Sunday, December 2, 2007

Week from Hell

I awake in the early a.m.
writing in my head,
want to fall back to sleep
so I can pass through
there again.

That's right, hellish week. I can only be stronger from this.

As I flashed my ID card and beeped myself onto the Adult Psych unit for my weekly attempt at work in the corporate world, I noticed it.

The fluorescent lights bounced off the linoleum floor in the corridor and escaped into blackness. There on my left was a hole punched through the drywall, exactly the size of a human head.

My radar perked up as I warily double checked the hallway leading to the seclusion room, the vibe felt pretty cool, was there something I missed? It was Sunday afternoon and I'd picked up a shift to make the extra weekend dif. I'd forgotten we were at the peak of a full moon.

Overbooked and understaffed I found myself clinging to my own sanity as the whirlwind of human emotions exploded around me. Juggling the unceasing phonecalls, doorbell and doctors' requests, it was all I could do to play the peacekeeper as the nurses went after each other's throats. The hallucinating schizophrenic is screaming at the top of their lungs for meds which sets off the borderline who starts cutting them self. Two pacing manics are carrying on a non-stop conversation covering every topic in the book. The verbally abused techs hold their own and allow patients comments to roll off their backs. "Yo, yo, yo" answering the cell phone is the high tech, redneck, doc. Brief moments of levity are the lifeboats we cling to when the acuity is this intense.

We are sinking in the sea of a system that's horribly broken - at the mercy of lawsuits and audits monitoring our every movement and what is written in charts. Mistakes are made, we are only human. And HIPPA prevents us from reassuring family that their members are there, unless we jump through the paperwork first.

A kind word, conversation and a little hand holding is sometimes the medicine needed more than all the drugs we use. In our world today there is little time for that and the therapists have been reassigned to utilization management in an attempt to wrangle money owed from the government and insurance sources.

Those I work with are angels sent to lift up those less fortunate. My circus strength and courage stands me in good stead while I'm in this place. It's not until I get home that I come unglued myself.

The system is terribly broken and what hurts the most is the human cost.

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