A Nod to NOC

There’s nothing quite like working past the time that the rest of the world has turned its back on the day, closed their eyes, and directed their thoughts on the coming day. For them, the day is over. For us, the day has just begun. 

Driving into work with the late afternoon sun low in the sky or under the canvas of purplish twilight, I feel ready to face another day. This is when it begins. The realization that the faces I see behind the wheel as I share the road with fellow motorists are the faces of those heading home after a day at the office, on the job site, or behind the counter. When they say goodbye, I say hello. 

I arrive at work greeted by warm smiles worn by those who are smug with the realization that they will be leaving soon. They’ve put in their time. They’re returning the look I likely gave them 12 hours earlier. Their eyes seem to speak of the anticipation of what lies ahead not what they leave behind. I nod as I acknowledge the fact that I will perhaps see some of them in what will feel like moments, but in reality marks another calendar day. 

As the evening gives way to night, the voices quiet. The halls darken. The energy changes. The low hum of productivity permeates the air.  

The clock ticks ever closer to another day. Another day to be present. Another day to cross off the calendar. Another day to accomplish something. Or nothing. 

I’m keenly aware of being a member of a very elite club. Working at night has its definite advantages. It’s a club that we don’t necessarily want everyone to be a part of. That’s part of the allure. We rally. We rise. We scrap. We provide for others when all our bodies want to do sometimes is rest. Sleep. 

Yet we push through. 

Night shift means you sometimes do things that day walkers can’t imagine. We stay awake when our bodies are begging for rest. We come home, get our children off to school, walk our dogs, do a bit of homework, and then we might lay our head down to rest. And then after only a few hours of sleep, we join the daylight world. 

I’m typing this after working two back-to-back 12-hour night shifts with a combined six hours of sleep since Monday morning at 0700. It’s not a complaint. It’s a fact. My eyes are itchy. My eyes are tired. But, my body and my brain are awake. And I feel a sense of satisfaction that no day shift job could possibly provide. 

Does this sound crazy?

That’s ok. 

The other crazies know what I mean. 

A new dog, a new day, a new outlook

Well, the time had come for the Fords to finally complete their family, and they did so with a bark. Not a bang. A bark. Yes, we got a dog. Not just any dog, but a kick-ass, fun-loving, 2-year old rescue from the Missouri Humane Society. Upon meeting him, his given name was Maury, and while I tried to remain neutral about said name, every time I heard it, I immediately conjured up images of paternity tests, screaming women, and mental images of Maury Povich saying, ‘You are NOT the father’. Yeah, that name had to go.

Meet Bernie/Bernardo/BernBern/TheBernerator/Bernardino/Bernasticator. He’s a sweet boy with quite the personality. We have had the pleasure of his company for over a month now, so I suppose it seems only fitting to mention him in this blog post.

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I think he’s sticking around for a while. Bernie is my homage to my failed Presidential nominee, but that’s where the similarities end. He’s a typical canine teen and needs some good obedience training and consistency with his humans, but we are up to the task, even if the toddler and cat of the household aren’t so certain.

Finished up a really nice vacation in Michigan, visiting my mom and son last week. Why is it that time just seems to literally FLY by? Ugh. I hate the end of vacations. Seriously. At least we have some guests coming for visits in September, a trip to Boston in October, and a return to paradise (Kauai) in late November. That should round out the year nicely.

One other interesting wrinkle in the recent vacation was the fact that in the hustle and bustle of planing, deplaning, toddler wrangling, and overhead compartment space, I managed to leave my beloved iPhone 6 Plus in the seat back pocket of the seat in front of me. I realized it once we arrived at the baggage claim area, and I was frantically searching for my gadget to check in on Swarm/update Facebook status/text someone.

I was actually quite calm about it once the initial shock wore off.

I mean, so what? I am literally surrounded by technology in the form of my husband’s cell phone, my mother’s iMac, cell phone, and a variety of other connected devices. Was I truly ‘unplugged’? Never. Did I tempt myself with those devices a handful of times during the course of the week?

Yes.

But, it never held my rapt attention as it had in the past. I was happy to be disconnected. I felt free. I felt unencumbered by some perverse desire to share mundane minutiae with ‘friends’ and ‘acquaintances’. It was deliciously liberating. As a result, I went to see a matinee movie with my son and walked in absolutely devoid of any sort of technology to silence, shut off, or otherwise disable for the duration of the film.

Wonderful.

I also enjoyed a relatively tech-free day at Cedar Point amusement park with said son and husband. The only evidence of our day was a short coaster video and a photo or two taken by my husband’s iPhone to chronicle a soaking wet, happy wife to mark my 48th birthday as I rode the wettest flume ride to appease the child that resides inside.

That. Was. It.

Did I glance at Facebook during the car ride? Yep. Did I update a status or two? Sure. Did I allow the phone to pull me into its whirling vortex of time sucking emptiness? Nope. I felt changed. I felt different somehow.

See, the thing is I’ve never been without my trusty cell phone for longer than it takes for me to close my eyes and sleep. It’s always with me. I admit, I even use it when I shower, as it doubles as a streaming audio device for purposes of listening to music or the occasional NPR news broadcast. I am nearly ashamed to admit it was the last thing I looked at before bed at night and the first vision I saw in the early morning before my eyes could even adjust to wakefulness. Such a damn shame.

I found myself waking up during vacation feeling relaxed, refreshed and actually looking forward to real interactions between my family, rather than spending time peering over the top of an iPhone screen, half-distracted between listening (not really) and nodding absentmindedly as my husband details a funny story that happened to him at work.

This just feels different this time. Perhaps it was meant to be, somehow. Eh, bullshit. I left my phone behind out of some absentminded parental lapse. What came after that, however, has left an indelible impression.

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry to my friends, family, husband, and children for living in a state of near-constant distractedness. I’m sorry that when you may think of me, you have a vision of a woman with short, colorful hair always with a phone clutched in her hand. I’m thankful that my son grew up in a time BEFORE the ubiquitous cell phone, yet I’m sad that my daughter already may have a memory of her mother staring down at one.

What did I miss most about my phone? The camera. I wanted to capture moments on this vacation, yet I didn’t feel compelled to necessarily SHARE those moments with social media. I shared an image or two, but NOTHING like I would have before. I was grateful to my family for snapping a few photos, and that satisfied my inner shutterbug.

It all feels so meaningless. In the greatest fucking way possible.

I just don’t care anymore. And I don’t care that I don’t care anymore. Ok,  you get the idea.

What do I care about? I care that I’ve managed to devour a REAL book in a matter of days. Oh, Stephen King, how I’ve missed our visits together. I care about the fact that I don’t have the Facebook tab open on my computer, as I complete a grad school assignment. I care that I’m actually LISTENING and having real and meaningful conversations with friends and family, and most of all, my husband. I am looking people in the eye, not darting back and forth between iPhone and face, iPhone and face, iPhone and face. I care that I’m not multitasking. I’m not trying to watch a television program WHILE updating Facebook/reading a post/replying to a comment. I care that I’m here, blogging about it, because damn it, this is important to me.

So, today, my iPhone is being returned to me in the form of a FedEx delivery vehicle. I have tracked it, but beyond that? I don’t feel the usual overwhelming excitement once reserved for that little piece of technology.

I almost feel a little sad.

I’m sad that this little experiment is being forced to an end, yet at the same time, I feel determined to make this feeling last. And one things is for certain:

You won’t find this blog post on social media.

 

 

Damn. Time Flies.

Well, there goes two weeks off. Just like that. In a blink of an eye, I have managed to piss away nearly two weeks. Now, granted, we had big plans. We intended on traveling to Boston for a long weekend in order for Julia to meet her paternal grandfather for the very first time. A vague and unknown viral infection put a stop to that, and, in turn, sickened daddy.

Ah, well. Reschedule, we must. Thankfully, Southwest Airlines will allow us to use the dollar amount on future travel until March 31, 2017. So, we’ve got that going for us…

I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. I did manage to complete a paper and a handful of discussion posts for grad school, so that put me a couple of weeks ahead. I am feeling pretty fucking fantastic about having completed nearly a year of my first year in the MSN program. I should preface this by saying that I NEVER envisioned returning to school, so this alone is a major feat. I am also somehow managing to be 3/4 finished with this latest 10-week quarter, and scoring a perfect 100%.

Shit.

How does that happen? Whatever. I’ll take it. Bragging? Hell yes.

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Tomorrow begins a newER journey for me. I have once again put on my leadership cap. A cap I thought for certain I would NEVER wear again. A cap I threw out over a year ago after vowing I would NEVER do management again.

Never is indeed a strong word, and one I should really learn to NEVER use.

In any event, I have accepted an assistant nurse manager position in my current unit, and while I was, and continue to be, excited about the possibility, I did harbor some feelings of uncertainty, doubt, and unease. Just as before, I will move into a management position in my current unit, and, well hell, I don’t know. I guess I just wasn’t sure how it would be received. It’s nerve-wracking to think your peers would give you the side eye when just months ago you may have said, “I’ll NEVER do that job again.”

There’s that damn word again.

But, I’m happy to report that the news has been greeted with congratulations, messages of support, and words of encouragement. I can’t really ask for more, now can I?

I think what surprises me most is that I’m actually excited to give leadership another go. I have those familiar feelings of anticipation to learning new things, meeting new people, and easing into a new role. For that feeling alone, I’m grateful. I think the biggest difference this time around is that I find myself in a unit that truly speaks to me. I am home there. Med/Surg just wasn’t my cup-o-tea, and I knew it.

Anyway, tomorrow it begins. Again.

So, those two weeks literally FLEW by, and while I vowed to read more for pleasure, I didn’t. While I vowed to get out with Julia and do more, we didn’t. While I vowed to get more accomplished around the house, I didn’t.

Oh well.

I can tell you one thing, though. When you find yourself playing with Snapchat filters to kill some time, it’s time to get back to work.

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Out With The Old. In With the New.

Another year has come to a close. Tomorrow marks the beginning of 2014.

I feel compelled to write something deep, meaningful, and thoughtful, yet all I can think to write is filled with exclamation points !!! with a smattering of vulgarities.

Fuck. What a year.

A new job for Lisa.

The boss lady.

The boss lady.

The year began with a new job that held the promise of my first stab at management. To say it’s gone smoothly would be a lie. It’s been a struggle at times, and at other times I can’t imagine doing anything else. Management is as difficult as all those who came before me described. Day by day, hour by hour, things became less a nightmare and more of a decent reality. At the year’s end, my job, along with those of my management peers has been completely revamped. For some, this is a welcome change. For others, it is the cause of much emotion, stress, and turmoil. For me, I couldn’t be happier. I will be an integral part of nursing education and will help support my fellow managers with the more technical aspects of management (i.e. reports, coordination of online resources, etc). I will step away from managing direct reports and focusing more on supporting others who will continue to provide this vital aspect of management. This change will allow me flexibility for my new family, and most importantly allow me to focus on education, which has always been my passion.

Moving on….

James and I opened 2014 pursuing our dream of starting a family in earnest. We spent time with specialists and decided to throw all caution (and perhaps sanity) to the wind and go for it. We were highly skeptical that this idea would even have legs, but it not only had legs, it left the gate running. I found myself pregnant by late spring.

Me. 45. Pregnant.

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Just let that sink in. I am still savoring those three words today.

To say this pregnancy has been ‘different’ than my first one 15 years ago would be a HUGE understatement. Everything is different. EVERYTHING. This pregnancy began with morning sickness before I even peed on a cheap plastic stick. It stuck with me for many weeks after the first trimester and beyond. The exhaustion was at times palpable and very real. Almost daily I would find myself incredulous at just how different this journey was for me. Upon writing this today, I am 34 weeks, and we are on the countdown to meeting our daughter. Wow.

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Our daughter.

Beyond the reality of actually getting pregnant, I am thrilled that I am sharing a child with a man who has perhaps waited longer than anyone I know to finally realize the joy of being a parent. As many times as I close my eyes and picture the exact moment when father meets daughter, I know I am not doing it justice. It will be a moment frozen in time, and I cannot wait to witness it.

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My son is growing up fast.

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My firstborn turns 15 next month, and I am probably more in shock over that, than the fact that his mother finds herself pregnant again. I couldn’t be more proud of the young man he has become. Polite, respectful, smart, conscientious, and still loves to hug his mom. I love him so very much, and look forward to hearing more about Robotics Club, high school, and his journey in driver’s training. Amazing, really. Seems like just yesterday he WAS a baby.

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A wedding.

Yay! A wedding!

Yay! A wedding!

James and I wed in September of this year. Rather than do anything elaborate or ‘fancy’, we opted for a casual, fun affair in Sin City. Vegas seemed absolutely perfect to begin our life together as man and wife. We are optimists. We are fun. We couldn’t think of a better location to share our day with a close group of friends and family. We also used it as a venue to reveal a surprise about our baby.

It’s a girl.

Think pink.

Think pink.

Just when you think life can’t possibly get any better, it shows you that the future isn’t something to fear, but rather something to anticipate. 2014 will bring many gifts to our family. A new and improved career for me, a continued fulfilling career for James, and the beginning our our family unit with the birth of our daughter. I find myself more in love with my husband than I ever dreamed possible. It’s the little things: walking in the door, seeing his face, and those damn butterflies are still fluttering around my stomach. The sweetness of his love notes he leaves in random places for me to find. The gentle kisses he gives me and now my belly. The hugs he envelopes me with. The sheer fact that even though I now outweigh him, he still tells me that with my blossoming bust, ass, and belly, I still look beautiful.

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What a year it’s been.

Okay, 2014. Do your thing.

New Year, New Job

I’ve finally made the leap.

I’ve finally jumped the gap.

At the beginning of this new year, I accepted a position as an Assistant Nurse Manager. Some may say I have gone to the dark side. I like to think I’ve just broadened my horizons.

Prior to my career in nursing, I worked in Human Resources, countless administrative positions with a bit of managerial experience, so it wasn’t a far cry when the position was presented to me.

I took it.

I’ll admit, I had to take a few moments to appreciate and remember that while I will never completely leave the bedside, I will not be there 100% of the time anymore. My time will be spent elsewhere, performing different tasks and having different responsibilities. But, rather than mourn my absence, I realized a few very important things: Leaving the bedside to enter management doesn’t mean I’ll automatically ‘lose touch’ with where I came from, but rather will allow me to bring that fervent passion for nursing TO management, where I think it is sorely needed at times. I will fight hard for my nurses, because I AM A NURSE, first and foremost, whether at the bedside or collaborating with management. I know the difficulties firsthand, and I know the challenges.

And, yeah, if they ever need me to drop in a difficult IV, I’M THERE.

I’m excited. I’m energized. I’m optimistic. I’m realistic. I’m ready.

Yesterday, at work, one of the nurses asked me: “Why did you do it? Why did you take the job?”

I thought about it for a second, and replied, “I like a challenge.”

What I really meant was that I couldn’t think of a better place to be to facilitate real, good, and positive change. Our unit is in the midst of some uncomfortable tightening, and I want to be a part of making the transition as comfortable, realistic, and safe as possible. I worked side-by-side with these nurses, and we shared the struggle when things felt tight, when staff morale was low, when we felt like our shift might never end, and we needed to rely on each other to make it through the end of our eight hours. I want them to know that I appreciate BOTH sides of the coin.

But, before you accuse me of being a Pollyanna, let me assure you that I am prepared for some hard work ahead, making difficult decisions, being put smack dab in the middle of two forces pulling hard on either end. I never said it would be EASY. I said I was up for a challenge.

Eyes wide open.

Let’s jump.

The Squeaky Wheel

As last night unfolded, I knew I would eventually blog about it.

After a long holiday weekend, James and I were doing a bit of leisurely shore line fishing. While we were packing up, James exited his truck and BAM! He immediately felt a sharp pain in his back. This isn’t the first time, but it had been a little while since such a severe flare-up. With this, we promptly went home and applied all the home remedies we knew. Heat, rest, ibuprofen.

James’ back was no better in the morning. After dealing with it for the majority of the day, he made the decision to call his doctor.

It was 6:15 p.m.

After hours.

With the on-call physician answering service phone number safely in hand, he dialed.

“Hi, my name is James, and I’d like to speak to the doctor on call regarding possible pain meds for some pretty severe back pain I’m experiencing.”

Marie: “Um, let me talk to my supervisor.”

Huh?

She gets back on the phone and proceeds to tell James that he should just simply call his own doctor in the morning.

What. The. Fuck.

I was seriously confused at this point. James had the answering service on speaker phone, so I heard every single word, yet I was still confused. So, let me get this straight: This UNLICENSED person had just singlehandedly made a MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS regarding a patient. Her treatment (via her supervisor) was to have the patient simply call his own doctor in the morning.

Now, I understand that as soon as James uttered two simple words, he was labeled. Marked.

Pain meds.

I understand the caution that physicians must use with regard to calling in prescriptions for pain medication, especially for a patient that may not even be your own. But, this lay person made a decision to simply tell James to call back another time, rather than put him in touch with the on-call physician. I’d rather hear any information from the physician, not some unlicensed telephone operator. Last I checked, that’s the entire reason doctors are ON CALL.

James laid there and sighed.

“Oh, never mind.”

Now, this is where I get pissed. Not with James. I’m pissed at this situation. Here is a man who is following all the rules established by his physician, yet when he calls to speak to a medical professional, some clown circumvents the entire process.

After a few hours, we revisit the situation. I encourage James to call back. He does. Marie again answers. This time, James is a bit more firm, and yet again, he is shot down.

“Sir, you can either go to the nearest ER, or call your doctor in the morning. Oh, and if you call back, you’ll get the exact same answer. ”

Okay, Marie, now you’re pissing off the wrong person.

Me.

This has blossomed into more than just a phone call to an on-call physician regarding unresolved back pain. It has now mushroomed into something entirely different. These few sentences were enough to make my blood boil. I now wanted James to call back a third time, ask this person’s name, title, and also get her supervisor’s name. Complaints would be filed. Hey, Marie, guess what? You have zero right to deny James access to medical care and/or advice, and as a result of your unintelligent and uninformed answers, that’s precisely what you’re doing.

I immediately became a patient advocate.

With the third phone call, Natalie answered. Lo and behold, she didn’t rattle off the same answer as our friend, Marie. James simply said, “Hi, Natalie, I’d like to speak to the on-call physician regarding some unrelieved back pain.”

Natalie: “I’ll be happy to page the on-call physician. Can you tell me a number where the doctor can reach you?” After this and a few other questions answered, the doctor was summarily paged, returned the call, and proceeded to call in a prescription for a muscle relaxant.

I’m not sure what the magic trick was to get this accomplished, but I’m sure the fact that he didn’t utter those two words, pain meds, helped a great deal. I understand, as a medical professional, how rampant prescription drug abuse has become, but the bottom line again is that James should have heard that concern from the on-call physician, not Marie The Unlicensed Unprofessional.

Be your own advocate. Advocate for your own health care. Speak up. Say something. Don’t accept what you know to be unfair or unacceptable.

If you won’t speak up for yourself, hopefully, you’ll have someone close to you encourage you to do just that.

You know what they say about the squeaky wheel.

It gets the Flexeril.

Night Time Is The Right Time

It’s 0300. While most of you are sleeping, I’m working.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I love night shift. I really do. I feel my best working in the wee hours of the night. I love the time I can spend with my patients. (Yes, it’s true. Most people don’t sleep all night in the hospital). I am sometimes the only person an elderly patient can talk to when they lay awake at night. Nothing makes me happier than pulling up a chair and listening to my patients tell their story.

All this happens at night.

While you’re sleeping.

This post isn’t about how hard it is to work nights. I think most people know that it’s not for everyone, but for those of us who actually like it and thrive on it, it’s an affirmation. An affirmation to our dedication, our drive, and most of all our work.

We do what most will not.

At night.

Don’t get me wrong, my sleep habits suck while working nights, but thankfully, I only work 3 nights per week, so it’s a sacrifice I gladly make. I have vowed to work on this, and with the help of my sleep-loving boyfriend, I think I’m making some inroads. Time will tell.

So, in the wee hours of the night when you wake up from a deep slumber, remember all those people out there making a difference.

At night.

And tell them thank you.

Oh, and maybe even buy them a coffee.