Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Not My Job

Does anybody else here love NPR's news quiz Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me? Holla! There's a part of the show when they invite people - usually famous ones, like Elizabeth Edwards or Terry Gene Bollea - to answer questions about things which are not their job. (It's funnier in practice.)

In my work at the maternity home, every day I'm presented with any number of things that were definitely not in my job description. Most days are exhausting, and in retrospect, hilarious, so I thought I would walk you through my work day.

2:30 pm - Last glance around the house. Did I forget everything? Survey says yes. I find my cell phone in the closet and my glasses on the floor by the bed (Kina thinks the nightstand is hers, and uses her tail to knock off any invaders). Feed the cats, lock the door, and I'm on my way.

2:56 pm - Pull in the gate. I find my keys as I park, run in the door, clock in and sign in, and try to make it upstairs without any interceptions by needy clients.

3:00 pm - Meet in the rec room for clinical. In my experience, these weekly meetings are as much for staff morale as they are for staff members to communicate about the different aspects of our residents' treatment goals. We discuss each resident - her school attendance, her clinic appointments, her participation level in activities/classes, her plans after delivery, and any issues she's presented since the last meeting. We do a lot of problem solving and story telling; usually also a lot of laughing. It lasts an hour.

4:00 pm - Someone needs to use the phone, someone needs their medication, and someone wants to talk about the sterile mask she got from the clinic today - she is serious when she says she is going to wear it to the NA meeting she's required to attend this evening. "They be in there coughing like they're about to die. I don't want to catch TB from them." Partly relieved she's talking about attending at all, I listen, and realize I was supposed to do a transport fifteen minutes ago. A little help, over here? I give the medication, stall about the phone, and duck out the door to pick up a resident from the hospitality class she's taking at Goodwill Industries. I relish the peace and quiet in the van on the way.

4:25 pm - I'm back, and just in time to deal with the fall-out from another crisis. Someone just returned from the clinic, cursing and carrying on. I've heard this same complaint from this same resident for months. For some reason the clinic hasn't been able to determine her due date. It looks to me like she could deliver any second. But am I a doctor? That is not my job. She says that if they don't give her an ultrasound, she's leaving the program. I try to call and alert her social worker. There is no answer.

4:45 pm - One of my residents with an adoption plan just had her baby - two weeks early. This means that nothing was actually in place, so I've been frantically trying to reach her social worker with Children's Home Society (the one coordinating the adoption), but she's out this week. I leave another message.

5:00 pm - Dinner is paged over the intercom. I lock the phone, the files, and all the paperwork I've been working on in the office, and go downstairs to the dining hall. Dinner is weird, and I slept in this morning instead of getting up to cook. I get coffee and take my seat at the staff table. Everyone is feeling pretty low since the pay cut last week, so there's not a lot of conversation over dinner. At one point, two residents get loud, talking about what the other told someone else about them. I cut in as the younger one says "you don't know who you're f---ing with." Shortly afterward, she leaves the dining room, and I resume breathing. I hate breaking up fights, because all of the residents are taller than me, and most outweigh me by at least 30 pounds. Also, I'm afraid they will break my glasses. (If they wanted a bouncer, they should have hired this guy.)

5:45 pm - All the residents have finished eating, and I'm on my way back upstairs. I page chores, but I'm mostly ignored - a few residents have gone to the computer lab, one went to her room, and the rest are outside (we make them leave campus if they want to smoke). As soon as I sit down, someone approaches my desk. She needs to go to the hospital (I am lucky this time - I'm used to over-disclosure about things like "leaking fluid" and "spotting," but the case manager who works in the mornings once had a resident bring her mucus plug in a tissue when she came to request a ride to the hospital. That is really not my job!). So it's back downstairs to sign out of the building, check out a van, and drive the five minutes to the ER. Of course in the parking lot, the resident I was supposed to take to a 7 pm NA meeting seizes the opportunity to tell me she also needs to go to the hospital, because she suddenly has a migraine. Never one to deny medical care, I drive both residents to the ER. When one complains about how long they'll have to wait, I resist the urge to offer my health insurance in exchange for hers (Medicaid). No one I know outside of NYM Maternity Home can walk out of the ER without a bill. Starving, I take the long way and stop at Trader Joe's. I get a hummus/veggie wrap and a tiny coffee sample.

6:05 pm - I am now late for my own activity. I haul boxes of trial size toiletries to the multi-purpose room, and then page for residents. Before too long, I have a small group from the minor hall helping me organize the toiletries and stuff bags. Each bag needs 2 shampoos, 2 soaps, a lotion, and a conditioner. Tomorrow morning, a few of the residents will be going with our Volunteer Coordinator to take the bags to "Stuff the Bus" (a donations drive for some of the homeless shelters in the area). Some of the shampoo bottles have leaked; by the end I have suds everywhere. The girls seem to be enjoying themselves, though. I don't spend much time with the residents who are under 18; they live on a different hall, and I work primarily with the adults. I notice how giggly they are. They ask about my tattoo and my husband.

7:10 pm - By the time I get upstairs, the volunteers who host a Bible study every week have already arrived. A few residents have gathered in the multipurpose room. I page the group, and check my work email. Updates on all the recent groups and classes, information on SC medicaid, and a few emails addressing issues with residents. I reply and discard.

7:57 - Snack is paged for the residents. I try to ignore it - usually evening snack is something sugary, like honeybuns or oreos. I eat my hummus wrap, and I'm grateful when one resident (who knows about my popcorn habit) brings me a packet of microwave popcorn. I put it in my drawer for later. A coworker who deal with agency records has asked me to help her with a project, so I spend the next hour going through the computer making a list of all the deliveries we've had since December 2007, complete with the babies' APGAR scores. (Don't worry, I didn't understand that, either.) I am interrupted about every seven minutes by someone with some need to be met. I also eat the popcorn.

9:00 - Back to the hospital to pick up resident number one. (They all think they are number one.) She is in a terrible mood, which means that after a minor outburst as she gets in the van, she hardly speaks the rest of the way back. It may be smoldering, but at least it's silence. She goes straight to her room. Back at my desk, I hear: staff laughing down on the minor's hall, some reality show on television in the lounge, a resident on her cell phone, the treadmill (a young lady in the rec room, who thinks that she can walk herself into labor today after lazing around for nine months), the ancient central air system cycling off and on.

9:30 pm - I spend a few minutes talking to the resident involved in the tiff at dinner. I thank her for maintaining her composure, and encourage her to be purposeful in choosing who she "associates" with. That is how I talk at work; I've picked up a whole new vocabulary here. (I talk about "baby daddies" like a professional) The phone rings, and it's resident number two, ready to come back from the hospital. I feel like a poorly paid cab driver, as I head downstairs one more time, check out the keys, sign myself out, and drive to the ER.

9:50 pm - A few residents have gone to their rooms, leaving me with hopefully enough quiet to complete my notes. My work computer is older than me, so it takes some time to pull up each resident's records. It takes most of the next hour to complete the notes. I write about everything from moodiness to hygiene to meal attendance to medical complaints, one client at a time.

10:45 - IT IS ALMOST 11:00. I try not to look at the clock, so that the time will go by faster. I'm exhausted. My shift partner shuts down her hall, and comes to wait on the hall with me for our relief. Every day about this time we log into the email to check the schedule - after 7 months, I still can't remember who comes in for the overnight shift when. Seven months have taught me which staff to dread - some relief staff come in at quarter til every night, and others keep us waiting here until 11:30 pm. Our shift is definitely supposed to end at 11:00, and I hate staying late. Covering an extra (unpaid) half hour for someone who can't get themself to work on time is not my job.


  1. Thanks for this - I feel like I have a much better idea of what your job is (and, obviously, of what is not your job :)). I'm so proud of you and what you do!

  2. the above comment was posted by me (Lexi). but you already knew that.