Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A year in a hospital

My first year at the new job is about ready to turn over. I've never been so elated in my entire life to reach the one-year mark at a job. It's gone by so fast. I would not have it any different. There was little time for adjustment in this position. I was tossed into the deep end and forced to tread water fast. Unlike previous jobs with micromanaging and drama, this position is more about the work. Because of this extreme pace, I've noted some key things I've learned in 12-months.

Things learned in a hospital in one year

1. People walk fast: People walk very fast in a hospital whether they are clinical or non-clinical. Even if you are early for a meeting, it is recommended that you walk fast. I personally believe this makes you look more important than anyone on the street. People are less likely to stop and ask for help if they think you are in a hurry and its a great way to raise your heart rate. When I say walking fast, I mean just below a light jog. Hospitals wear shoes out and it's not uncommon to see people in full stride or run.

2. Hospitals have bad coffee: Whether you are out on a unit or in an administrative office, you are likely to drink bad coffee. What they pass off as coffee is a hot water concoction that looks and smells a lot like coffee. Powdered creamer is abundant which only worsens the burned dark water. My hospital hosts a Starbucks in the main cafeteria and you can bet I will make the 15-minute walk to get a good cup in the morning with real creamer.

3. Some people are not nice: Even though I smile and say hello to everyone in the hall, my success rate of receiving the returned greeting stands at 50%. There are many tired, grumpy people in the hospital. Some can walk past you and never notice you are there. Others, smile, wave and say hello. I've learned to not take it personally when someone does not say hello back to me but I have been tempted to break out in a chicken dance to see if they would crack a smile.

4. Hospitals are machines: I've worked for large companies before and I am fully aware of how a machine operates. Each part has a job and there are a lot of parts to any single machine. Hospitals are machines, taking people in, turning them out, repeating as necessary. This machine never stops. It operates 7 days a week, 24-hours a day and then some. It does not pause for holidays, weekends or natural disasters. It never stops.

5. You truly never know what you will see in the hallways: Everyday I work, I never know what I will encounter in the hallways. I may run into someone sick, bleeding, about ready to give birth or just lost persons trying to find the appropriate waiting room. We're a huge set of buildings and hard to walk around. I constantly direct people to reach their destinations all day. (I have seen a woman in the midst of strong contractions grab a side rail and scream. I helped her reach the elevators which were quite a ways away from where she was-thank goodness for wheelchairs).

6. There are some talented healthcare professionals: I've met many clinicians who are passionate about what they do. They are good at it. They care and you can feel this passion when you meet or work with them.

7. There are people in healthcare that have no business being in healthcare: I've also met people burned out and angry about their jobs. They lack personality. Their careless attitude about patient care is obvious and they are poison to be around. Coincidentally, they also tend to be the people who refuse to say hello to you in the hallway.

8. Change is quick: Healthcare and how hospitals operate is changing in America and it's changing fast. There is no reason to get too attached to your office, your chair, your desk or supervisor. It can change overnight and your only notification may come in the form of a memo received in your inbox. If you are a person who needs a precise routine, constant direction and oversight, a hospital is not the place to build your career.

9. IT departments in hospitals are overwhelmed: When I first came onboard, it took nearly a week to get my email and computer set-up. The help desk is overwhelmed with IT professionals who should be wearing  fire fighter suits. Instead of waiting on the phone for hours for them to find your favorite font or give you access to other applications you really don't need, google your issue and see if YOU can fix it. Those poor people need a break.

10. There are a lot of smells in a hospital: In addition to preparing for whatever sights you may come across for the day, you must prepare ALL of your senses. Simply by walking between units, your nose may be battered and assaulted with a bevy of smells ranging from refreshing and pleasant to atrocious and nauseating. I'm used to every smell now and can drink coffee while smelling all of them.

11. Hyper people need a hyper environment: The best part of my job is it matches my energy. I am wired sun up until sun down and since this machine NEVER quits, it feels great to know I can expend my energies here. Even on a slow day, if I so choose, I can find a project to work on. There is always a project to work on here.

Training therapy dogs and their handlers to visit with patients.

12. Anything can and will be stolen: Never leave anything unattended in a hospital. Everything that can be touched, picked up, or moved will be stolen. Pens, portfolio's, coffee mugs, candy, coffee, powdered creamer and even a can of Pledge have been lifted from my office. It's too tempting for some people. Because of these incidents, I am cautious with my personal belongings. It behooves a person to find a way to hang, tape or sew all personal items to your body. It's the only way to guarantee you will have your items at the end of the day.

13. Managing 172 people is challenging: I have a mix of volunteers and staff. In all, I manage 172 persons but never all at once. It is a challenge to learn about them, keep their schedules straight and be as positive as possible. I love a good challenge and I always want to be a good manager. This position allows me to make decisions and mistakes along the way. I've taken all the negative experiences I've had with managers and used them as positives for how I do not want to be with my folks. I never want to be distant, self-centered, or too busy. Every person needs time with their manager. Sometimes I am put on the spot to fight a fire. Later, I go back and think if I'd do the same thing over. If the answer is yes, then I plan on it for the next time. If the answer is no, I think of another solution. My brain is engaged and it makes me want to be a better person.

More than anything I've learned is I can enjoy a job. In this day and age, this is a huge accomplishment. I finally report to someone who does not operate in chaos or panic mode. Although, he is busy, I feel I have someone I can look up to, a mentor of sorts. His calmness helps me remain the same. I enjoy hard work but I do not enjoy operating in a manic state with unachievable goals.

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