Sunday, September 24, 2017

Refrigerator Woes

One of my tasks is to examine all of the refrigerators on the wards.

There are several because, in healthcare, you cannot combine certain items.

Most wards have one refrigerator for staff food, another for patient food, one for medications, and one for specimens awaiting pick up.

I check for comingling of items and that everything is labeled with a current expiration date.

You may have guessed by now that these rules are never followed.

At first, I was merely supposed to check each refrigerator, note the problems on a special form, and submit my findings to the Powers That Be. One day, the nursing director stopped me and said, "You know, I've been meaning to ask you. All these problems you find, you fix them, right?"

"No," I answered. "As explained to me, my role is to forward the completed form to supervisors, including you. I was told by you and others that I am not to confront anyone about any problems I find."

"Oh," she said and paused. "I thought you were supposed to be fixing all these problems. Well, I get the part about you not telling people what to do, but there are ways you could tell them without being bossy. Work on that. Try being nicer to people and they will do what you want. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Ever hear that?"

I didn't bother to try to explain to her why this will not work with this population. If they wanted me to go around and fix problems, that should have been the assignment. Not "inspecting" and completing a form.

At the next inspection, my strategy was to show the offending items to the nurse in charge and leave it up to her what to do. The reactions varied.

1- "Since when were you put in charge? I don't have to do a thing you say."
2- "Why bother? You write me up all the time and I have nothing to do with anything in any refrigerator."
3- "If you are so concerned, fix it yourself. Isn't that your job? To fix the stuff in the fridges?"

I told my immediate supervisor. She maintained, "You are not there to fix their mistakes." But she added, "You could educate them about the rules. Print out copies of the policy and give it to them."

No. There is an education department.  Those nurses get paid a lot more than I do. The rules are taped to the door of every fridge. They toss medications wherever is convenient and store their lunch in the fridge closest to their workstation.

I feel caught in the middle, as if I will be blamed if the hospital is cited for a refrigerator violation because I was supposed to clean up behind irresponsible people.

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