Tag Archives: stress

Anxiety Origins and My Last Full-Time Job

e3d0f15470243e3f766e7b5a4c1fad1fAussa 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. Calm-during-stress-300x264All 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?

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.

Hitting the Wall

I hit a plot dilemma yesterday and got stuck. Took me a while to figure that one out. Finally broke down and wrote out an outline for the remainder of the book, mind maps of research, more details. This is a picture of my work space. A long while back, when I first started with Scrivener, I took a picture of my desk all nice and clean and organized. Still using Scrivener, and the WIP is neatly filed, but can’t say the desk has stayed very well organized.

best pic desk 002

It’s a work space filled with mind maps, outlines, notes, tools.

Rocket scientist is in Baltimore. Was up at 5 am working on my plot dilemma. Woke up around 9 am with a sore throat, stuffy head, coughing till I peed myself, vomiting, illness. Had the sick granddaughter over on Sunday for 8 hours. So, we know where this came from. Bless her heart. Today is the daughter’s birthday, middle child, she is thirty three. Damn, I feel old.

Have spent the afternoon writing down patois phrases I know and researching others. Got a Jamaican suspect. Feel pretty good about where I am going with this now.  Asians, Hispanics, cowboys, suits, bikers. A colorful cast of characters for my detective and his sidekick, no doubt about it.

It’s a fun write, and I am hoping it will be a fun read. Much different than anything I have written before. Not nearly as serious, although there are serious crimes. This writing requires a transition in styles for me and I do find myself slipping back into old patterns.

My work in the past has been praised for attention to detail, and the novel is filled with descriptive details, but I have to be careful not to get too windy or verbose. We’ll just have to see how the beta readers feel about it when that time comes.

Going to take some Benadryl, some Nasacort spray and try to get a nap now. I’ll be writing again tonight.

27,976 words!