"I'm not legally responsible for any of the patients, so you can't require me to do anything," one of the attendants told me the other day, as he sat at the desk, staring off into the sunset.
I had not asked him to do anything. I gave that up a long time ago. I make an assignment. If someone does something, great. If not, I have to let it go. The most essential tasks I do myself. Anything else doesn't get done. A situation has arisen where the attendants not only do nothing when I am in charge, they also carry on this way when I am not there and with other nurses. They yell at anyone, patient or administration, who has the nerve to ask them to do something. To put down the newspaper. To get off their personal phone.
I'm not sure how we slid into this arrangement. Probably has to do with my lack of support from administration. Tell the attendants for months that they don't have to listen to me, and that kind of grows to include not listening to anyone.
So back to the legal inquiry posed by the attendant: he is not legally responsible for a patient, so he does not have to do anything while on the job.
I attempted to clarify that legal responsibility and job responsibility are not the same thing and that someone can be fired for failure to perform the responsibilities of a job, even though there is no legal obligation to perform the work.
He advised me that this wasn't true, that "an insurance company" told him that he doesn't have to do anything, and that he can't be fired because he is "protected."
"Protected by what?" I asked.
"You have a right to your job," he answered, as if this was Introduction to Law 101.
Really? This is their rationale for doing nothing? They have been getting away with it for months. For years. It's gotten worse since I have been regularly stationed on the unit.
How have I been coping? I ignore them. I come in, do what I have to do, and leave when the shift is over, making sure all of the patients are okay. The number of attendants assigned to the floor is irrelevant; nothing gets done. Actually, the more there are, the louder the moaning and complaining and accusations against me, so I would rather have just a few instead of extra.