Closure

As a point of reference, this post from April 8th regarding work and vacation scheduling, now has a definitive ending…sort of.

If you’d rather not read the link, that post involved my query of co-worker motives when it came to choosing vacation days. I was bewildered regarding intent, and for those of you very wise readers who commented along the lines that many things can change in the coming months, well… you get the virtual Smartest Blog Reader Ever blue ribbon. personally delivered by me.

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I went into work this morning for a short training meeting. As I chatted with my co-worker while waiting for our coordinator, I was told that she (the co-worker) had just given her 2-week notice. Her reasons revolved around the fact that after recently earning a second degree her next goal was to enter a Master’s program. She had applied, along with about 700 others. The program chose 24. She was not among the chosen.

Her original commitment to our coordinator when she was hired had been for two years, the length of the Master’s program. Now, without admission to a program she had truly expected to enter based upon her 3.9 GPA, she has to find an actual, full-time job that allows her to live. I learned that she has a teaching degree, and is now scrambling to try to get hired with a few of the local school districts.

I can understand this. Eating, paying bills and rent- those are important things and the wages from our job, even working 7 days per week, just don’t adequately cover those needs. I am also left pondering though, how someone in the competetive world we live in, might assume that they have any guarantees regarding things like acceptance to university Master’s programs who only submit a very select number, no matter what the GPA is. She was clearly counting on this happening, and I do understand the stress she now faces, but I am still left with questions after the following:

She made an interesting comment after sharing this news with me. She has children, although I don’t know their ages, but likely at least late teens. In saying how hard it was to now give up her original goal, and how stressful it is to now have to secure something other than a part-time job, she also clearly spoke about her desire to not disappoint her children by being away from them at holidays, specifically Christmas. While that’s not a direct quote, it seems rather significant to my earlier puzzlement over her choice to volunteer to work every holiday but Christmas.

Of course I let it go, as any issues she may, or may not really have with working holidays really don’t matter anymore. I did find it odd though, and so very specific to my questions about motive.

So, the search has already begun for someone to replace her and now my coordinator is pulled in 5 more directions while she covers this newly open position. I have volunteered to cover days when I can, but can’t help wondering how long the next person will stick around once they are hired and reality sets in for them.

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To Bring It Up…Or Not

A few weeks ago my coordinator notified all of us that she would be putting up a “Volunteer for the Holiday” sign-up sheet at each of our locations. The idea was to allow each of us to jot our names down on the holidays that we were interested in and/or willing to work for this coming year. She’s planning well in advance and I respect that.

We screen babies 365 days a year, rain or shine or sleet or piles of snow. Everyday has to be covered and this company is unwilling to pay a coordinator (even if they want to) to cover any major holiday. They will pay one of us time-and-a-half wages, but not a coordinator.

I was surprised to see our sign-up sheet already up when I went into work just over a week ago. I was even more surprised to see that my co-worker had placed her name in every slot available…except for Christmas. We are being asked to cover 6 major holidays, plus the day after Thanksgiving. On a few lines, following her name, she noted that she “didn’t mind working this day” so I took that to mean that perhaps she was just trying to be nice. Yet, as the morning progressed and I would return to the desk to chart my screening results, that blank spot for Christmas day began to annoy me. Here’s why:

This person has always been pleasant, although we have never met face to face. We have talked on the phone, commiserated over ongoing technical issues with our software program, and have even gotten into the habit of texting each other updates or important information regarding babies status so that no one has a surprise when they come into work.

I started this job in September 2017. This co-worker started in early November, 2017. Imagine my shock when I saw her name on the vacation calender, taking time off at Christmas last year after only being on the job for a few months. Apparently she had planned a vacation long in advance. So okay, I did not begrudge her this pre-planned time off and went to work on both Christmas Eve and Christmas day. She was asked to work New Years day, which she did.

Each time I sat at the desk that day my eyes were drawn to that glaring open spot for Christmas day coverage. I just couldn’t keep myself from thinking that her nice gesture at signing up for all the holidays was in reality her way of hoping that I might jump onboard with working Christmas again. In fact, it would end up being Christmas Eve and Christmas day actually, because CE happens to fall on one of my usual work days. So I stewed about it, finished my work and decided to add my name on the days I was willing to work. You would be correct if you assume that I did not put my name down on Christmas day.

Knowing my coordinator was scheduled to work this site prior to the co-worker coming back on Tuesday, I sent an email to my coordinator. Perhaps you could call it a “heads up” or maybe, if I’m being honest, it was my way of trying to call attention to the fact that I had sincerely hoped that I would not have to work a second Christmas in a row. We talked, and I noted that I was not only confused as to why the co-worker had her name on every day except Christmas, but also hoping that she had not already planned another vacation assuming I would accept working that day again.

I have a coordinator who truly does care about her employees, and does her best to be fair. She is very fair about time off and that was her approach to this dilemma. The co-worker and I received an email later that day. It was made clear that, unless we chose to change something among ourselves, we would simply alternate holidays each year so that it would always be fair. This still allowed us to change up or have some choice, which I am very willing to do, and to be able to come up with alternatives each year by working things out ourselves if needed.

I responded with a thank you email, assuming that my co-worker would either do the same, contact me if she wanted to discuss a change, or if she wasn’t pleased, then she would contact the coordinator.

It’s been one week. No email. No contact to discuss anything. I don’t know if she has been in contact with the coordinator. There was no text update on Friday. There was no note in our paperwork box regarding babies.

There has never been a time that she has not responded to a group email sent by the coordinator, as this one was, but perhaps I should assume she hasn’t read this yet? The original sign-up sheet came down so surely she should would have noticed that. My head tells me that she has read the email. My gut is telling me that she very likely is not pleased with the decision, rather it be that I was given some of the days that she asked for, or perhaps that she was assigned Christmas this time around, or all of the above.

Alienating this person was not what I set out to do. Hoping for a fair and equitable work schedule was, and I’m thankful that my coordinator sees the need for that as well. At this point, although I want to know her views and opinions, I am laying low and choosing not to try to ask this co-worker if 1) she saw and read the email, 2) how she feels about the decision, 3) if there is a need to alter days and why.

It is not in my nature to let something like this situation (if it even IS a situation) fester, but perhaps I’m letting my imagination run wild…and life is good for everyone…

How do you read this dilemma? Am I reading way more into this than I should? Would you have been as suspicious as I was after reading that original sign-up list?

I would love some analysis and opinions, even if you think I’m crazy.

 

“What’s In A Name…”

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

There’s your cultural lesson folks- Shakespeare has Juliet utter these lines, among others, as she contemplates the meaningless nature of a name. In this case, we know she is focused on the name Montague. We also know how that story ends because apparently, names do mean a whole lot if you happen to be a Montague’s or a Capulet.

No feuding here, just some interesting baby names that have come up at work lately. Three in fact, that have the potential to carry weight for the little people who possess them.

The medical system that I am contracted with serves a diverse population. We have large numbers of Hispanic families. We have equally large numbers of families who are Muslim. We have Latin families. The surrounding community houses a growing number of families from Russia and the Ukraine. We serve numerous Asian families, with the largest numbers being from East and Southeast Asia. Each time that I meet a family with any of these ethnic backgrounds, I try to tuck away in my head some of the specific cultural formalities they often follow regarding naming their babies.

Mother’s surname is often combined with the babies father’s surname, but depending on the culture, it must be in a very specific way. Some babies are named only after a specific number of days have passed after birth. Some babies will be given a surname different from either mom or dad. It’s complicated and when I come to feel that I’m finally getting a handle on some of the patterns an entirely new one pops up.

Babies given name isn’t always predictable. I’ve had parents literally make up the spelling of a common name just to give their child a unique, and often impossible to spell, first name. I am learning not to make cultural assumptions either. I meet a mother and father from Ukraine who are named Yuri and Lyudmila, and expect to hear a baby name that somehow reflects their background and culture. I am not surprised anymore when those parents choose to name their son Thomas, or their daughter Amber.

With that in mind, I really wasn’t surprised today when I screened Celine Dion.

Mom and dad are from Vietnam. Their English is actually quite good. In fact, dad jumped right into spelling names for me without my even asking. We came to babies name and from across the room I heard “C-E-L-I-N-E.” Because I was trying to listen closely and double check each letter as he spoke I really didn’t register the actual name he had just spelled for me. As I began to speak each letter back to him for verification he quickly added,
“Celine Dion, you know like the singer.”

I smiled and thanked him because I assumed that he was just trying to help me make sure I understood babies new first name. I entered babies last name and then asked if they used or planned on a middle name for baby. Mom and dad both looked at me with an odd expression and said simultaneously, “Dion, D-I-O-N. Celine Dion.”

“Oh… Oh I see, I thought you were just trying to help me understand her first name, but she is actually named Celine Dion?”

“Yes, yes, just like the singer!”

I swear that I kept a straight face, because that’s what professionals do, and we just moved forward with the hearing screen. About 15 minutes later, while I was charting in my office, Becky the nurse rolled Celine Dion into the nursery for a test. As she passed me, and with a sly smile, she asked if I had learned babies name. Still being the consummate professional hearing screener that I am, I said that yes I had, and Celine Dion had done well on her test.

“Did they tell you the older girls name?” Becky asked, although this time her smile went from ear to ear.

“No, she was cranky so dad took her out during the screen,” I said.

As Becky rolled the baby into the other room I learned that I had also had the privilege of meeting Angelina Jolie that morning.

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This next story, given the fact that I’ve talked in the blog before about our large number of opiod addicted mothers/families, is really nothing but sad, at least initially.

We had a baby in the NICU for many days. Mom and her partner (who believed himself to be the babies father, but who actually wasn’t) were both heavy abusers of opiods. They were told many times that they would not be taking the baby home. They did visit though, almost always high, and also in complete denial that the child was going into foster care. After numerous rounds of antibiotics and morphine for withdrawal, the day came that we could finally screen this little boy.

Most babies who spend a long time in the NICU, and are named, get cute little signs to hang near their isolette. We never have much information, so it’s heartwarming when we can at least record the babies name. In the case of a baby who is being surrendered to CPS we are only allowed to use “Baby Boy” or “Baby Girl” with the birth mothers last name. The birth family does not name the baby.

I was working on the day this little guy was eligible to be screened. When I started, I was unsure of his discharge status. Some parents, who are in treatment, are allowed to take part in some aspects of babies life. Because I had seen the parents in and out of the NICU I thought that perhaps they were being allowed to be involved somewhat. In that case, I asked nurse Alex if baby had a first name for my database.

Alex turned in her chair, and deadly serious with a glance toward a small construction baby sign near the bassinet, said to me, “Bunny Rabbit.”

I don’t think that I have the ability to convey my reaction adequately in this blog post. I know that I just stared at her as she repeated, with another nod toward the sign, “Bunny Rabbit.”

My head began to shake back and forth and I think I actually uttered, “NO WAY!”

“I’ll be using our standard Baby Boy in this case,” I said while I looked down at a precious boy with an IV coming from his head. Alex and Peggy began replaying some of the events that had led up to the naming of this boy by his heavily addicted and clearly incompetent mother. Legally, thankfully, she lost the right to name this child.

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Some names make me smile. Some, in their uniqueness, make me laugh once I leave the patients room. Some make me cringe. Some names given to these little humans leave me wondering who they will grow up to be and how the choice of name will influence them, if at all.

What will Celine Dion and Angelina Jolie think about themselves, and their parents, as they grow up? When will the awareness of their famous names become apparent? How will others behave or treat them?

Who will the tiny boy, who has endured so much already in his early life, become? Will he ever know the woman who wanted to name him Bunny Rabbit because she thought it was cute and completely appropriate? I have to say that I hope not.

What is in a name, as Juliet asks? A mere label, or something much, much more…

 

Let’s Catch Up…

Just thought that I’d catch you up on the goings on in my world in case anyone is interested…

Here in my little 4-unit building we have some new neighbors. It’s only taken the landlords four months to gut and renovate the unit once lived in by controlling (and probably abusive) curmudgeon Sam. I have not met them yet, but I understand they are siblings, 3 of them, although I have only seen 2. I suspect they work a lot as they are young and it seems relatively quiet there so far. Even when they were moving in this past weekend they did so rather unobtrusively so I don’t suspect wild parties will be very common. In an ironic twist, one of them drives an old Jeep Wrangler that reminds me in noise level and looks of my Alison’s old car. Her’s was white, verging on dinged up, dingy gray and this one is black but it has the familiar engine sound, some odd wires or connectors hanging from underneath it and even duct tape helping to hold up one of the rear windows. Seems that aging Jeeps must fall apart in a universal manner.

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I spent a good two weeks with some sort of toxic germs living in my nose and bronchial passages. I really thought that I was going to escape relatively unscathed this season as I had managed to avoid most of the germs my two little angels seemed to be spreading non-stop since September. Somehow though, even obsessive hand washing and bathing in hand sanitizer didn’t help this time. Working was interesting. I screened quite often in semi-dark rooms so that the parents (hopefully) didn’t notice all the snot dripping into my pretty yellow (but not very absorbent) masks. I also feared leaving unsightly snot trails under my nose when the masks came off.

In other work news, I had an interesting weekend there a few days ago. We had a baby born with a number of congenital anomalies, one of which might have involved hearing issues so I was asked to screen the baby right away in the NICU. She passed easily so at least that’s one less issue to deal with although she may still have a rough road ahead.

I had screened my first baby of the day just prior to that NICU baby. Thirty minutes later, standing in the NICU talking with Alex we heard “Code Blue, 3rd Floor, Mother/Baby Unit, Room 340.”  Room 340 was the baby I had just left. Code Blue means respiratory issues… as in not breathing. By the time the nurses wheeled her in and the code team arrived she was pink and crying. Apparently she gagged on a substantial amount of fluid and then began to turn blue.

A few other, non-baby issues came and went and I set out to screen my last baby for the day. I really didn’t need to do that one, but I suspected Sunday was going to be busy so I thought I would try to get one more finished. Mom was exhausted and sleeping, dad was also exhausted but very much needing to be the overly helpful dad that I sometimes run into. I have found an interesting cultural phenomenon with dads from Ukraine and surrounding Eastern European countries. They want to be very hands on when I come to screen, as in having the full intent to actually place my sensors and ear hugs for me. This dad was no exception, but I’ve found that if I give them a very specific task, as in helping to keep baby calm, I can get them to let me do my job.

Anyway, this babies coloring was wide ranging. She would fuss and be nicely pink, then gradually her color would turn. I watched this occur a few times and was just on the verge of stopping my test when she passed. It was pretty clear to me, although dad was unaware, that she wasn’t getting oxygen at an adequate level. I quickly gave dad his paperwork, turned to look at baby who had just been fussy and pink, and saw that she was dusky. This is dusky:

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Needless to say I made a beeline for the nurses who moved quickly to check on her. The next thing I knew she was being wheeled into the NICU. Her oxygen level: 88. I found out on Sunday that she had been transferred to a higher level NICU. She was unable to stay adequately oxygenated even with a CPAP unit. Scary moments for sure and no one wanted to think what the outcome might have been.

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Finally, in totally unrelated news, I have come to the sad realization that (and I don’t really know who said this, or even where I might have heard it) but when you divorce and expect to be relatively free from issues with your ex-spouse it never really works out that way. They are always a presence. They will always (inadvertently or perhaps not) find ways to irritate, anger, annoy and just generally plague your existence.

This could be a long story and this post is already long enough so very short version: There was an issue that arose way back in late September, but that I chose not to write about at the time. It could have been rather devastating and I have been planning and adjusting for the past few months. Of course it involves a financial component. Long story short, after more extended angst and worry, after new sleepless nights, in a rather accidental and unintentional way, I just found out (NOT FROM THE EX-SPOUSE WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE ONE TO TELL ME) that all is just fine, peachy-keen, no problem, no worries, over and done. Apparently the knowledge that the looming crisis was no longer a crisis came to the ex around Thanksgiving. That means that I have had the pleasure of added stress for over 3 months now and was not even afforded the courtesy to be told that the world was good, that I could still plan for uninterrupted income, and that I didn’t have to spend inordinate amounts of time doing silly things like trying to figure out how to stay warm while not using any heat in my apartment.

I will close this post by saying that I added that image of the dusky blue color not only to illustrate that sweet baby girls issues on Saturday, but also to highlight, after learning all the information above, what I pictured the color of my ex-spouses face to be as I throttled the life out of him.

My Patients

I haven’t shared too much about my job here on the blog, but this is a story about my patients.

I can tell you that very often my patients are grumpy, or down right angry. They even cry uncontrollably and unexpected. Most of the time they sleep, right through my prodding them and talking to them. They don’t seem to find it especially important to thank me when I call them beautiful or compliment their long, dark hair and chubby cheeks. They do make interesting faces and most of them have the ability to go from a grimace to an angelic and peaceful repose within seconds.

I know that they wouldn’t want me to share that they burp quite often, or even have a tendency to gag and spit readily. Some just can’t help themselves and fart or poop while I’m with them. Sometimes stuff like that just happens, especially when you aren’t really adjusted to so many changes and hospital rules.

Even though they don’t have much to say I can always tell who is going to be totally bored with my visit, or just as easily the ones who are already wide-eyed and following my every move. I always think that those are the ones I have to watch out for, that those patients will be the ones to purposefully and obstinately refuse to listen. Then they surprise me and I find myself wishing I could spend more time with them as they dismiss me and settle in for sleep.

Some of them try to be helpful. They want so badly to help me detach sensors or ear hugs and it often takes a lot of explaining to them that no, I really do have to tuck their hands back inside their swaddle blankets, but I so very much appreciate all their efforts.

I really can’t tell, even anonymously, any funny or whimsical stories that I hear from my patients. Most of them are just trying to comprehend how their world has turned upside down and why they can’t go back where they came from just hours ago. They’ll have stories for sure, but I won’t be privileged to hear them. I would like to assume that they will be happy and bright and optimistic stories.

Those are the patients that I visit in a quiet room with their loved ones close by.

Some of my patients are alone. I meet them in a large, sometimes noisy, space. Their freedom is tested because they are attached to machines. Many of these patients rarely notice when I stop at their bedside. Of course they hear me remark on their beauty and strength just like all the others. Some will show their displeasure for me with the occasional frown or soft high-pitched cry, but I move forward with my work.

These patients are almost always asleep. If they aren’t they twitch, and appear jittery. I move them about, touch them only as much as is absolutely necessary and watch them startle over and over again. There are some that I come to visit and I have to stop. They tell me that it is too much, too soon and they begin to scream in pain. These are the patients that are telling me their stories over and over and I see at least one every day that I am at work. These are the patients that don’t get to go home wrapped in loving arms at 24 or 36 hours.

These are NAS patients. Rather in severe withdrawal, or on a monitoring hold, these patients were born to mothers who used opiates during pregnancy. Those in withdrawal are given morphine. I work in a small facility. Our NICU can house six patients routinely with overflow for 1-2 more. Very sick babies are transferred to a Level IV facility. Most NAS babies stay with us until they are well enough to go into foster care. Since I began work on September 1st, there has only been one of my shifts without an NAS patient.

The work that I do with most babies is rather routine, and predictable in many ways. However, it will never be routine for me to stand in the doorway of the NICU and see a baby, only hours old, being given another dose of morphine. I could never predict how much an infant can tremble, and twitch and startle, never seeming to find peace and quiet.

I can only wonder what these babies stories will be, what their future will hold. I will not be privileged to hear them. I would like to assume that they will be happy and bright and optimistic stories, because to assume otherwise is too painful.

Revelation

Nothing major, but something that has been growing on me since about mid-September.

I like my job.

I cannot honestly say that I remember the last time I said that. Likely it was years ago when I was teaching childbirth classes. I loved that job. That job felt right. I probably used the word like a few times during my dental assisting career as well, although I suspect that I liked the doing of the actual job more than I ever really liked where I worked.

I also don’t really know why this admission strikes me as rather incongruous. I suspect that we can all find something about our work to complain about. The commute, a co-worker- or two or three, overtime, workplace drama, etc. I would be surprised to find anyone who would say that their career, and the inherent aspects that surround doing that career, is perfect, but I do assume that many/most of us like the path we have chosen or the career we have ended up in. Yet again today, as I spent time educating a father about what I was doing and why, the revelation popped quietly into my head: I really like this job.

Those extra shifts that I picked up when we lost one of our screeners haven’t been a burden at all. I could literally do this job five days a week. I don’t remember feeling this way when I worked at the same job five years ago. Just like the dental career, I liked the doing, but the place and people- no connection, no sense of belonging.

New parents haven’t changed. I meet them when they are bleary-eyed, sleep deprived but high as the sky eager and anxious and terrified humans contemplating the new person in their lives.

Babies certainly haven’t changed. The babies are the most predictable aspects of my job in so many ways…most of the time…until they aren’t. Babies will surprise you when you least expect it. They will force you to adapt and to think on your feet. Their job is to challenge and I am finding that amazing and humbling.

The job really hasn’t changed with the exception of a few procedural differences. Autonomy, self control and responsibility, the aspects that I craved last time around, still give me a sense of purpose, and self-worth, and feelings of capability and ownership in my work.

So with so much the same I wonder why I am so much in like with my job. Could it be because the facility is smaller with a calmer atmosphere, or that the staff is simply more welcoming and so I feel more grounded; more of a team member; perhaps even more valued. I remember always feeling intimidated when I had to enter the NICU to check on or screen a baby. Now, with my desk just 4 feet from the NICU, I am building a rapport with the nursing staff who feel like colleagues rather than strangers. I am greeted regularly by the housekeeping staff and nutrition staff delivering breakfast. I even got a physician (maybe anesthesiologist) who is always there on my shift, to finally smile and tip his head in greeting.

I’m sure that all of this is a factor, but I also wonder what’s different this time around with me. Five years ago I had just ended my career in dentistry because of arthritis. Five years ago I was beginning my role as grandma. Five years ago I knew that my marriage was over, although I had no idea that I would actually come to the decision of divorce. Five years ago it was difficult to take a job that had me working weekend evenings, even though I was beginning to welcome being out of the house more and more. I think in some ways guilt led me to take that job five years ago. I felt a need to still contribute, maybe even to prove something about my place in a marriage where it was becoming clear that my not working was frowned upon, and the reason I stopped working was implausible in the mind of my ex-husband.

Today, I hold this job for myself. I still feel a need to contribute, but the contribution is to my own sense of self, my own well-being, my own desire to learn from and interact with other adults. Of course, I am also contributing to my finances, and I won’t deny that the extra money every 2 weeks is a bonus! Selfish reasons maybe, but there is no burden of proof that is owed to anyone anymore. I get up and go to work on Saturday and Sunday mornings because I want to. Because I like to. Because it is necessary for me to forge a sense of ownership about myself. Because I do not have to think of how my days and nights are, or are not, making someone else happy or content.

I do this job for me, and that makes all the difference.