Walking the streets

I had a conversation with my mom this morning, before class, she asked me how work was going and I told her the truth.

I always prided myself on the fact that I worked at a really large unit in a fairly large town in California.  I mean, we had 48 chairs, we had difficult patients, we had wild turkey’s that crashed through a plate glass window.  I mean, that is pretty hard core. (I am not kidding about the turkey, it really did happen).

I’ve been in several codes, had violent patients, been involved in many projects that, I felt, made me an experienced tech. 

Working in a large city in the downtown area which is known for being a little, um, challenging, has been mind blowing.

There are times I feel a bullet proof vest wouldn’t be such a crazy idea.  Most of the patients are nice, they have had a rough life and are among the strongest people I have met.  Then there are some that, perhaps, have lived too much of a hard life and take their anger out on the people who they perceive as being the cause of all their problems. 

I have always rationalized that a dialysis patient’s life isn’t easy, it’s painful, confusing and utterly unfair.  I can take a lot of verbal abuse before it bothers me, most of the time, it’s not about me, it’s just a way to let out their grief and anger.  Even I do that sometimes, I place my anger, frustration and hurt on things were it does not belong, so I understand that most of the time a patient’s outburst isn’t really directed at me.

Is it right?  No, probably not, but in my mind, I kind of understand.

Violence in the health care happens a lot, patients being violent against staff happen more then most might think.  That type of violence in a dialysis setting can go from abusive words to physical contact in about two seconds flat, if you think I am kidding ask a dialysis tech, most of us have experienced it or seen it happen.  It is a big problem.

Another big problem I was not aware of and has completely taken me off guard is the amount of homeless people we have in our clinic’s population.  We have homeless elderly and homeless middle aged and few homeless people in their twenties, many are addicted to drugs and alcohol, some have just hit a wall and are having a hard time picking themselves up.  Some have been burdened by the economy and social security checks not meeting their growing economic need.  Prices have skyrocketed but wages have stayed the same.

There was a day not that long ago that I was walking a few blocks to grab a coffee from Starbucks on my lunch break.  I had my iPod blasting in my ears and was bundled up in a college sweatshirt, cap and scarf (I am a big pansy people, it’s cold) and I passed a small group of homeless standing on the corner.  I didn’t notice the small child amongst them until it registered a few blocks down.  It didn’t register they were all homeless until an elderly gentleman came in with a QFC paper sack and the family towing behind.  A fellow co-worker told me they recently lost their one bedroom apartment and because of limited space at a family shelter had to split up at night, men going to one and the mother and child going to another.

That’s when I wanted to sit and cry, I guess, I never really thought about homeless families, in my mind, my very selfish mind, it was only those who didn’t want to try any more that were homeless.  Not with people with small children who brought in their elderly parent to dialysis and made sure his catheter was kept as dry as possible.  That family was probably one of the most compliant families in the place and they were homeless.

There were times, I was told, they would call for an extra treatment for their parent because dialysis was the only place he was able to sleep peacefully. 

See, dialysis is so much more then just putting a person on a machine and taking them off.  Many people think this is an easy job, and you know, perhaps a monkey can do it, but a monkey couldn’t make supply bags filled with gauze and tape and antiseptic materials so that if they get their catheter wet they won’t get it infected. 

This job isn’t for everyone, it isn’t just a job, it takes more skills then just phlebotomy.

It is perhaps, the most unappreciated health care field, but there are times I think I don’t want to be anywhere else.


~ by Kim on October 9, 2008.

9 Responses to “Walking the streets”

  1. Wow. Great post. I’ve never thought of Dialysis nursing as a “calling” but you’ve really opened my eyes to that.

    I think you are going to make an excellent nurse, BTW : )

  2. I couldn’t agree more with Beth. As an EMT who ran a lot of transfers to and from Dialysis units I have nothing but respect for the Techs and the nurses that work at them.

    Stay safe.

  3. Thanks Beth and Just me for your encouraging words!

  4. As a Critical Care Nurse I have had my share of Hemodialysis and CRRT patients. Your job is not something a ‘monkey’ could do. It takes skill, critical thinking, patience, endurance and all the makings of an autonomous specialist. I respect and applaud your position, and those that do not do the same, should walk in your shoes sometime.
    Kudos my dear!
    Don’t let the man get you down.

  5. I’m so glad that someone is finally going public about how sad and how rough an outpatient dialysis clinic can be. Unfortunately dialysis is a field no one seems to know much about unless they are directly involved in it. Don’t let it get you down. People like you are worth their weight in gold.

    Yes, Beth, it’s a calling. It takes a particular temperment to work in dialysis, one I haven’t quite figured out how to describe yet.

    Now if we could just figure out how to unionize. . . . .

  6. You know when I first started I asked why we weren’t in a union…and I still haven’t gotten a straight answer, I think we should work on it.

  7. You have been tagged for a Meme! ;o)

  8. That was a damn fine post that needed to be said.

    I’ve witnessed (even just recently) how violent some of the patients can get.

    Just yesterday they sat me next to a lady (I use that term extremely light in this case) who was watching the final debate. The N word was flying about Obama continuously while McCain was a “corrupt m*****f*****”

    She was continuously complaining about everything, using racial slurs against the nurse and being a huge pain in the gullet.

    The entire time, the staff couldn’t have been nicer and more cordial to her.

    When she finally left, I informed them if I came in and she was seated next to me, I’m turning around and going home.

    I get hints of what you have to put up with: stalkers, verbal abuse, racists and the like.

    I have the utmost respect for what you and your coworkers do and don’t let anyone tell you different.

    P.S…I can verify the turkey through the window. I was there a few hours after it happened and the window had to be taped closed with cardboard. And it made the local paper!

  9. Stacy I am sorry you had to sit through that. I wonder sometimes why people think that is appropriate! And you have every right not to have to sit by her again!


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