What does a “day off” mean?

An interesting call just came in from the coordinator of the hearing screen program. With no fanfare, just a simple and direct, “Tell me again your commitment during the week with your other job. Maranda just gave her notice.”

Maranda is the hearing screener who works during the week at my weekend location. It’s just the two of us, with my boss spending Mondays there, screening and doing administrative work. Five of the remaining six days per week she (the boss/coordinator) is at the larger facility about 10 miles away, screening and overseeing one crisis after another.

There was a moment, before I answered, where I wanted to say, “Why of course she quit. Everyone does in this rather low paying, increasingly stressful job.” But I didn’t, My boss already knows this. It doesn’t take any new hire long to realize that the time and energy involved in this work is likely never going to pay many bills. In this system, as a new hire, you have to have a firm idea when you begin that this job is likely going to be more part-time in nature, even if you work four days per week. It’s simply not a job you can support yourself, or a family, on. Maranda is apparently leaving for that very reason. Maranda lasted about four months.

So a new screener was about to be hired, but she can only work weekends. She’s a student during the week. My boss had hoped that I could move into Maranda’s work schedule and the new person could take my weekends. That can’t happen, although if it was a few years into the future I would have jumped at the opportunity. Team player that I am (?) I made the offer to cover on the two days I am free during the week: Monday and Thursday. Plus I will continue with my weekend schedule. Let’s do the math shall we–

Granddaughters Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

Hearing screening Monday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.

I believe that equals seven full work days per week. This new arrangement begins the second week of October. It isn’t forever, but, as this system moves at the speed of a very slow mud flow, it will likely be three, or even four months before someone new is fully functional to take Maranda’s place. That’s if the boss can hire someone yesterday.

It was rather ironic that this call came today. I was sitting here, reading a book on my day off and actually feeling rather like I was wasting time. I had these vague thoughts of how much more productive I could be; of how I really didn’t need a full two days off, because I really don’t have all that much to do…

And you know what, it will be okay. Two more days per week will certainly boost my paycheck a bit. My days screening are almost never full days anyway, especially on the weekends. Sitting here on these open days makes me feel pressured to clean my house, over and over, and I barely need to clean it now. I am not a messy person. Fortunately I have a good number of scrubs so I won’t have to do laundry every other day. Both of my jobs are a fairly easy commute and I will likely miss peak traffic times anyway…

I can do this, right?

Will someone, about mid November, just take a moment to remind me what it’s like in the real world where you get a day or two off on occasion. I’m not so sure that I’ll remember what a “day off” means by then.


Too early

It’s about 4:30 AM here right now. I was awake at 4:00. Awake about the same time yesterday morning as well. I don’t have to be up for my new job until about 5:30, but something has me up way before the alarm goes off.

My first day alone yesterday, and even though, at the very last minute, I actually received access to the electronic medical record, there were still issues. Nothing major mind you, but still I think this system needs some improvements when it comes to new employees. I had to wait on a baby anyway and that gave me time to chat with a great tech at the login help desk, Sam or Sebastian…or some S name. He got me access to the EMR that I needed. My fingers are crossed that I can still access it this morning when I go in.

A few observations:

Trendy, young, great couples who want to know everything. I enjoy catching snippets of a couples conversations about parenting,  when they are awake and alert enough to have those anyway. It’s difficult to go into these rooms and not play the role of established expert parent, especially when the couples are young, and you know that for all of their good reasoning now, much of what they feel strongly about doing or not doing with their new child will likely go out the window once they are home and reality sets in.

Babies are really hairy these days. I don’t mean just the peach fuzz lanugo that typically covers much of a newborn. I mean hair, long hair on so many babies. I only remember one of my kids having hair at birth. The little pumpkins that I have screened all have come out needing a haircut. Hair makes for challenging screening so I will always be partial to the bald babies.

Nurses. You know that nurses run the hospital right? Everyone, including the doctors who pop in and pop back out, is lost if a nurse is not visible at all times.

Pico pumps--a new and interesting gadget with claims to be beneficial after surgery (cesareans in this case) but that interferes with my job if mom is holding baby. Medically inclined readers…any comments on this device?

Air conditioning. I refuse to complain about working on the Labor Day weekend when I can be around air conditioning. We are on another hot streak here, with temps over 90 degrees day after day. My shift can go on and on…


Off and running

As of today I have been cleared to perform my new job, although as in the last post, I still only partially exist in the system.

I screened babies this weekend, although it was a slow weekend and there weren’t many babies. More babies=more practice before going it alone. I screened four babies today, at two different locations, with my coordinator. Everything went well, much better actually than my last baby Sunday. I was having all kinds of issues, but luckily the screener I was working with is a screening wizard, and pulled out passing results when I thought all was lost.

I have a small notebook full of notes, although I never think to refer to them when I’m in the room with patients. Seems rather anxiety inducing if your screener has to refer to her notebook…although I would if really necessary. I’ve learned a lot since working this job five years ago. Invaluable stuff that no one ever told me before.

Next weekend those babies are all mine…

Front, back or sideways

Whirling dervish…


That description came to mind with all changes that have happened in just 24 hours and now I feel a little bit like I don’t know what side is up, or down.

I think I shared that I was hired back with the company who employed me about 5 years ago–the medical group that contracts with hospital systems to provide Newborn Hearing Screenings prior to discharge. I became an employee of the local practice on June 30th. I have been waiting ever since to get official clearance by the hospital facility where I will actually be doing the screening. My coordinator, who has been short staffed for months, has been pulling her hair out, waiting to get this onboarding process completed.

She went out on a limb yesterday and had me come into the site to observe, even though technically I was not supposed to be in patient rooms without my official badge. I could only take notes and watch, but at least it was something. Much of the process came back to me rather quickly, although this facility takes a bit of a different approach than my previous position.

Overall, it was great to be back with the babies, even though I couldn’t touch them. It was also a little difficult because this facility still uses the LDRP approach with their moms. Once admitted, moms labor, deliver, recover and spend their postpartum 24-36 hours in the same room. Passing rooms and hearing moms in active labor had my educator/doula motor running on high gear. I wanted to dump the screening machine and offer them labor support. I can imagine that it’s going to be a challenge to have to pass those room in the future.

Anyway, I left there with no news and no idea of how much longer it might be before I could actually begin this job. Being in limbo for 2-3 months is not unheard of I was told early on.

Out of the blue, as I was eating lunch today, my coordinator called. “We can get your badge!” she said into the phone. “They still haven’t assigned you an official ID, but with the badge you can start screening and we will work around using the electronic health record.”

While extremely glad, and also excited that I was finally given the okay to do my job, I knew that much of the stress the other screeners had been facing was now going to be transferred to me. They are/were sick of filling in and covering the holes in scheduling. My coordinator especially has worked 30+ days straight, no time off.

I was rather taken aback though, when she began rattling off day after day this week and early next to do some “hurry up training” with the intention of my taking off on my own by the Labor Day weekend. Ironically, I had been reviewing my notes from yesterday when she called. I had no idea what I wrote or why I wrote what I did on quite a few pages as I was trying to watch, listen, and write at the same time. I think I used to be able to do that…when I was 18. She was talking, making plans, and I was half listening, wondering how I was going to make sense of things with 3 or 4 days training and ongoing restricted access to some vital areas that proved to be a part of those unreadable or illogical notes.

Long story short: I threw on some scrubs, drove to my facility, did part of a hearing screen, again without my badge, to get a little hands-on experience. I then drove to the main facility 40 minutes away in (almost) rush hour traffic to get my badge. I was being prodded to screen a few babies while I was there, for more “training.” I think, perhaps by the look on my face, that it was clear that I wasn’t keen on that idea.

Fortunately, my coordinator stopped, took a breath, and allowed me to give some input. Just that short hands-on time today allowed me to see that I really haven’t forgotten everything, even after 5 years. I know that I’ll be slow again, at first and while being watched, but I can already anticipate being on my own. The autonomy of this job is one of the things that I love. Until I have full access to every process, I’m taking the viewpoint that I just have to roll with what comes, do the parts that I already know and can do with just a little practice, and ask questions when I need to.

We parted with the plan that I will co-screen with two different screeners this coming Saturday and Sunday. I will be shadowed by my coordinator next Monday. If all goes well from both our points of view then I will be on my own September 2nd. I have the option as well to seek more training time, somehow working around my days watching the granddaughters.

The frenetic spinning in my head has slowed. I am remembering to breathe. I am reminding myself that this will all work out. I am reminding myself that I was a competent screener once before, and that I will be again. I am hoping that if the whirling begins again, it will take me to a deep, meditative state where I will lie in an open field and let the sun wash over me and calm will prevail.

I am refusing to think just how close September 2nd is…

Test anxiety

I got to pee in a cup today. A very controlled, very precise, very directed drug screen was called for by this new employer. Today’s event was just one of a number of changes that this company has implemented since I worked for them four or five years ago.

I’ve never had to have a drug screen for a job before.

I was asked to lock up my purse and check my pockets so that nothing untoward would enter the restroom with me.

I got to pick out my very own collection cup and watch while the technician showed me that it was completely sealed.

I was asked to wash my hands.

I was instructed on exactly how much of the specimen I was to provide. I didn’t ask what the consequences would be if I couldn’t muster the required amount. Drinking copious amounts of water 30 minutes prior to the donation took care of any issues with that. I was relieved in more ways than one.

I was told firmly -twice- not to flush or to wash my hands after collection. Only after I handed off the cup could I wash my hands.

Did you know that they actually check the temperature of the donation?

And what are the very vivid blue drops that they place into the toilet water?

I had to watch each step as the specimen was processed and at times even initial certain parts of the procedures.  Only when the donation was finally sealed in a plastic bag and initialed by me did I get my ID back and the key to the box to unlock and free my purse.

It wasn’t until I was walking out of the office that I realized I had no memory of the technician wearing gloves when she took the specimen cup from me. No memory of her washing her hands after she went into the restroom to flush for me. Nor do I have any memory of her washing her own hands throughout the rest of the processing.


So, this happened today…

Dear Deborah

I am pleased to confirm our offer of employment as a part time Newborn Hearing Screener reporting to Lxxxx Wxxxxxxx. The specifics of our offer are outlined below:

• Hourly rate of pay of $a bazillion dollars to be paid on a bi-weekly basis, every other Friday.  ***So perhaps I have chosen to exaggerate the hourly rate just a bit***

Your offer to join MEDNAX Services, Inc. and your participation in the Newborn Hearing
Screen Program is contingent upon maintaining the following requirements:

• Certification in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation within your first 30 days of employment, followed by continued recertification.
• Medically cleared testing for tuberculosis prior to beginning employment, followed by
annual testing.
• Providing us with proof of your identity and work authorization (as required by the
Immigration Reform & Control Act of 1986).
• Successful completion of background.

So, it looks as if I have managed to jump over one small hurdle and secure some extra income that will (I hope) add to my credibility as a worthwhile rental risk. Now I can wave not only my divorce decree and pension funds and my gift income from caring for the granddaughters, but also an actual employment offer letter, in the faces of those naysayer leasing agents.

This position is the same one that I held just prior to the time I started looking after Miss G. This time I am with a different medical facility, one that I learned just today has the second most stringent policies regarding new hires in the whole United States. I have been assured that if I am lucky I may be ready to secure an ID badge and actually begin my job in about 8 weeks. The process, I am told, has been so overwhelming for some, that they quit before they even get started. I’m okay with the wait. The delay gives me time to process all this divorce stuff and retrain my perspective on what constitutes a “normal” work week. I will still be with Miss G and Miss C 3 days per week. This new job is a weekend position, so I now have to get used to the fact that my days off will come during the week, and that they won’t be back to back.

I really loved this job the last time around. This time I have even more autonomy as the the satellite facility I will be working in runs their program somewhat differently than I encountered before. I won’t be sharing a split shift, but I will be learning all about electronic health records (EHR). We did everything on paper 4 years ago. All you EPIC user’s out there, soon I will truly understand some of the headaches you write about in your blogs.

Anyway, just had to share. It’s great to finally have some good news to put on this blog.