So, a long, long time ago, in a county far, far away, I was the overnight ER nurse in Erehwon Memorial Hospital (“Both nowhere, AND backwards!”). I’d clock in at 1900, and until 0200, there’d be two of us working the 6 bed cubbyhole that passed for the Emergency Room out here in the suburbs of nowhere. Once 0200 came along, it was me and the Physician Assistant, all to our lonesome.
So, TINS ©, there I was, Fighting Disease and Saving Lives ©, and, long about 0500, I received a phone call from our director of nursing, Beelzebub. She reported that (a) the day shift nurse had called off, and (b) I was going to have to work over.
Now, at this time, we had four children at home, two of whom were toddlers. In addition, Erewhon Memorial Hospital had awful insurance, and expensive into the bargain. Therefore, since my wife made more money than I, and had cheaper and superior insurance, she carried us all as covered family members. That made HER the primary breadwinner, in my book. Our routine was I’d boogie home, and she’d meet me at the door, and traipse off to her Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 office job. I would then watch our children, until she came home, and nap away for a couple of hours until I got to do it all again. Working 12 hours meant a couple of things. First, it made for long, long duty days with that sort of plan. Second, working every other weekend, well, on work weekends I got to sleep the day away. Third, there were 2 days every week where I had to enter the parental “Iron Man” contest, and the rest of the time I was not more challenged than was my baseline.
So, departing from work late was not going to work for me, inasmuch as that would either make my wife late for work (a non starter), or leave the toddlers alone at home while the older kids went to school (another non starter). Alternatively, I could boogie on home, and be the Dad. That was my Plan “A”, and I was reluctant to deviate from it.
Surprisingly, when I presented my reluctance to Beelzebub, she was unimpressed. “You will simply have to work late, until I can find someone to cover for you.”
As was I. “Uh, no. Your problem is NOT covering for ME. I am here, and will be here until the end of my shift at 0730. Your problem is covering for the employee who called off. I am unable to do so.”
“Well, you simply cannot leave. I do not have anybody to cover.”
She did not appear to be listening. “Well, I likely can stay until 0800, but not one minute later. I will not have my wife be late for her job, simply due to your inability to perform yours. Similarly, my children will have a parent at hand this morning, and that parent will be me. I can inconvenience myself a bit on your behalf, but I did not call in, I am not responsible to write, enforce, or amend the sick or tardy policy, and I will not accept that responsibility.”
Still with the not listening. “You can not leave. I will prevent you from leaving!”
That was interesting. “Uh-huh. How, exactly, do you plan to stop me? Simply so you know, I’m an ex-Da City street medic, and I have been threatened by honest-to-God, no shit felons. It will be interesting to see what you bring to the conversation, that they did not. And, if you’re later than 0730, you will miss your chance.”
She was not giving up. “You cannot leave the narcotics unsecured.”
I had thought this through, just a bit. “I understand that. My plan is to secure the narcotics, and count off with whatever nurse you send to relieve me. If you have not done so by 0730, well, then I will secure the narcotics keys someplace I personally know to be safe, and bring them back with me when I return to work next week.”
“If you take them home, then I’ll send the sheriff out to retrieve them.”
This, as well, had been part of my ruminations. “That works for me. Once that deputy has provided me with documentation that he or she is a legitimate recipient, I will provide them to that officer, and require a written receipt.”
She delivered what she evidently thought was her trump card. “If you walk out that door, I’ll bring you up with the Board of Nursing on charges of patient abandonment.”
Me, I had a figurative Ace of Trumps. “That ought to be interesting. Just so you are aware, in that event I’ll bring charges against you, before the Board of Nursing, regarding your neglect of duty. You know folks will call off: you provide sick time. Yet, evidently, your ‘plan’ is to have somebody work as long as 36 hours, because you do not have any sort of real plan. I’m confident that I can argue that any reasonable and prudent administrator, of your background and training would know, or ought to know, that somebody might call off. With that knowledge, comes an affirmative duty to have a real plan to address the dislocations that this sick call will predictably produce. A plan that, evidently, you do not have.”
She did not seem to have a counter. “You cannot bring me before the Board of Nursing!”
I was unconcerned. “I’ll be certain to mention that. In my written complaint. To the Board of Nursing.”
The call terminated at about that point. I called home, and brought my wife up to speed on the entertaining soap opera that was my workplace. She was concerned about the youngest kids, and we game-planned a couple of alternative measures to manage things. We ended the call with a plan of action.
So, long about 0735, one Mark 1, Mod Ø Very Pissed Off Floor Nurse arrived to “take report”. Inasmuch as there was no soul there at all, not on the payroll, that part was quick. Narc count went smoothly, and I danced my happy ass out of the door. I met my wife on the road, part way to her job in the next town, we handed off the kids, and she continued to her job, and we went home.
The Moral Of The Story: Nurses are very, very good at passive aggressive behavior. I had been a nurse at that point for nigh onto 20 years. I would put my passive aggressive against anybody’s.
And, planning for things that are readily foreseeable, might be A Good Thing.