The first time I entered the hospital where I would work for the next sixteen years I was immediately aware of the energy and magnetism in the atmosphere. I never forgot that feeling and was always aware of the life of the center until the last moment I worked there. Working in an academic facility where the focus is on life long learning turned out to be the most exhilarating experience of my life! I was forty years old when I began my career in healthcare. After a lifetime of raising children, temporary work and writing romance novels, it was like nothing I had experienced before.
The first day on the job I was scared to death I would make a serious mistake that would cost the life of a patient; and I would never get over it. That fear stayed with me for a long time once I realized that the work I was doing directly impact the life of every patient with whom I came in contact. Of course, I am not a nurse or technician, but in nursing support someone has to enter the doctor’s orders and schedule the tests for the patients. I also relayed patient requests to the assigned nurse or patient care assistant. I learned to be the resource person for the unit which included fixing all the office equipment that was vital to the smooth running of the unit.
On that first morning I did not know that I would come to love the organized chaos that the staff generally referred to as “the zoo”, or that the years in the trenches with so many people’s lives on the line would forge relationships that would last a life time. I did not know that the exposure to people whose approach to life was positive and caring would change my outlook on the world forever.
A busy hospital unit is a place where conflict cannot flourish but misunderstandings may arise every day. I was thin-skinned when I began my career, but I soon learned that it was necessary to straighten out misunderstandings at once and not let them fester until they got out of hand. I learned that every stern or clipped comment was not personal and generally meant that the speaker was under a lot of stress with a very ill or difficult patient. Patient family members can be difficult when someone they love is suffering. There were times when I felt like I had a sign plastered to my forehead stating, “tell me off”. But there were other times when I held a weeping mother in my arms whose adult son had just died from an unspeakable disease…that made it all worthwhile.
Most people do not know that many of the nurses make a stop in the hospital chapel every day before they report for duty. The great responsibility of caring for the lives of the people under their care is almost overpowering at times. Many of these patients are completely dependent on the decisions made by the staff during a busy and chaotic shift. Nurses, patient care assistants and unit secretaries are the unsung heroes of the medical world. Physicians diagnose but the nurses and assistants are the hands on people who get the job done.
From the moment a health care professional steps on the unit until the time they leave, the lives of the patients are in their hands. I use the term health care professional to mean the unit secretaries, the RN’s, LVN’s, the patient transport, and other technicians who make the quality care of the hospital possible. Each of these people are members of a team that comes together to make the entire hospital experience of a patient and their family members a success.
My years working in the medical center were some of the most tiring but rewarding years of my life. Time passed so quickly that I was not really aware that years were moving past like a kaleidoscope. I loved every minute of it and would not trade them for any other experience in the world.