many, many occasions when I first started working for the hospital, crying because I was so stressed out from trying to learn everything. Thank God I’m a fast learner. I tend to catch on quickly.

Looking back, I’m pretty proud of myself. I stepped into a world I knew little to nothing about and conquered it, somewhat. I’m currently working on educating myself so that I can take a certification test and become a CMA (certified medical assistant) which will lead to a raise and more responsibility. I’m feeling more comfortable in my duties and I’ve been told by both management, and the doctors (EEK!) that I’m doing a good job.

It sort of blows my mind, to be honest.

Oh – one more first to tell you about – the first time I had to take staples out. It was a PLIF (posterior lumbar interbody fusion). The nurse showed me how to use the tool and I got down on my knees, swallowed the bile back down my throat and took those suckers out. It’s actually sort of fun, to be honest. Unless they’ve been in for a while and they’re starting to scab over. Then you have to dig into the flesh a bit and that hurts the patient. I’m still not 100% confident on removing staples, but I just swallow my apprehension, grit my teeth and force myself to do it and appear confident while doing it. (Which is key – my lead nurse told me that patients will never know that you haven’t done something very often, as long as you sound confident while doing it).

I watched a carpal tunnel suture removal the other day. I haven’t done one of those yet. My doctor doesn’t do very many carpal tunnels. That’s pretty cool. You first don a pair of clean gloves, swab the stitches with rubbing alcohol to remove germs/bacteria, then you take your scissors and snip the stitch while pulling it by the knot with the tweezers. I’ve yet to see one long continuous stitch removed – I’ve put the word out if anyone gets one of those to come get me so I can watch how they do it.

So those are some of my firsts. Without sounding like a braggart (too late, I’m sure), I have to admit, this job is one of the things I’m most proud of in my life. I have grabbed this medical monster by the tail and conquered it. Not bad for someone who didn’t go to any sort of medical school. The other girls I started out with? The other schedulers? Didn’t last. They couldn’t hack it and transferred to other departments.

I’m the last scheduler standing.