I have mentioned retiring early, and many are under the assumption that I was fortunate, and in many ways I am. However, I want to share with you the rest of that story. I retired from nursing a few years ago in 2011. The stress at the time was unbelievable. I am an empathetic and sensitive nurse. I was working in pediatric extended care. The last four of the eight years I was there were terrible. There were nurses, caregivers, behaving like criminals.
Caught in the crossfire, I spent my time at work dodging bullets and watching the kids under my supervision like a hawk. There was an out and out gang war between the Haitians, African-Americans, Puerto Ricans and Jamaicans who staffed the facility (not a prejudice, but a fact). It was a large facility with over 400 on staff and I was the only white woman on night shift. The women were vicious as they tried to get each other fired and their friends hired. They were cutthroat at each other, and placing young lives in jeopardy.
Seriously, I spent my time outside of work giving depositions to lawyers, writing letters to corporate, filling out police reports, and doing everything I could to protect children from the very people who were supposed to be providing them with a warm, nurturing, loving, compassionate environment. It was horribly sad. I’m not talking about neglectful care, I am talking about deliberate abuse that left children with injuries and put them into hospitals. Some even died. It was THAT bad.
I don’t talk much about my nursing career on my blog. I have shared a few stories, but the taste my final years left in my mouth was so bitter it is not something I can easily look back on. There were a half dozen law suits, and several of the women involved dealt with dire consequences. A few were arrested. I was threatened by one. I went on medical leave and ultimately resigned, which forced the resignation of others.
There was some justice this year when the facility was shut down midst allegations of abuse and neglect and I was more than glad I was no longer a part of it. There was a big write up in the paper. It was splashed all over the six o’clock news. The children were placed into medical foster homes. Now that some of these cases are settled I feel I can freely talk about it. The consolation is that the kids get much better care in the small private medical foster homes than they ever could in a large state funded institution.
Having processed this all through two different administrations, I felt deeply inadequate and powerless when I was in the thick of it and it took a couple of years to mellow out about it. I was angry. I was mad about what was happening to the children and families involved. I was mad about what was happening to my innocent co-workers (the ones not involved dealt with professional and emotional consequences, also). I was disturbed that a thirty year career in health care had boiled down to such a catastrophe. The feeling of failure was enormous.
Yesterday I shared this with another blogger/author friend. You may wonder why I am sharing this with you now. I think it is the reason that you don’t see cute little anecdotes about me and my patients. There were many before all of this went down. Looking back beyond those few final years, I can laugh. I can recall the joys and triumphs of my patients and coworkers, but it has been a long while. There is a new category on my blog called “Nurses Notes”. I am hoping the stories added under this category will be more entertaining than this one.
My apologies that this is such a downer.
Just something I needed to share.
All proceeds from sales of Red Clay and Roses are matched and go to the Russell Home for atypical children.