Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Hypertrophied Mouths & Atrophied Brains

Disclaimer: The following is based on true life experience. Though it would seem like a rant, it isn't.  It is just a capture of how workplace stress can influence people and how people responding to it might in turn affect the workplace. I am too young to be writing this. Constructive criticism is always welcome.

A lady, of dark complexion and in her late forties, was afoot with arms folded on her protruding abdomen. She wore a white gown and a plastic white cap to her crown. While she spoke, her voice was loud and discordant and the cacophony she created seemed to fit her figure. It was my first day and as I entered ward G, her shrill piercing voice perturbed the peaceful room filled with pregnant women. My first impression on seeing her was to try my best to avoid any kind of conversation with her. But as I entered the ward, the screams stopped momentarily and then it started again. This time it was at me that she was screaming, only a bit louder.

“Who are you, doctor?” she almost yelled.

“Intern. OG – 2, Sister” I replied and managed to pull a smile.

There was discernibly no pause after I’d finished my humble introduction. She went on to tell me what the junior residents of OG – 2 had left incomplete, urging me to finish them or remind them about it. She didn't notice my gesture of reassurance. Her attention shifted to the orderlies who were on their morning routine of cleaning the wards. Relieved (temporarily), I slipped into the ward and found jobs already waiting for me.

I was in that particular ward for around 8 weeks. I tried my best not to be mindful of the people around me but went on with my business. But I couldn't help but notice the conspicuous difference when she was not on her shift. I learned that the other interns working in the ward were also pissed off with her. They even had their own version of abusive names for her. No wonder she was the most disliked person in the entire floor. I did not bother to carry any hatred or grudge against her, until one fine evening.

I was finishing my shift and was about to leave home. I was tired. I had to do an ECG for a patient. There was no ECG machine in ward so I rolled the ECG machine from the nearby ward, just some 20 meters away. As I was finished with the ECG, the ward attendant, a lady clad in pink, offered to roll the ECG machine back to ward. I had not demanded her but probably out of some compassion to a tiring soul or perhaps remembering my previous gestures of good will to her, she offered me help. Though I politely refused, she was already rolling the ECG machine back. Only to be stopped by the stout, arrogant creature sitting on a cracking old chair. “You don’t have to do what this intern orders. You are here to do this ward work and you’ll do what I say”, she yelled. I could say she was flushing with rage, but her coal dark countenance was too incompetent to reveal any signs of it.  The ward attendant was trying her best to explain. But I wasted no time. I rolled the ECG machine to the adjoining ward on my own and I left home. I was too pissed off. I did not talk back because I knew that behind her big mouth there were no brains backing her up. Any argument would be pointless. I was cursing her on my way back. But soon it slipped off my mind and I was back to my peaceful routine.

I would not say all nursing sisters were of this kind. No. While I was in the nearby OR (operating room), after the surgeries of the day were over, I came out and sat in distress in the nursing station. I was having an attack of migraine. The nurse there took out a kettle and some milk she had brought for herself. She prepared a strong cup of coffee and offered me. More than the caffeine, her care and compassion had a considerable soothing effect on my nerves.

I often wondered what made the arrogant sister of ward G so arrogant. Was it because of the increasing work place stress? Of-course, ward G was one of the busiest and hectic wards in the whole of the hospital. But there were other wards more hectic than this and not all nurses breed such air of arrogance. Maybe she was more susceptible to such stress? Maybe she had other problems which contributed to this? Whatever, she required professional help. And there’s nothing in that to be ashamed of. I sincerely feel that in such places where the work load tends to be more and work flow become hectic, the institution should provide some sort of help/assessment for their staff to keep increasing stress levels at bay. Workplace stress can bring out varied untoward behaviour of people and this only tends to affect the workplace even more adversely for the others. Though the title of this post resonates the residual amount of anger I have on her, I do feel bad at the same time. Trying to act a little more maturely, I keep thinking of changes that can be brought to the system processes at work that will help make the workplace more conducive to the health care force as well as for the patients.