12) “Love & Work, Work & Love, that’s all there is…”

With the PHI showing high risk, and the MRI showing 2/5, you could, perhaps, estimate the cancer risk was at least 50%, maybe more.  I have spoken to patients at work, who have said that they feel they just know, and when the diagnosis is confirmed, by the procedures that they have, it just confirms what they already suspected.  I think that I felt the same, although possibly did not know it, at the time.  Let me explain.

My job is difficult.  Any nurses job is difficult, granted some more than others.  At Registered Nurse level it is mentally and physically demanding.  Some days are just a hard slog.  You go home knackered and can’t physically give any more.  You will take psychological things home with you, and you may have a small amount of work that you have to do later in the week on your mind, but quite often, you get through the day, and try to switch off.  The higher up you get in your career, you are faced with the problem, which I’m sure applies to a lot of careers, of management and higher responsibility, and a lot of work things that prey on your mind when you are not at work.  Meetings and office work take up more of your time, and dealing with patients, in my case, becomes a smaller part of the role.  Teachers do less teaching, and more office things, supermarket workers, do less on the checkouts, and more in the office.  You get the picture.  Meetings, and sitting at the computer writing policies, managing wait lists, writing letters to consultants, formulating rosters, looks easy to those who are slogging their way through a day full of patients.  It’s not as tiring, but it is just as hard .  You have the potential to kill someone with a typo.  I already had slightly more work than I could fit in the hours I that I worked.  I expected that.  I’m a nurse.  If you go into nursing expecting to clock in and out, bang on time every day, then you have picked the wrong career.  The senior staff take a lot of work home in your mind, maybe not to do, but to think about.  Mull over how we are to initiate another health service directive with resources that don’t quite meet the amount required to do it.  It’s hard to switch off, the responsibility lies with you.  I would write the roster, usually in work time, but then I would stay late in the evening sometimes starting at 8am and working through to 10pm, or take it home to do on my day off.  I could have released the rosters as they were. They worked, from a functional point of view, but I care for the staff, I want people to be as happy as they can.  I’m a nurse, I want to help. I think I’m a nice bloke.  I always re-visited them, to improve them.  Nancy has child care issues on Monday evening, so let’s just swap that late day for another.  Bob has a day on and then a day off and then a day on again, let’s adjust that so he can have his days off together, because that’s what he likes.  Tamara doesn’t like long days, so let’s see if we can chop a couple of hours off that long shift and stick it on somewhere else.  Having said that, you simply can’t please all the people all the time -particularly apt when writing rosters.  There’s always a vocal few who you will never get it right for, or will see inequality and unfairness, even when you try your utmost to make it not so.

Staff member A “Can I have next week off as holiday?”

Fucked up roster writer “No, there’s too many off already”

“It’s really important, though. It’s my wedding and I only found out last week, and my granny”, whose funeral she attended three times last year, “is coming from Afghanistan, via a raft that she made out of milk bottles, paddled by the ghosts of my dead pets, and I can’t miss that.”

“Well it’s going to leave us short…”

“It is really important. Elvis is playing a live set.”

“And it’s in this fancy new venue. On the moon.”

“Well, in that case I suppose so…..”

Next week.

Nurse B “it’s fucking shit here- we haven’t got enough staff”

Fucked up roster writer “I’ll get my coat……..”.

Add that to trying to get 50 bums on 52 seats, and you are beginning to see that you are doing a job that has little job satisfaction, because you can’t please everyone, and you have an impossible task to try to achieve in the first place. Add on the stresses of trying to fit 5000-10000 people into appointments that we simply don’t have capacity for. You have to manage the best you can. And the point I am trying to make in amongst all this rambling  is………..that all of this requires RESILIENCE.

Resilience, that when you think there’s more chance of having cancer than not, is stripped away faster than varnish under a floor sander.  Imagine taking off your armour, painting a massive bullseye on your back, and running crab-like along the Norman lines at the battle of Hastings shouting “Willy is a fat bastard” and see how you long you escape significant hurt.

If you work for a big company or organisation, you will probably have some support services.  Workplace well-being, that kind of thing.  If anyone happens to be in a similar position, then I would advise you to use it. I contacted ours not knowing what to expect. I was bit anxious, after all, it’s for the weak, isn’t it? The not coping, the can’t deal with the stress of life, the ones who need a good slap round the face with a wet haddock to bring them back down to the real world. What kind of people even use that? Oh hang on, that’s me. Fuck.  It is.  I’ve just described myself. I’ve worked in a department where people have come in shot, stabbed, overdosed, having heart attacks, brain haemorrhages, aortic aneurysm dissections, anaphylaxis to medication, illegal drugs, hair dye, nuts, shellfish, screaming panic attacks, self harmed and slashed, suicidal and even dead. Babies, kids and adults. With no doctors, just us nurses. Why on earth would I need counselling?  I clearly have a tough mental attitude, I am immune to these kind of stresses.  If I can deal with that, then I can deal with a high workload, a few unachievable targets, a few people voicing justifiable concerns at work, and potentially having cancer.

Apparently though, I am not immune.  No one is.  Even if you think you don’t need the help.  Take the help.  I didn’t know I needed help until, somehow, some sensible person suggested I talk to someone who knew about these things.

I phoned the workplace assistance, and they put me in touch with the counselling people. They booked me an appointment to speak to someone over the phone. He would ring tomorrow. Tomorrow came. The phone rang.

Me “hello”

Counsellor “ah, good morning. I believe you are expecting my call”. He had a mature voice and an accent.

“Oh hello, yes, of course.” We went through couple of preliminary details.

“I can’t help but notice your accent, do you mind me asking where it’s from?”

“No, not at all……..” again, I shit you not, “I’m Austrian”.

So I spent an hour chatting merrily away to this fella, who, I imagined to be Sigmund Freud’s grandson, waiting to be told that I messed up the time scales between fancying my mother, furiously masturbating, sticking things in my mouth, and up my arse.

I was about to point out that I had made a lot of recent progress on the latter, when he offered me his advice.  Well not advice as such, but his reading of the situation.  In a nutshell he said it’s no wonder I feel like I do.  I’m burnt out from doing a job with no job satisfaction, and we manage and manage and manage right up until the final straw.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I wasn’t curled up in a ball under my desk, rocking back and forth. And dribbling.  I was still working, still performing, but it could have got worse, and I’m happy that I did seek the help.  It was one session, and he phoned up the next week, to check I was OK.  That was it.  All it needed was a complete stranger to look at it from a different unbiased perspective.  I had burnt out at work, and the final straw was the cancer.  I think I took 4 or 5 days off, and then, just at the right time, I was able to temporarily change roles and things got a lot better.

The family noticed a difference, which after all, is the reason we work in the first place. We work for our families, surely?  If work ruins your family, then things must change. I am more relaxed, happier, and less worried, despite having the cancer diagnosis hanging over us.

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2 thoughts on “12) “Love & Work, Work & Love, that’s all there is…”

  1. Your writing is awesome … I’m so sorry you are dealing with health scariness but so glad you have put pen to paper. Your posts are the best morning read …. wishing you well and much resilience

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Kerry is spot on Stef… Great writing and thoughtful post on the challenges of staying on top of a job where the demands are always outweighing the resources…

    Liked by 1 person

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