Aussa Lorens posted a piece on anxiety on her blog today and it really got me thinking about the reality of my own anxiety and where it all came from. If you don’t know her, she works in a psych hospital.
I have anxiety disorder and there are times when my heart is racing and pounding in my throat and I can’t breathe. It can be overwhelming, especially when trying to work. I haven’t always had anxiety disorder. It just sort of sneaked up on me, but I think I have determined when.
The last place I was employed as an RN (in a free-standing psych hospital for six months) had me working nights in admissions alone with an open-door walk-in policy. Many nights it was me and 10-20 psychotic patients and their half dozen family members each. (Did I mention alone?) Many potential patients and/or their family members/friends were intoxicated on drugs or alcohol. The noise level was deafening.
While attempting to manage these people and all of the questions, needs for blankets, food, drink, etc…I was inputting their data into a computer (with my back to the door), screening calls and faxes from local hospitals for potential admissions, taking cold calls from people needing services or counselling, interviewing and performing assessments, inspecting and processing their belongings (you know, running the magic wand over them and collecting their guns and knives and things they might hurt somebody or themselves with, confiscating contraband), reviewing their meds with them, calling doctors for orders, processing patients out to ERs who were too sick to be admitted, printing out forms, calling insurance companies for pre-certs, admitting and walking patients to the wards to give report. All the while, I am attempting to remain the calm anchor in this sea of chaos and provide comfort and care to those in crisis. After all, I had worked forensics, ER, and CCU. Calm was my middle name. I had once worked a detox facility where a man walked in put a gun in my face and demanded his wife…so I thought I could handle this.
My begging for a health services tech for months had fallen on deaf ears. Again, I was alone in the admissions unit at night. I tried very often to get the nursing supervisor to send me assistance but, of course, she never had anyone she could send. On my last night there, I had 16 patients and their family members. I had done everything possible to make them comfortable, but one girl was screaming at the door to be let out, while her family waited on the director to come in (from her bed at home) to admit her involuntarily.
I had just turned around a patient who arrived via ambulance from the local ER whom I had been told had a “little head wound”, but who appeared on a stretcher comatose, with eighteen stitches down the side of his shaved head, and unequal pupils. The girl at the door screaming had tried to convince the ambulance attendants to take her with them. Once they were gone, her screaming became louder, and she started banging on the walls with a chair.
I thought I had screened everybody well at the door, but a man, obviously tired of the disruption and noise, pulled a gun from his sock and started shooting at the ceiling. We had no security department, and the guy gave up the gun willingly. Thank goodness no one was injured. When the director arrived, I handed her the keys and left. I never went back. There are reasons why it was the last place I worked. Anxiety or real fear…your call?
What makes you anxious?
Have you ever had a panic attack?
Do you understand why most healthcare workers feel the system is broken?