I got to thinking last night about my oft focused rants on being a tutor in a public school system which values looking prepared, acting productive, and seeming to be all about the kids but in reality is none of those things and more.
I also on occasion have a penchant to share tidbits about the best job in the world: being a grandma to one Gisella Kate.
I realized though that I talk very little, if at all, about my third job. It is the most part-time of all three as it only occupies four or five hours on Saturday afternoons, but comes in second on the like list after being a grandma.
I test newborn babies for hearing loss. I do this at one of our local hospitals, although I am not employed by the hospital itself. I work for a contracted firm that is a national group of care providers focused on maternal-fetal medicine and high risk pregnancy.
I make very little money at this job. Really. Very. Little. I don’t do this for the money. I do this because I actually like the job. I mean I like going there even if it is every Saturday afternoon. Some things that I enjoy about this job include:
- I am sort of my own boss in the sense that when I am at work I am responsible only to and for myself. There is no one that I have to direct or lead or oversee and no one to do any of those things over me. I am an independent contractor. I do have a coordinator, who is flexible and nice and very easy to work with, but I never see her.
- I get to work in a comfortable environment with new parents and newborn babies. I so love being in a medical environment. I just feel at home, like I belong.
- Even though I am only there one afternoon per week I have become familiar to the nursing staff. Very rarely do I run into any of the physicians and only on rare occasions do I see a midwife in one of the quads. The nurses have become familiar to me. The health unit coordinators recognize me and say hi, ask about my day, share pleasantries. I see the same Care Techs and volunteers each Saturday. I don’t feel out-of-place around any of these professionals and they treat me with respect.
- The parents are all so predictable. I usually know exactly what I am going to encounter as it is the same in every room. They are exhausted. They are sick of staff members in scrubs coming in and out. They can’t remember their names let alone mine or why I have barged into their room. I am just another person invading their space when they want nothing more than to be left alone, to sleep, to gaze at their new baby. They are always pleasant. They always register some degree of anxiety when I tell them why I am present. I hear the jokes about “babies very first test.” I also see the anxiety as they wait for me to tell them if their baby passed that hearing screen test. I see them try not to be concerned when I have to tell them the baby did not pass and will be re-checked the next day. I see them hang on the explanations I give as to why the baby probably didn’t pass the first time. I know that when I leave them they will continue to worry until that re-check is over.
- The babies.
- The education behind this process and the benefit of knowing early if baby truly doesn’t pass the hearing screen for something other than residual fluid in its ears.
- The opportunity to interact with critical babies in the NICU, although by the time we see them they are close to being discharged. The reward is great in knowing that the often tiny person in your hands has been through countless hours of poking, prodding, and tests, and probably endured more than I ever have but will fortunately be leaving soon.
- Meeting the parents of those NICU babies often just a day before, or even just hours before they will take that baby home. The very first time out of the hospital, for some after many weeks of care.
Of course there are stories. There are situations and conversations and issues and problems as in any job. There are special considerations and privacy issues that must be followed. I usually see the good side. If a baby is too fragile, or too sick our presence can add more stress. We see healthy babies, but I know the reality behind a set of doors on the 14th floor. I know some of those babies don’t get to go home.
My job is not one of great skill. I of course do not diagnose. I do not interpret results to any great extent and the parents understand this before the testing is started. I do try to inform them of what I can as the test is taking place. They want some simple reassurances that their baby is okay. The reward is the smile on their faces when the computer announces “test complete” and I can tell them that their baby passed its hearing screen. There is an audible sigh of relief and you can feel the slight tension levels in the room immediately dissipate.
I feel good when I can give them one less thing to worry about with their new son or daughter.