Tag Archives: nursing

An Untold Story of Early Retirement

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.

My Nurse

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Ah! She comes between me and my white barren walls,

Sometimes solemn, sometimes smiling,

Standing, staring, sometimes softly

Touching while she sings

Not well though, she does not seem to know

I hear her singing,  nonetheless, it is better

Than the absence of song

I had before she came into my room

She used to feed me with a spoon

And hold my cup up to my lips

So that I might take a sip

She wiped the dribbling shame from cheek and chin,

So I might grin with dignity again

Does she remember me?

Does she know that I remember her?

At times, I feel that I am just part of her occupation

At times I feel that I am so much more

She feeds me now though through a tube

It’s not the same and yet it is

I can’t explain just how it is

She accepts it, and so must I

Nurse’s Notes

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I

do

not

know

you

very

well,

but I

feel I

can tell

you, that I

have often

found some

of the most

particularly

delightful

things in

life quite

often do

occur quite

by chance.

For the most

part, all of

these  were

written years ago.

When they were,

there was always

a song playing

in the back

of my mind.

I could not

share the song.

Unfortunately,

as much as I wanted to,

I never learned how to read or write music, but I feel it.

I don’t sing very often or very well.

I write

books now.

Though some of my writings,

even in books,

are lyrical

serendipity.

Some are blues.

Some are rock.

Some are psychotic headbeats

louder than my own heart!

These are my “Nurse’s Notes”.

~ S. K. Nicholls 1984

Women’s Rights to Equal Pay

Lilly Ledbetter was recently honored on her birthday by the National Women’s Law Center.  She is an equal pay advocate who championed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act for which she is the namesake.  I applaud her.

I am currently reading a book called, “The Psychopath Test”, by Jon Ronson.  This read, coupled with Lilly Ledbetter’s kudos brought to mind a particular incident that occurred while I was employed as an RN Charge Nurse at West Central Georgia Regional Hospital, a State Mental Hospital known by locals as simply, Shataulga Road.  If someone tells you that you need to go to Shataulga Rd, they are inferring that you are somehow “crazy”.

There was a Director of Nursing there by the name of Joyce Morelock.  I admired her.  She was tough and like a mentor to me in that she had an air of professionalism, seriously required in that environment, despite the fact that she was always overdressed for that type of work in her heels, stockings and suit-skirts.  Although I did not dress like her, I was called J.J. for Joyce Junior, in part, because I was Charge Nurse and had the charge of maintaining order in her absence.  We worked the forensic unit, Unit 6, where the craziest of the crazies were located.  These were often patients from the jails and we were expected to determine if they were actually sane or actually insane.

On one particular night, we had a male patient who stripped naked and proceeded to jump around on the furniture with his penis stretched out strumming it like a guitar.  He was screaming something about Donkey Kong, various obscenities, and displaying his martial arts moves as he bounded from furniture to furniture to the top of the nursing station where an L.P.N. named Donna and I sat in a state of shock.  We called a Code Stress, which was supposed to bring assistance to deal with just such crises, and it was a crisis.  Five strapping young men arrived and lined against the wall refusing to help to get this man under control.  One actually said it was against his religion to put his hands on another man.  When asked, “Why did you bother showing up?”  He responded, “I use the ‘talk down’ approach.”  Well, it was obvious that Donkey Kong was not about to be talked down. So these big tall strong men stood against the wall and did nothing.  The patient ran into the bathroom and jumped in the shower.  He knew exactly what he was doing.  He lathered himself up with soap to make himself impossible (he thought) to grasp.  I sent Donna to the med room to fill a syringe and told her to meet me at the bathroom door.  I ran and grabbed a blanket off of a patient’s bed and tossed it over Donkey Kong’s head as he exited the bathroom.  Donna and I took him down and shot him with enough emergency narcotic to adequately sedate him.  Once sedated, the men placed him into an ambulance to carry him to the VA hospital. This former marine, trained in martial arts, broke out of four point leather restraints and fled the scene in a hurry, running past the men who thought they had him detained, jumped the fence and was gone.

I later learned that Donna, an L.P.N. was paid less than these Psychiatric Technicians who lined the wall on that night.  J.J. strengthened her tough reputation, but also found out that there were four male Nurses on duty that night at the hospital that had not responded to the Code Stress.  She also found out that they were all paid significantly more than her.  I was sorely disappointed.

Later, while working on a med-surg. unit in another hospital, I learned that the male nurses at that hospital received 30% more pay than the female nurses.  When us ladies asked the Unit. Manager why that was so, she said that male nurses functioned both as nurses and as orderlies, doing a lot of the heavy lifting and transport.  I wasn’t buying that.  We female nurses functioned as Nursing assistants also, giving baths, doing heavy lifting, transport and diapering adults.  It was something we just had to accept.

Tremendous strides have been made in the workforce of woman over the past fifty years.  There was a time, except during times of war, when women did not work outside the home unless they had been abandoned by their spouses, divorced or widowed.  They took menial jobs for little pay.  A few respectable women were teachers, nurses and secretaries. Happy Birthday Lilly Ledbetter,  I am glad you were born. We have come a long way, but it is social progress, not social perfection.