The boy that choked the palm tree

I am always joking at work about how all we do all day long is put out fires.  There are certainly days where it feels like there is zero progress and all we are doing is frantically bailing water out of a sinking boat. Today was such a day. From the moment I clocked in at 6:50am the trouble started and it did not stop until I left for the day. Truthfully even after I left I thought of 5 more things I would have liked to follow-up on but you can’t, you know? I am not superwoman and if I am going to keep any true level of balance and self health I have to allow myself to let go and leave when it is time to leave each day. There will always be more to do and another patient to take care of but I have to take care of me too and sometimes even first.

So all day long I felt like I was treading water and unable to come up for air. The lab ran the wrong blood test on a patient so I had to get in touch with them and correct that problem. There were issues with insurance (there are always issues with insurance). Not to mention I think we accepted at least three emergent cases today completely over booking our schedule and causing a tremendous back up for our scheduled patients. In the middle of all of this a ghost walked in. I have not seen this person in probably 7+ years, they are associated with one of my ex’s. Although there is no bad blood there anyone who knows me well knows that I do awkward small talk about as well as humpty dumpty attempting the balance beam. Small talk is not my thing, as a rule I find it frivolous (like all rules there are exceptions). And as I am not graceful in any other aspect of my life of course I am less than graceful when it comes to things like this. Luckily I was buried so deep in my work and the patients I was involved with that no awkward encounter ever arose. I was grateful, although this particular ghost is an incredibly kind person and I would have been happy to attempt awkward small talk if it came to that, especially given the setting in which we were running into each other.

So with the day I had you might think it would be difficult to find a silver lining on this cloud. However, you could not be more wrong my friend! First of all, I love this mess. Bad days are never that bad when you love it. But there was a specific silver lining and it came early in the day in the form of a 4-year-old hyperactive little boy, a little boy I fell in love with immediately. One of the fires I was having to extinguish today was two patients that arrived late for their tests. This meant I had to lock up their belongings and check them in after their test so we could get them started right away in order to keep our schedule on time. While screening a patient for the second time to make sure it was safe to do her study based on her medical history I suddenly noticed something out of the corner of my eye..

In our office we have a lot of plants. All different kinds of plants, big ones, small ones, wide ones, thin ones.. It’s like a Dr Suess book with a jungle setting. One of the plants is a floor plant that is tall and slender and resembles a palm tree but much thinner. It kind of looks like one of the funny trees from Dr Suess’s The Lorax. While I am screening this patient I suddenly notice that tree is shaking violently! It looked like the tree was having a seizure! I stand up from my desk to see what is causing it and there is this little boy who has the base of the tree in a death grip and is shaking the shit out of it! It reminded me of something I read in a book once about monkeys shaking palm trees to release the fruit at the top. It was hilarious. The patient in front of me, who happened to be the boy’s mother was embarrassed at first but once she realized I thought it was funny she giggled too. Then she yanked him up and sat him down with a book. Here I was running around, caught up in the crisis of the moment and I would have totally missed that. It was the highlight of my week at work. I do not know what possessed that little kid but it was very funny and I am glad I was able to break long enough to be present for it. The rest of the day as issues would rise and fall I kept thinking back to the convulsing palm tree and I would laugh.

After work I ran some errands and then came home for my big Friday night plans.. Wine, Sushi, Writing and Project Runway! Any introvert will agree this is the stuff dreams are made of on a Friday night! They had a sale on a my favorite kind of wine, Pinot Nior, at the grocery store so I got two bottles. I am set for the weekend! The rest of the weekend is jammed packed with wedding plans and parties and projects, I am elated to have a quiet night to enjoy the way I see fit.

Losing the “Care” in Healthcare

blog inspiration- jaded healthcare

There is no room for not caring in the healthcare field. This is not my opinion, this is a fact. And Frankly my dear, it’s not OK to not give a damn. Caring is one of the biggest parts of the job yet more and more I find myself face to face with an alarming level of apathy. I understand why it happens, in healthcare you are dealing with a specific population, the sick. You’re rarely going to treat a patient who isn’t coming to you with an issue, maybe with the exception of annual check-ups in a PCP’s office. So day in and day out you are responsible for fixing someone’s elses problem. To me working with the public in this way requires the highest level of customer service. I believe that is what patient care is, customer service on super steroids. There is no such thing as going “above and beyond”, there should be no above or beyond just what needs to be done getting done. And even that is enough, getting the job done is not enough. Doing the job well while creating a level of trust with your patient is crucial.

Here are some examples of what I have run into that rub me wrong..

Not using your name. This covers a lot of area. I hate calling an office and when I get a receptionist the greeting is, “Dr. X’s office”. When you call our office I answer the phone, “Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening Thank you for calling xxxxx My name is Jill how may I help you?” Now I understand that is long-winded so I will lower the expectation, just give me your name. In healthcare I believe we should be held accountable for what we are telling our patient’s, how is that possible? By putting our name on it. This also applies to nurses and technologists, anyone who comes in contact with a patient should be introducing themselves. If you are speaking to this patient you are now involved in their care, even if it is on a small level, own it. It is the polite thing to do and more importantly it is the right thing to do.

Negative Talk. What I mean by this is, when we are unable to do something for a patient I do not focus on what we CAN’T do, I focus on what we CAN do. I will call an office for something, like clinical notes let’s say, if they are not ready I get that but give me an ETA. Don’t just answer the phone without giving me your name, say they are not ready and hang up on me. Crap, I am not even your patient but now I know I wouldn’t want to be. Instead, how about this.. A patient calls and wants to schedule a dexa scan (this is not a test we do).. Some offices would say “Sorry we don’t do dexa scans” and be done with it, well that doesn’t really help this patient does it? Ok so maybe we can’t do the scan but I can at least educate them and lead them in the right direction. “At xxxxx we specialize in MRI and CT so unfortunately we do not have the equipment for the test you require. May I suggest you call your referring Doctor’s office to find out if there is a facility they like to use for this type of test.” That was not that much more work but here is what it does for that patient, it lets them know what we can do for them if they ever need us in the future and it keeps them from chasing their tell for the next hour. A patient could spend an hour or more calling around to different facilities trying to find out who does the test they need when quite often their doctor’s office knows which facility does what and is able to advise them cutting out all the work. If that is not the case, they are no worse off but at least you tried to make things easier for them.

Defensiveness and back talk when met with a difficult patient or circumstance. You cannot take things personal in this field!! I cannot stress that enough to people, and that rings true for any career that requires you to work directly with the public. Our patients are sick, they are in pain, they just got done with a round of chemo and now we are calling them wanting them to list all the surgeries they have ever had. They are worn out and worn down and entitled to a bad day, do not take it personal. And in some cases you get the patient who truly does just have a difficult personality to handle, I think some people enjoy arguing for sport. That’s fine, but don’t get pulled in. It still isn’t personal, it has nothing to do with you, none of it does, these patient’s don’t even know you. And no matter how difficult or rude they might be they still deserve your best. Every single patient deserves your best.

 

This is a topic I have felt strongly about since starting in this field 5 years ago. I think everyone has had to deal with a jaded healthcare worker at some point or another and to me there is no greater crime than complacency in this field. It is not fair to those we serve, if you’re done and you have had enough, then move on. Go on to the next thing, this is not the kind of work you do for a paycheck, at least it isn’t supposed to be.

 

The daily catastrophes of Calamity Jill

Oh the messes I make. I am becoming known for them.  Two weeks in to our relationship Todd gave me the nickname Calamity Jill after the famous frontier woman Calamity Jane. (I am less of a heroine however and more of disaster, I am not sure I am doing her moniker justice.) This week I have been particularly oblivious leading to some comically embarrassing moments.

At work I was calling to confirm a patient’s appointment, when they answered the phone I started by saying, “Good afternoon, my name is Jill, I am calling from xxxxxxxx and my name is Jill.” Uh yea dummy, we got that your name is Jill! The patient just started laughing as well as the rest of the front desk behind me who over-heard the whole thing. The patient and I joked back and forth for a moment before ending the call. Good one do-do brain.

At home last night Todd brought me chocolate almond milk with a straw, my favorite after dinner snack! 2 hours later when we were getting ready for bed I noticed I managed to get chocolate milk on my shirt. Under normal circumstances this would not be unusual, you could even say it would be expected but I was drinking out of a straw! How does that happen? Upon further inspection of my stain I realize I also had my shirt on inside out. ::Slaps forehead:: Good grief. That’s not all though. Of course it’s not. While I am in the bedroom putting on a new shirt for bed I hear the death call coming out of the living room.

In our house when you hear “Baabbe” (that extra B sound is important to really get the effect) you know your dead or at least busted on something. It’s all in a joking manner.

I creep into the living room, peaking around corners trying to observe the situation without being seen. Needless to say Todd noticed a set of eyes peaking at him from the side of the kitchen doorway immediately, I am sure my giggling had nothing to do with it. There he was standing over the sink wiping down his cell phone which was covered in chocolate milk splatters. Apparently my night-shirt was not the only collateral damage from my snack explosion that evening. I still cannot explain how I am able to spray everything in a one foot radius with milk when drinking from a straw.. Just years of practice I guess.

The cherry on the top of my reckless week came while out for my run this morning. I typically run in the evenings, it gives me some quiet time to think at the end of the day and helps me unwind. Not to mention, although I get up early every morning I am not a morning person. In our house we have rules about how to deal with me in the morning.

1. I do not talk before my morning Coffee/Orange Juice
A. Do not ask me any questions during this time
B. Do not give me any instructions or important information during this time

2. No rough housing while I am still in bed trying to wake up. This includes:
A. Tickle Fights
B. Blubbing
C. Jumping on the bed
D. Fast movements of any kind in my personal space

Todd always breaks the second rule.

Morning runs are not for me. Waking up is a gradual sometimes painful process for me, no need to add additional pain to it. This morning however Todd forgot to set the alarm so we both over slept (meaning we woke up at 7:30 instead of 6) and I was not going to make it to class on time. I decided not to kill myself rushing through a shower and speeding to school and instead enjoy a quiet morning at home before work. I also decided I would get a run this morning since I work late on Thursdays and do not get to run after work usually.

So there I was having a productive start to my day, listening to Miike Snow and feeling accomplished as I jogged along the side walks of College Park when BAM! Next thing I know I am ice skating and about to eat concrete in front of one of the bungalows on my route. (I would love to know what I must have looked like to the man across the street that was walking his dog.) Once I regained my footing and somehow managed not to fly face first into the sidewalk I was able to see what the issue was. Some of the sidewalks on my route must have a layer of algae on them that, when wet, becomes incredibly slick like ice. The problem is in the mornings all the sidewalks are wet from dew and sprinkler systems so it is impossible to tell the difference between the regular sidewalk and the parts that are going to send you flying into next Tuesday. Great. I proceeded with caution. Just what I need landmines on my run. I had three other instances of less than graceful recoveries on slick sidewalks before I finally made it home.

Can’t wait to see what other predicaments I will find myself in this week. It’s like I am always telling Todd, I like to keep things interesting.

It’s not about being a feminist

I stumbled upon a blog post today I thought I would be interested in, I was wrong. The title had something to do with being easy to love, I was curious to hear this woman’s thoughts, so I thought. My curiosity was stifled upon reading the words, “be submissive to your husband.”

Gut reaction? Shock I guess because a full-mouthed “WHAT?!” promptly erupted out of me upon reading the words. All I could think initially was “she can’t be serious” and “there must be something I am missing here.” I could not believe this woman meant exactly what she was saying. I was considering the fact that I don’t know her blog, maybe there is a back story I am missing. That is when I noticed the word “submissive” was actually a link so I clicked on it. As I thought it took me to another posting that served to better explain her meaning of submission. Surely this woman has a different definition of the word and she is going to enlighten her readers here, I was ready for her explanation.

She started this posting explaining that in order to be submissive to your husband it does not require you to be without your own opinions and it does not make you a weak woman, Oh good – She had me worried.. Then she proceeds to talk about the importance of letting your man be head of the household even if you think he is an idiot!

I am doing my absolute best not to judge this woman because she is entitled to her opinion and beliefs as I am to mine that are clearly in contrast. If I don’t like what she is writing then I don’t have to read it but unfortunately I did. I can’t unread her words and being the kind of woman I am I have let out what is banging around inside me now.

She said most women have an issue with the idea of submission because they think they are of higher intelligence therefore better suited to run the household. If that is true I disagree with that idea as well. Am I wrong in thinking that a truly functional relationship should not be a power struggle? Is the idea of mutual respect so very outlandish? Words like compromise and team work and compassion come to mind when I think about the home I hope to create with Todd. It is about love without boundaries or conditions and reciprocal esteem for one another.

The author of the blog was right about one thing, the idea of being submissive is belittling and it makes me angry. However, my feelings on the topic she raises does just stem from the fact that I am woman who demands my free will. This is an issue that reaches beyond gender, race, religion or any other label we as humans put on one another. I do not consider myself a feminist per say, I believe in what is right for all people not just my own gender. This woman is making an argument for submission. She is encouraging free thinking women to submit to another person, to be owned and controlled by another. I wonder how women in places like Afghanistan and Pakistan who are born without freedom would feel about this woman’s ideas? I wonder how members of the Dalit Caste in India would feel  reading her words? I wonder what a girl like Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the face by the Taliban for speaking up for girl’s rights to an education in Pakistan would say to this woman and her notion that we as women should play passive roles in our lives allowing our men to rule.

The woman makes the argument for her religion, she quotes bible verses and states that submitting to your husband is in the bigger picture submitting to her Lord. Call it what you want lady. I am not drinking the cool aid. I was absolutely offended by this backwards suggestion. My disdain comes in part because it goes against what my own feelings and beliefs are but moreover I am deeply offended for the people in the world that are not born into freedom. They have never had the luxury of an opinion. The thought that a woman who clearly takes her own freedoms for granted would encourage others to so willingly throw them away.. It’s nonsense and it’s disrespectful to those who never had the option to begin with.

 

I feel it is important to I reiterate that this woman’s post was based on her religious beliefs and teachings, teachings that I am not personally familiar with. I do not wish to be disrespectful of her beliefs or her relationship. I just have different beliefs and a different relationship.

Clean underwear and a comfy pillow, what more does a girl need?

Since being back at work there is only one night during the week when I am home early enough to make dinner for Todd and I. What I have done to make sure he is fed on the nights I am home later is prepare a casserole ahead of time (Sunday usually) so there are left overs during the week to easily heat up. I love him but the man does not cook. Grill, yes, and quiet well, but cook, no. Almost never. I remember the first time I went to his apartment, early on in our relationship, the only thing the man had in his refrigerator were condiments and milk, he ate cereal for dinner. This is something I lovingly tease him about, the days before he had good meals.

On the night during the week I am home early I like to make a nice dinner. The week before last it was meatloaf, some might not consider this a “nice” dinner but it is Todd’s favorite. He is a midwestern boy, meat and potatoes. I really hate the “mushing” part of making meatloaf. When you have to get your hands in there and squish all the ingredients together, yuck. Usually Todd will do this part for me but he was not home yet so I was on my own. I went into the bathroom to take off my engagement ring and place it on its holder, washed my hands and headed back to the kitchen to finish dinner.

After dinner we went about our evening routine and later got ready for bed. I brushed my teeth and hopped into bed to pull up the word game he and I play on the tablet together every night. From the bathroom I hear him call to me, “Um are you forgetting something?” I looked around, “Nope.” He persists, “Are you sure?” I hear the laughter in his voice and I am thinking, What?.. I start to list off all the things I am not forgetting, “I have my glasses, I have the tablet ready to go, I am wearing underwear.. what are you talking about??” He starts to laugh, “it’s something you cherish..” I look to my left and reply, “I have my favorite pillow right here.” He starts to really lose it. While laughing he says, “You take some time to think about it, you’re going to feel really silly when you realize it.” I pause for a moment and then leap out of bed. There was my ring waiting for me on my ring holder and Todd practically in tears laughing at my responses. I apologized profusely while trying to convince him that I cherish my ring much more than my favorite pillow! Needless to say there is no chance of me living this one down anytime soon.

The balancing act

My energy level is currently running on fumes. Even as I compose this entry I am bundled in a blanket and yawning uncontrollably, I just have nothing to give. I want to update on things and give an explanation for my silence, a silence that may continue for a while. I have no words for how happy I am at work, partially because things are that good and partially because I haven’t the energy to express my contentment completely. What I can say though is that right now I am in the middle of a delicate balancing act. I have a lot of important items that are constantly weighing on my mind, it is that monkey on your back feeling 24/7 for me right now. And although none of these item cause me negative stress there is still a lot going on and it leaves me feeling truly depleted on a daily basis. It is a happy fulfilled kind of tired but it is tired none the less.

I am in the process of getting my records over to UCF, my application is already submitted. I am also in the process of applying for graduation and rounding up all my records for that. Class is going well but with every chapter the subject matter gets trickier requiring more study time on my part. I am in the next stage of wedding planning which involves making final decisions on certain vendors, setting up meetings etc. Then there is work, where the majority of my energy is spent.

When I was in classes full-time and my primary commitment was school I didn’t necessarily have more downtime because the work load certainly kept me busy but it was a quiet busy. I was home alone doing research and homework and studying. I was always working but it was quiet and calm and there was not a lot of outside stimulation to distract me. This is the perfect environment for me to be productive and creative. My true personality thrives under these conditions. At the end of the day my energy levels are up, my battery is fully charged and I feel creative and insightful and alive.

The office I work at is busy with a lot of stimuli, 10 phone lines ringing (sometimes all at once), three televisions blaring republican news shows in the background, a front desk full of office chatter and covered in papers and clutter. With all of this working against a person like me I still hold myself and my work to a certain standard because I believe it is what my patients deserve. This means I have to push against all of this background noise and focus my concentration and every ounce of energy on whatever it is I am doing. It is why I am such a “J” at work, there is no room for my lackadaisical tendencies at work. My work has to be precise and in order to get the level of precision I strive for I have to control my concentration and have an attention to detail that I could never manage in other circumstances. I have to push completely against what feels natural to me to get the end result I am happy with, and I do. What this means though is that at the end of the day I have nothing left. I am completely spent. Some nights I come home and fall asleep in Todd’s arms on the couch right after dinner. I was out at 7:30 tonight and the only reason I woke up again is because his phone went off and it startled me. Most nights I am in bet and zonked out by 9:00. I need that quiet time to recharge for the next day.

The upside to the current situation is that I have been sleeping like a baby, a rarity for me. There is a downside as well though. This perpetual state of exhaustion I deal with during the work week leaves little room for reflection and me time. Art, writing, reading, day dreaming has all taken a back seat at the moment. These might seem like frivolous activities to some but for me they are what makes me feel most like myself. I am literally too tired to think or be creative right now so writing is a virtual impossibility unless I plan on filling these pages with empty words. For the record, I do not. Reading has been restricted to my text alone when I am studying. And my artistic outlet can be found in the pages of my coloring books. I have collected coloring books since I was in high school. In the past they have been one of my coping mechanisms when dealing with anxiety, it is a quiet activity that I can focus on and allows for level of creativity without a lot of thought. In short, it takes my mind off of whatever it is I was fixating on. Now it just a quiet activity for me after work to unwind. Some people drink a beer after a long day, I color.

So there you have it. I am afraid that for the time being I have to sacrifice a little to be able to give myself to other things. I look forward to having some down time again next year before I start my program. I am sure I will have lots to say and share when I have more time to process my thoughts. I thankful everyday for this chance I have been given to work with my patients again. I feel successful (by my standards) and satisfied every single day when I go home and I look forward to the day ahead of me every morning when I wake up. As tired as I may be right now there is a level of serenity in my weariness and it fills me with gratitude.

Utterly Run Down

heart break

Today was a long day. I was up at 5:15, out the door by 6:30 and did not return again until after 5:30 in the evening. We were short-handed at work and had twice the call and fax volume as yesterday not to mention most of my day was spent putting out fires. It felt as though I was dealing with nothing but issues and complications today. None of this has anything to do with why I cannot get out of my own head tonight though.

We diagnosed a patient with cancer today. Moments like these are what stay with me over the years. Being a part of someone elses life changing moment gets burned into you. It leaves an imprint. I ache inside for this woman.

I am completely humbled by it all. Suddenly you are standing there in the midst of a person’s ground zero, suddenly the smallest thing can mean so much. I am ripped open emotionally by these moments but they are so significant and it’s when kindness and compassion are most important. Whether it is offering to help with whatever small thing needs to be done in that moment to providing a shoulder to cry on or a hand to hold.

I recorded Atonement off the TV a few days ago and watched it after work tonight in a feeble attempt to distract myself from the day. As I watched my mind kept wandering back to our patient though. Is she OK? Does she have family surrounding her tonight? Will she be able to sleep after getting such terrible news? I hope so, with my whole heart I do.