At the start of my day, I knew it was going to be challenging. My manager, who is in a constant whirlwind of meetings, was unavailable most of the day. Unfortunately, my partner-in-crime - the other assistant manager - also had the day off. I set my expectations for a possibly difficult day.
It was more than I anticipated.
Most of the morning was spent running around, helping the nurses look for supplies and instrumentation. No matter how organized we try to make our department, somehow things are reverted to the old stuff-it-in-a-cabinet or hide-it-somewhere methodology. We have committees who work so hard on this department initiative, but the tough part is getting the entire staff to buy-in to the new ideas. There are old habits to curb.
I've heard it takes twenty-one (21) days for something to become a habit.
Am I supposed to remind people or nag for 21 days??? Good grief!
While I was running around, whenever someone could stop me, they did. Forming a human speed bump, the nurses would step in front of me, blurt out their problem and expect a solution. It did not seem to occur to them that I was en route to the Sterile Processing Department to urgently find an instrument that was missing from a tray in another operating room with a surgery in progress.
Helloooooo... Move out of my way!!!
Even though the temptation was there, I never said that. Instead, I had to explain that I would be with them as soon as I could put out the fire in the other room. I asked them to call the charge nurse who should be able to assist while I was busy.
In many cases, the questions were simple and almost ridiculous. Answers could be discerned through utilization of critical thinking skills, something that I remember using as a staff nurse before escalating anything to leadership. But I guess that was me. And that's how I ended up in this position.
I know that I don't have all the answers, but when I took on the role of assistant manager suddenly, in the eyes of the staff, I was like the Dalai Lama. Seriously, I don't know EVERYTHING about every specialty in the OR. Like any good nurse, I know my resources --- people, websites, books, etc. Sometimes it is as simple as a phone call or a search on Google.
And the day continued... The running, the troubleshooting, the questions... And there was the service recovery.
Angry Surgeon? My pager went off and I ran to see what I could do to make things better. Most of the time, when I address a surgeon, I become a therapist who listens to them vent. And boy do they vent!!!
There was nothing that I could have possibly said to make this particular surgeon feel better.
"Management never does anything..."
"Management doesn't care..."
"There are certain surgeons that get everything they want, but when it comes to me, no one cares."
"Management is a bunch of people who don't think..."
"Management is all talk... They want to make changes and nothing ever happens."
"Management is completely useless..."
The insults went on and on. And on...
I was supposed to take this without batting an eyelash... Seriously???
My response was that I would look into the issues and then I headed out of the door. I had to leave that crazy man. No wonder no one wants to work with him.
After listening to his complaints, I had to debrief. No one was around, so I just did a "mirror check." I stepped outside of the department to catch my breath and remind myself of who I am.
First and foremost, I am a patient advocate. No matter what the surgeons or staff say to me, I know WHY I am there. There is no confusion on my part. Insult me if it makes you feel better, but at the end of the day that's who I am. I am a nurse and a leader.
To make myself feel better after such abuse, I have to remind myself who I am and from where I've been: a bachelors degree in business, many years under my belt in the Corporate World, a bachelors in nursing, and experience at a large university hospital and large, busy trauma center.
Healthcare has been, so far, the most unprofessional environment I have ever worked in. When I was in consulting, I had never seen anyone act like a raging lunatic in the office. That would have warranted an immediate call to security for an escort out of the building.
Here in surgery, behavior like this is tolerated. We are trying to change this, but Doctors are allowed to do things considered unacceptable in civilized cultures. I'm sure I could have done something different, but under the circumstances, I could not since a case was about to start.
As if that wasn't bad enough, there was yet another incident where I had to deal with an unhappy surgeon. You might as well hit the 'Repeat' button on this one. To make matters worse, there was a staff nurse who was only happy to throw me under the bus. She is notorious for this. I swear, she is spawn from The Devil himself. No one, not even regular staff, enjoys working with her.
On top of all this, I had the pressure of administrative deadlines that I missed or that I was straining to meet.
I wanted to wave the white flag, thrown in the towel, surrender to the enemy.
You got me, you big piece of crap...
I don't know when it hit me, but the tears started coming. There was nothing I could do to stop it. I ran for cover.
Get it together, MB, I urged myself over and over.
Um, yeah. That didn't work.
I gave up on trying to finish anything else on my To Do list, rushed to the locker room before the crowd got there, changed out of my scrubs, punched out, thus ending My Day From Hell.
I'm sure there are lessons that could be learned from this experience.
If you asked me that evening, my big takeaways were:
- Trust No One.
- Cover Your Ass.
- Plan Your Exit.
Today I see things differently.
- There is an urgent need for making people ACCOUNTABLE. I have been nice long enough. There is no more excuses. People are really taking advantage of my kindness.
- When a surgeon is acting like a raging lunatic, I need to ask if there's anything I could do to help at that moment. If not, we can debrief in my office after his case. And I should just WALK AWAY after that. I don't need to take that abuse.
- I need time away from work before I lose a passion for what I do. There is more to life than work... Really, there is.
It has taken almost all of this week for me to get over the trauma of that day. Sad, but true. This is what happens when you care about what you do.
Nursing is really more than a job. It's a vocation, no matter what your role - staff or leadership. You need to have a heart for it, otherwise you shouldn't be in it.
I'm not sure how much my little heart can take, but I'm pressing forward until it's time to do something else.