Friday, January 31, 2014

Don't Call me Daughter

So this one is a little bit harder to distill, to put into a digestible form.

Another one of my dad's died a few weeks ago. That makes 2 in the last few months for those of you who are keeping score.

Ray. Lauren Raymond Pike. Sonofabitch Supreme. Major Dick. Captain Asshole. I wasn't angry when I started writing this, but typing those last three phrases literally raised my pulse. Makes me believe that I do this to myself…

He died of a massive stroke. There was no chance. One of his carotid arteries had been %100 blocked for years and the other had been scraped to %75 efficacy. He was a violently uncontrolled diabetic with an ego problem.

He was a know-it-all and a loud mouth and a bigot and a misogynist and a pervert.

He was not OK to me. But as an effect of his terrible (step) parenting of me, I got tough. I rose up and did good and distanced myself in body and mind and spirit as far as I could from him as soon as I could. His presence in my life was the single biggest motivator for me to succeed and get the hell out of Dodge. And as I grew up a little and moved further and further away as a person from him, I would cringe whenever he'd compliment me or take credit for my accomplishments. Ironic.

Here's where it's tricky: People loved him. He made some people happy during his time on planet earth. His mother adored him. And she was one hell of a lady! A gorgeous, vivacious woman who lived out her days in a fab apartment on Michigan Ave. in Chicago. His two children (at least at the end of his life. I didn't pay attention to their relationships when I was a kid getting terrorized by him or when I became an adult and didn't have to worry any more) cared for him very much so he must have done some good for them and their children…  And he was married a bunch of times. I guess those wives loved him for a while, I'm pretty sure my mother did. Although their fights and general shitty attitude towards each other is what stays with me most.

When I was 19 or so I started having pretty elaborate fantasies about what I'd do if I was ever faced with him, a ventilator and the ability to pull the plug. In my early thirties I was called to help by my mother because he was in a diabetic rage and I had an insulin syringe in my hand filled and ready to get his +600 blood sugar under control. I gave him the medicine, but I had to think about it first. Really think about it.

Anyone who really knows me know what a pacifist I am. Violence is not in my nature but I was willing (at least in my mind) to hurt him. What does that mean?

As an Atheist, I don't have a lot of places to seek shelter when I don't understand something about myself or other people or the world. There is no "let go, let God" for me. And I'm not saying that believers have an excuse, that it's definitely easier (is it, though? in a way?). I'm saying that my belief system, that is my belief in humanity, my belief in the things that I can see and feel and touch all around me, forces me to keep looking.

I thought for such a long time that when he finally died, I'd have an answer, something final. Not true. Not true at all.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nurses: A Cautionary Tale

 I am a nurse.

So what does that mean, exactly? It means I go to work every single shift with the sole intent of helping. It means that when I walk through the doors of my facility I am taking on the responsibility to care for other human beings regardless of my personal feelings, biases, emotional state, political leanings or religious beliefs. It means that when I step onto my unit in uniform I take my assignment with pride, with a positive attitude and grace.

I am a nurse. I am technical, I use computers to care for my patients, to keep them safe from medication errors and to comply with federal regulations. I am clinical, I start IV's, perform procedures, dispense medications orally, intravenously and by injection to ensure your pain and disease processes stay within normal limits or improve. I am nurturing, I hold your hand, your family's hand. I cry with you and for you. I call case management if your physical or emotional state is threatened and sometimes I call security for those same reasons.

When things are perfect, ideal. When the census and acuity are low and the nurse to patient ratio is safe, my job is difficult. When management is involved and aware and attentive to the needs of the staff, my job is difficult.

And I'm going to be egotistical here: Like most jobs it provides my family with income to buy food, pay our mortgage, give us health insurance It gives me a sense of self-worth and my kids a positive role model But it is unlike most jobs in that it has more intrinsic value. It is more important and life affecting. There is more risk, more opportunity for catastrophe and exultation. My job is more important than other jobs. Period.

The support staff we need, that we rely on is crucial to our survival and our ability, as nurses to perform at peak levels. Our housekeepers, surgical techs and nursing assistants are the safety net we couldn't fly without. Taking them for granted is a huge diss/piss/black mark on our karma and we know it.

Conversely, when management, leadership, administration takes us for granted, things fall apart.
Things rust. Things like morale. Things like the drive to do more, do better. These things rust and crack and stop working.

When nurses aren't supported by the people put in place to support them we have anxiety attacks in the parking garage. We don't sleep well at night. We are on edge. We don't eat well or take care of ourselves. When the structure loses its integrity, the human body that the nurse occupies breaks down and loses confidence.

We are the user interface that is backed up by the machine. If the machine fails, we fail. And if we fail, we fail our patients.

Very recently I resigned from a facility that is seemingly working very hard to be the defining example of what I've just described. I am lucky that I was able to find a new job at a facility that treats its nurses with respect and kindness; treats us like human beings.

This has to be the trend, this notion of giving to the nurse what the nurse is expected to give to their patients. Because if it isn't (and I'm afraid it isn't, I'm afraid I didn't get just a little lucky. I think I got a LOT lucky) the future is very bleak indeed.