slideshow widget

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A little tounge slippage due to pure exhaustion

I missed an RT Wisdom yesterday. This is my blog, and I have the right to skip a day of blogging if I choose. However it lays there in the back of my mind, that yearning to stop what I'm doing, to rush to the Internet (that awful addiction). Yet there are other responsibilities that preclude fun.

There is no boss here to make me blog every day. And, unfortunately, no profit loss either. I have a post written for yesterday, actually. I just didn't have the time to post it yesterday. It was one of those days. It was one of those nights. It was another night from hell. It was a night with a lot of slippage.

Today, instead of educating anyone on some deep RT Wisdom, I'm going to take a moment to write about slippage. It has something to do with the 2 a.m. syndrome that any of you night shift RTs and RN and DRs will be fully aware of, but you day shifters may well not be aware of.

And, there is this thing called amnesia too, which occurs when a night shifter goes to days for a long enough period of time. He, or she, forgets what it was like to work nights. It's called former night shift suppression syndrome. How's that for a cool name that popped up extemporaneously to my humble RT mind.

When you are so busy at work and your boss has to come in at 2:30 in the morning for two straight days to do all the useless breathing treatments so you can take care of the critical patients, you know your busy.

When you have one person doing the work of two, as this humble RT did Thursday through Sunday, it makes for arduously long nights. And, strangely enough, on the final two days of a long, long, long stretch, even though there were two of us through most of the night these past two nights, the journey was still arduously long -- go figure.

It's amazing how much more you can accomplish when you have fresh legs, body, and an invigorated mind and spirit, as opposed to fatigued legs, burning feet, and wearied spirit. With even fewer tasks at hand, the ability to get all of them done in a timely manner is severely hampered.

And, while this RT finally has a moment to rest and to eat his dinner at 2:30 in the morning of the final night, and his boss is sitting in the other room taking off her coat and hat and is organizing her paperwork, she says, "You know, I'm really tired."

"Ah," I think to my humble RT self, "I'm not going to go there. I'm not going to say one word, even though I wanted to say something like, "You're tired. I just worked the night shift six of the last seven days. You're tired?" At this point, I stifled the slippage.

Instead I smiled and said nothing, because I wanted to keep the peace. I'm cool that way.

However, later on I said, "Man, I think every one in this department is really burned out. I know I am, and I..." She interrupted me before I had a chance to blurt out the rest, which was going to be, "and I know you are too." I had not intended for what followed to occur. I did not intend the slippage.

She interrupted with a lecture, and when the RT is burned out it's one thing, but when the night shift RT is burned out, when this RT has every bone exhausted to the core to the point his body feels like mush -- a wet noodle walking, the fetters normally shackled to his voice box and
tongue loosen, and he simply says what's on his mind. I like to call this 2 a.m. syndrome, because I see it a lot on night shift.

But remember the old RT Cave Rule: Night shift people do not hold it against other night shift people. We know we are tired. We are a team, and therefore we do not get mad at one another. We don't hold grudges. We can't hold grudges.

Boss used to work nights, so perhaps she had a little of this rule left in her, or so I hoped. I prayed the former night shift suppression syndrome did not go to far into her bones, now that she not only advanced to days, but drifted further away when she drifted in the land of The Bosses, where the focus shifted to money. She has, as I describe in this link, become a dragon. And dragons, while they will never admit it, lose their ability to empathize with peon RTs and RNs that they once upon a time worked with. They, like all their fellow dragons, think like dragons.

That aside, what came next was a little slippage.

She said, "I don't buy that. You guys have no right to be burned out. You guys were so slow for so long that I think you simply forgot how it is when you have to work. You forgot how to work. Don't give me this that you guys are burned out. I came in and helped out last night and it felt great. I felt really good about myself. I think you guys forgot how to come in and enjoy yourselves when you have to actually work."

Okay, so here comes the slippage; the 2 a.m. syndrome at full force. It wasn't an angry statement. There was no ulterior motive here, it was simple slippage.

"Um," I thought for a second about not saying anything, but this was the moment I had been waiting for since the last time she brought this up (see this post). I had discussed this with my co-workers, and we all agree on one thing, which is...

"Boss," I said, "if it weren't for all the useless breathing treatments that we do around here, I wouldn't be burned out at all. If it weren't for all the useless breathing treatments on our board, I'd have been able to spend a few minutes with my ventilator patient tonight, or some more quality time with the truly sick people on this board. Instead, I'm running around taking care of people who don't need to be taken care of." There. Got that off my chest. It had been hanging on there for a few weeks.

Her response: "We need those treatments to make money for this department. If we don't make money, you would be out of a job. You guys sit around complaining about getting no work when it's slow, but when it gets busy you complain."

"I never get no work. You know how it is, nobody wants to work night. The lone RT shifter never gets to stay home, not even when it's slow. And I don't mind that really. I certainly don't complain when it's slow. I love it when it's slow. " I get to blog when it's slow.

Like I wrote earlier, she is an administrator, and administrators (dragons) think in terms of money. It's all about money. And which it should be. However, and I didn't say this, but the hospital does not get reimbursed for any of the treatments we do after the initial treatment. We are making no money at all on those treatments.

Despite thinking this, I said, "Look, Boss, I love working. I love my job. I love being an RT. And I love helping people. And I love it that you're here helping me out." Nothing like a little flattery to get you somewhere. "And when I'm waking someone up at 2 in the morning to give them a treatment they don't need, I certainly don't feel joy in that. If anything, I feel stupid." Wow. That was a good line.

"Well," she said. "I don't even want to go there. I don't even want to be having this discussion right now."

"Me neither, Boss, I hate it. I hate that I have to defend myself against the charge that I no longer feel proud of my job, or joy in my work. I feel proud every time I succeed at getting a blood gas, I feel joy every time I suction successfully. I love it when I get to use my brain and determine if someone needs a treatment, an EKG an ABG. I love to use my experiences and my education to benefit poeple. That makes me proud to be an RT. Doing a bunch un-indicated treatments so we make money makes me feel stupid."

"Well," she said, "I'm sorry you feel that way."

"Which is ironic," I forced a laugh so she didn't think I was being too much of a prick, "because I am fully aware the bottom line is money. I understand that completely. It's just that if you want me to feel ultimate joy in my job, or any sort of euphoria, you will talk to the doctors about letting us decide who gets treatments. Heck, if it's slow, I'm sure we'll find a way to add a few extra treatments to the board. And I wouldn't mind doing useless breathing treatments, so long as I decided that.

"It's not that it's hard to slap a neb into someones mouth and give them a treatment. It's that we are swamped right now, we have a lady on BiPap that I've been with for four hours tonight alone, and a vent patient I need to spend time with, and two patients getting Q1 hour treatments who have to have the nurse call me every time they need a treatment because I'm tied up doing frivolous things."

She didn't say anything. Perhaps she was shocked because I'm normally quiet and complain very little. I'm not complaining, though, just stating facts. I ended it there. I couldn't go on anymore if I wanted to. I was drained. I wanted to keep the peace. I had to keep the peace. I did keep the peace. However, the seeds were planted for a later discussion. We went out then and tackled the rest of the shift together as a team.

It was very enjoyable having a fellow RT with me on night shift. It was cool having someone get one ABG while I got the other. It really was. I suppose it's this kind of joy, the companionship of fellow RTs, or the longing for it, that has us night shift RTs ultimately going to days. There is nothing like a good old-fashioned RT teamwork. Nurses are great, but there is nothing like being among our own kind.

That, my fellow blogger friends, is the thought of the day, or thoughts of the day. What do you think? Perhaps I'll have to start a new RT Cave lexicon with all my new definitions.

1 comment:

Breathingthroughschool said...

Good for you for holding your ground and sticking up for yourself.