Sunday, July 14, 2013

Are you being served?


Meal time on the psych ward is regulated, as you may have guessed.  Choking is a very real hazard among the patients.  In addition, many of the patients are homeless and have to literally fight for food on the outside, a habit that they continue to practice inside the hospital.  The patients are not permitted to eat in their rooms.  They must come into the lounge area and sit at a table.

The trays are pushed onto the unit by a dietary worker.  A small piece of paper with the name of a patient protrudes from each tray.  Usually an older gentleman brings the trays.  His ability to see and read appears highly compromised.  He takes the paper with the name from a tray, brings it all the way up to his eyes, lifts his glasses, puts them back, lifts them again, and then mumbles something barely recognizable as the name of a patient.  The patients sit there, unable to recognize their own names in the garble.  With nobody claiming the tray, he then sticks the piece of paper back onto any tray and grabs the next paper that he can see to repeat the process all over.

It's a disaster every time.  I've asked him to not attempt to hand out the trays.  I was reported for being racist.

I hand out as many as I can while running circles around him to prevent him from giving out the wrong tray and causing a riot.

On one particularly obnoxious day, while I was racing around to get the trays out, I noticed two attendants in the dining area.  One was standing, absorbed in pressing buttons on his newest electronic gadget.  The other was seated next to him, staring off into the distance, as if she were at the beach on her day off.

"Can you please help us with these trays?" I asked of them.

"It's not our job," the standing attendant replied.

Really?  REALLY?  "Whose job is it?" I queried, shocked at their blatant honesty.

"I don't know," the seated attendant replied, "But it's not our job."  I stood there staring at them.  She continued, "I mean, we can help if we feel like it, but I have never felt like helping, so I don't.  If you choose to hand out trays, that's on you."

Unbelievable, but there it was.  The attendants somehow have the belief that they are not at work to perform any work.  At this point, the patients provide more services for other patients than the attendants do.  Some of the attendants are so intrusive and attention-seeking, constantly telling me to do this-and-that, that they are more time-consuming than the patients.

The Head Nurse of this ward has returned from some kind of extended leave that was tacked onto the end of her prior extended leave.  [But if I request a Friday off, all hell breaks lose.]  I mentioned to her that the attendants do not think it's their job to hand out trays.  "It's not!" she gasped.  "Dietary has to hand out the trays.  The trays come from dietary, so dietary has to hand them out."

"But the dietary aide does not know our patients and gives out the wrong trays," I tried explaining to no avail.  After all, the medications come from pharmacy, but the pharmacist does not hand them out- the nurse does.  Or rather, this nurse does.

"Then it is his responsibility to ask the staff to identify a patient, but that does not mean that the staff has to give out the trays for him," the Head Nurse explained, looking at me as if I was pure evil for wanting an attendant to get up and do something.

Hopeless.

The patients notice that most of the staff sits there, unwilling to help them.  The patients tell me this.  But this causes the patients to come to me for everything, which is quite stressful.

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