Monday, November 4, 2013
Silence the Mouth
I worked the evening shift recently. Overtime pay is good. The workload is a lot less, with no doctors running around writing orders and no other disciplines bursting through the ward doors every two minutes, making a bee line for the nurse.
The two problems with evening shift are:
1- the other nurse
2- the supervisor
I lucked out. The other nurse was an older man that I always got along with. The supervisor is the most evil of them all, but he stayed away, thanks to the decades of battle that he and the older nurse have already played out, night after night.
The older nurse told me that in his country, foreigners are treated with respect and people go out of their way to be nice and helpful. He was shocked when he arrived in the United States. Not only did people not help him, but they went out of their way to make his day more difficult. He studied English in his native country, but had to learn the swears and curses here. This behavior was not only exhibited by Americans. Immigrants from other countries also opposed him.
All of this atrocious behavior was magnified in the nurse work setting. While the racism was usually subtle in his neighborhood or on the street, it was up-front, in-your-face, completely unveiled in the hospital. The attendants working under him screamed at him and the supervisors backed the attendants, while adding in their own angry opinions.
He said that he has handled this situation all these years by standing firm in his professional training and skills. He is a nurse; the attendants are not. As such, the attendants will take direction from him, or they will be written up. If no action is taken against them, so be it, but he has his paper trail. As for the supervisors, he has more nursing experience in more settings than they do and he can outmaneuver them in any dispute over clinical care. He worked as a nurse in the military in his home country; he has trauma, emergency, operating, and labor/delivery experience. In this country, he worked in multiple areas of hospitals before finally settling in the psych hospital as his final nursing job.
Most of the supervisors have little nursing experience outside the psych hospital. They are woefully inadequate to handle the simplest clinical matters. This does not stop them from correcting other nurses that they don't like.
The older nurse told me that he does not respond to any protests by the attendants or supervisor as they occur. He is silent. There is no point in arguing with them. They can't understand him, they can't respond rationally, and they will find three witnesses who heard him say terrible things.
Instead, he writes a letter and sends copies to the people involved, the Director of Nursing, the director of the hospital, and the union. He doesn't go through the union; he copies them on the letter. Every time one of his letters starts circulating, everyone is shocked. They don't see the pattern. They thought that it was just another day of bullying somebody who went away, but then a letter appears.
The older nurse said he's been called into administration several times, always to defend his letter. In spite of his letter, he is always blamed. According to him, he is always able to dance his way out because he writes damning information about the role everybody played in the event. "The pen is mightier than the mouth," he added.
But all of these people still work here. They are never fired.