It Takes Kids


If we are lucky, we end up getting more than we expect from something we undertake. So has been the case with the job I started back in December. Just a very part-time and simple one as a lunch room monitor in a very small Charter school, something I honestly felt might not fulfill me as much as my career as a paramedic, but took because of logistical reasons. As it turns out, this non-career position may end up being one of the most satisfying jobs I’ve ever had in some important ways.

I was asked a month or so ago by a co-worker if I would be interested in participating in a 5K race that a bunch of kids and staff members were doing. This race was a two-part thing: one a regular 5K to benefit the Girl Scouts, but the other was called Girls On The Run to get local girls to get psyched and get out there and see what they could do. My co-worker knew I worked out, so approached me and I said: of course! Not really knowing what I was supposed to do though, I registered for the Girl Scout part, which was timed.

Meanwhile, the girls at my school trained, and in the lunch room, we all talked about the upcoming day which happened to be today.

It was held in a lovely park right as the sun was coming up. I haven’t raced in years and planned to just speed walk. The girls were excited and it was great to see some of the teachers out of work.

When the race started, I held to my plan for a bit, but since I had been having a pretty good work out regimen lately (and I’m way too competitive), I thought I’d try jogging just a bit. The paved trail in the park was surrounded by grass, so I was able to jog on it for much of the time. Since the Girls On The Run race started 5 minutes later, a few of the kids passed me and we cheered each other on. One teacher (who had planned to walk too, but was running), passed me also as did a friend’s son. I ended up jogging slowly almost the whole way. It was a miracle.

At the finish line, we all had fun cheering the school in (and collecting thin mints). And it was really crazy when we found out some of us actually placed in our age groups; including me! I was second in mine! Pays to be old. Of course I was 10 minutes behind the first woman, but hey: as a famous woman runner once said, “A win is a win!”

But the really best part was having the girls calling out my name along the way and saying hi, having one teacher telling me how much she loved me (I actually thought she never noticed me), having the kindergarten teacher introduce me to her Mom telling her about how I’m in her class and just hearing from folks how the kids love me (I was asked to be one of the coaches next year).

I worked for 20 years as a medic and rarely got warm fuzzies. Maybe it just takes children and their natural ability for giving joy and love to finally make someone like me feel good in my place of employment!

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Just A Wee One


 

Finally I have landed a wee job that fits in perfectly with the criteria I had listed in my head (I hope). It’s been a long and interesting year experimenting with various things while waiting to find something, but hopefully this will work.

It’s nothing much really, but that’s part of my plan. Just a little PT position in a very small Charter school working as a lunch monitor.

So here’s how it fit the bill and my way of thinking:

  • It’s Part time: It’s in the middle of the day so allows me my workout in the am and the ability to get home for the pets in the afternoon or any chores/appointments.
  • It’s a no-brainer: After 20 years of the stress of being a paramedic, I didn’t want to do anything too difficult. Yes, I know, maybe I’m being lazy, but for now, this is the case.
  • It’s NOT in healthcare: I had made a distinct decision that I was pulling out of working in healthcare altogether. This is why I’ve had such a hard time finding something I reckon. With my resume reflecting 20 years in the business, not many folks were interested in taking a chance on me for something new.
  • It’s something new!: This is the very reason it seemed cool. While it’s not some deep, difficult task, at least it’s different.
  • It’s fun: The kids are great (albeit VERY noisy) and it will be a great new challenge to work closely with this population for a change. I’ve had my own of course, but now I have 300!
  • It has potential for more: I’ve been assured it has growth potential should I want it at some point. But for now I am quite content with the hours.
  • It’s close to home: After commuting 40 minutes each way (in ice storms) for so many years, having a job very close is a blessing.
  • I’m in ‘the system’: Once I’m within the public school system (yes, Charter schools are publicly funded), there can be potential for movement.
  • I can handle just about anything for a few hours: Even if there are difficulties, it’s only a few hours a day and plenty of vacations!

So all in all, I hope this works out. My fellow employees in the lunch room seem nice too. I have no idea how I will begin to memorize the names of all these children, but hey, I’ll figure it out.

And I’ve already ordered special ear plugs that will hopefully block out some of the major noise, but allow me to still hear them when they talk to me. (I mean it is REALLY loud in this tiny room!)

But I have to say, we never lose parts of ourselves… Because as I look around at all these kids eating and talking, and eating and laughing, and eating and being silly— the paramedic in me can’t help but think:

Just keep chewing, swallowing and breathing… NO CHOKING allowed!!

 

The Good, The Bad…


These are my new work shoes. Standing all day can be tiring, so I treated myself. It was interesting going into a big retail store–one of those gigantic chain athletic stores to find something. Now that I work in retail again, I could scrutinize the employees from a point of view as a customer doing similar work. Of course, I often evaluate these situations being a student of human behavior, but today I came at it from a purely retail perspective.

I interacted closely with two employees and had two totally different experiences. This store has no-one specific helping in the shoe department–they just mostly expect customers to wander around by themselves and randomly check things out. And then, if you should perchance find something you like, you can try it on yourself…OR if you don’t–then you might be lucky and find someone to help you. Maybe…

While I was doing the first option a young male employee came over to me and asked if I needed help, so I explained to him that I was looking for a shoe to stand in all day. I tried to explain to him what I was looking for, but he was very eager to show me something he thought would be the right shoe. So I looked at it (because I didn’t want to let him down)  and immediately didn’t like it (it was white and not my style of sneaker), but at least he tried to be helpful and nice.

So I kept wandering, found finally found the sale section! There I came across some decent running shoes in my size that would work. But I also came across another pair of moccasins that I thought were pretty cool. Sadly, they didn’t have a price tag, and I feared this could mean a great hassle in the check out. I liked them enough though, and have very few shoes since moving (I gave tons away before I did) that I figured it worth trying to get a price.

I flagged the next employee down I could find…another young man. He seemed rather put out, but said he would see what he could find out. He came back rather quickly and said: how much do you want these shoes (well actually I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want them dude) because it’s going to take me a really long time to figure out a price, and honestly (uh oh…lying) the last time I looked at the price tag it said like $100. I said: $100?? Really?? He said: Yup. Hmmm…??  I said: Never mind then.

My guess is he was simply too lazy to do his job and get the real price, which I doubt was $100. So, they lost a sale. But I did find another cute pair of shoes on sale instead.

When I got to the check-out the first guy was there and he rang me out. He remembered me and we chatted. He tried to get me to fill out some points thing (which I didn’t, even if I did let him down) . And I over heard him talking with another customer how he had been in recovery and clean for a while. He was friendly and did his job well. Took it all very seriously. World of difference from the other dude.

I suspect this guy had hit rock bottom in his life so he knows the meaning of gratitude. He doesn’t mind doing what he’s suppose to do, or helping out some old chick looking for a pair of shoes for work. He probably would have looked up the price of the moccasins for me and they would have sold 3 pairs of shoes that day. Oh well…instead, I had a good customer experience with him and will fill out the survey and say he did a nice job…whereas they other fellow did not.

 

 

Like A Dummy


No-one like to feels like a dummy. But I think we all can agree that the first day of any new job can make any of us feel that way. Even if it’s a job that we may have experience doing, but especially if it’s something new or if we’re rusty doing it. Then, it’s easy to feel like we’re back in elementary school when the teacher calls on us and we don’t know the answer.

Today was my first day at my new job! And mind you, I made a conscious decision to get out of healthcare! So I totally understood that I could make myself look silly starting over at something completely different. I simply could not take it any longer in a field that I personally feel is rampant with unhappy, over-worked and often petty employees.

So I began to apply to anything that remotely appealed to me or where I thought I might have a half a chance of getting a job. I had certain criteria of course: Part-time was preferable for the pets; close to home if possible; if it had to be a big corporation again, then hopefully it would be decent or have good benefits with it; and if I was lucky, maybe be something I actually wanted to do! Another dream part of the job, of course, would be if I ended up working with great people….

Well, I’ve ended up in a sweet little position working as a cashier at a local Farm market. The farm itself is huge and specializes in sustainability, organic vegetables and fruit, locally grown also, U-pick on the property, all sorts of local breads and other wonderful items. What a difference working in a place that smells nice! It can’t compare to the smells on the ambulance!

They had a sign on the Cash register that said: Cashier in training, Be Nice! So they even have a sense of humor. As I bumbled along trying to figure out why they considered an avocado a fruit and which items were sold singly and which by the pound, my customers were very patient. And even though I thought I knew my vegetables pretty well having been a vegetarian for 40 years, a rutabaga looks pretty much like a turnip when you’re in a hurry.

A place that has a 21-year-old in charge because he’s been there since he got out of High School (he told me his goal is actually to become a fire fighter/paramedic–imagine that), can’t be all bad. And they even have an AED, so while the boss wants me to save him if he has a cardiac arrest, he wasn’t sure the batteries were working. Yikes. Stick with farming dude!

So while I was nervous and felt like pretty dumb at times, everyone was helpful and assured me at the end of the shift, I wasn’t fired yet. Even though I didn’t do a very good job wrapping the breads that came in either. Maybe it’s just the perfectionist in me? And this place seems to have my most/all of my criteria for jobs too? Time will tell…

But riding home in my car I thought: gee, I used to save lives didn’t I? I guess eventually I’ll get the hang of this won’t I? Of course I’m older now…but like we used to say in the back of the ambulance: just pretend you know what you’re doing and be nice. The customer/patient may not notice it’s not true…..

Out The Door!


From a really bad thing came a really good thing. Today my Mom and I decided I should quit my job. As many of my long time followers know, I was really unhappy in that job anyway. From the beginning that position has been hard for me with difficult co-workers, rude doctors, unreasonable managers and unkind people in general. Not what I wanted in a new position.

I felt that when I moved here, that one priority was to be relaxed and enjoy my place of employment. Stress from years of working in the Emergency Medical field had taken its toll and I was ready for a big break. But admittedly I took the wrong position offered to me from a couple of offers. Figuring this was somewhat within my field and giving me the opportunity to meet more people and slightly more money–I jumped at this one.

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How wrong I was! Money should never, ever guide us, and I should have known better. And while I did meet some very wonderful friends that I hope to keep, the bulk of the folks there were more of the same uncaring healthcare ‘professionals’ that would sooner spit on you than help you.

So when the opportunity arose to help my Mom get well, you didn’t have to ask me twice to walk out the door. I didn’t even give two weeks, which is not my style at all. I’m not sure I’ve ever done that in my life! But with her health, their attitudes and my degree of frustration, I was out.

To my great surprise and gratitude, my boss was very kind and understanding about it all and even said if there was anything he could do he would. If there were more words like this, maybe there would be more retention there, but sadly he is not the one to talk to most people. It happens I go to him because he’s nicer.

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Sadly it’s the loud mouths that run the place who either pretend to be nice or just plain aren’t nice or have their favorites. Of which I was not one. And I am proud not to be! I’m always glad not to be part of the crowd that played games or is too afraid to say what I feel for fear of pissing them off. Bah!

Because I know in my heart what is really important, and it’s certainly not any of those silly folks who can’t walk their talk. It’s about family, real connections and honesty. And hopefully when Mom gets better, it will be time to find a new career. But this time it will be nothing to do with human healthcare!!

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Only A Job


Some jobs it seems set you up to fail. And it seems that management has no idea how important it is to do their job to retain new and old employees. Before I left my old job, I did a lot of reading on what constitutes a good manager, but now–in a new job myself–it’s quite apparent some obvious things that would be helping me.

First of all, in order to help your new employee to feel empowered to be learning and grasping their new position, it’s imperative that you must have a decent training program! Having one that is haphazard or ‘on the job training’–especially when one works in an extremely busy and stressful atmosphere, is almost certainly spelling disaster and IS setting up the employee for failure.

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Gee, I thought she told me to do it another way…

Having three or four different people teaching the person the same thing, at first with conflicting information, and then expecting the person to grasp the concepts, is unreasonable and unfair. If no manuals or written material is given, only verbal instructions while the normal, busy work day is going on around the new employee, it may be very hard for this person the grasp concepts. And when you pile onto that, short-tempered and rude people demanding things from the new employee that they don’t yet know how to do, you might as well expect this new person to walk out.

That new person should not be put on the front lines until they have a comfort level with enough things that they don’t end up feeling discouraged every day after work. This only will lead to immediate low self-esteem and a poor attitude. If an employee is instead trained properly and is prepared correctly and hits the ground with all the tools he/she needs, then they will have the confidence to do a job well.

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Ahhh, I’m so frustrated!

Today I also heard in my first staff meeting the nurses complaining that they must work all day, then take call at night, then come back the next day. One of the RN’s who had been there a long time said that new hires had been lied to in the interviews and were told there were ‘night crews’. During their orientation they found out they had to take call and that they (like everyone else) were considered the night crews. So they promptly quit–before they even started!

Honesty with employees is another vital key to management’s success. I never felt that in my last job. It is better to simply tell the truth, whatever it may be, than to make up stories. If they want their employees to be truthful, then so must they be. This goes along with integrity in my opinion.

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Hmmm….I’m taking night duty!

Another important tool is fairness–treating all employees equally. They can’t think that the nurses are more important than the front desk people. One management person did say I was doing a good job today and it meant a lot. I see a lot of the RN’s getting praised–especially the new ones. I’m sure this is because they are so short-handed. But if I walk away they will be in a bad way too. I see how that front desk runs (or doesn’t run really). It’s chaotic. They would do well to make sure I stay honestly. It’s not a job most people would want to do or could do.

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I may just waddle away…..

There are a million things I read on the list of a good manager but I’ll wrap it up with this: trying to have a sense of humor and keeping calm.  They must keep their heads when it hits the fan and not place blame immediately. Taking a breath, get to the bottom of things first and stand up for their people. Remembering we’re all a team. It makes you want to work for them more if you know they have your back. If you think they’re ready to throw you under the bus, well–why work too hard. And if they can laugh and keep it light, even when it’s tough, you know they have the real priorities in life straight.

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I feel very calm today!

Because after all–while they may more money then we do, it is still, only a job for us all.

 

Just A Good Day


Today was such an interesting day at work. So different from my first 3 days. I learned more of my actual job, sat at my actual station, observed ‘the group’ in all their glory, made some simple phone calls, spoke on the over head intercom, played on the computer and was generally was immersed. You could say that I began to peep outside my shell.

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But my biggest triumph came as I was leaving work. It was unexpected and completely rewarding, and it made me feel like maybe the job will work for me after all. (Yesterday I wasn’t sure for a variety of reasons actually).

You see, I had left the building and was heading to my car in the parking garage when I noticed an elderly woman struggling in a parking lot walking with a walker. I approached her and asked if she needed any help. She was clearly distressed and relayed to me that she was trying to find her husband, who had fallen and was brought to rehab. She was lost and had no idea where to find him.

Now mind you, I have no idea where to find anything either, but I was determined to help! So I assured her that together we would find him and that she shouldn’t worry. She told me he was 92, that she was upset with his doctor, that her daughter was sick also. The poor woman was very nearly in tears.

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So the next person that came along, I asked where the rehab center was and luckily it was right nearby. We walked together there, but the woman was sure it wasn’t the right place as she didn’t recognize it. But I convinced her to go in any way so we could hopefully figure out where her husband might be. Meanwhile she was getting very anxious and upset.

When we got inside, I explained the situation to the receptionist and she checked, but found he wasn’t there. Some of the volunteers situated nearby suggested that he may actually have been brought to the nearby nursing home from the description the woman had given. Rather than make her drive there to find out, we decided to call it, so one of the volunteers looked up the number on her phone and I placed the call.

Sure enough, the missing husband was there! She was relieved, but now we had to figure out how to get her there. After discussion (I didn’t know where it was), it was decided that the volunteer would go in the woman’s car and then walk back–apparently it wasn’t far. The woman was very happy, because she was pretty much at the end of her rope.

She thanked me profusely, which was better than any paycheck I could have earned today! And I thought that even though I’m no longer a paramedic, I still got an opportunity to help someone out. It was pretty cool. It’s in line with the hospital’s code of customer service too–so it was all good. All in all, a pretty satisfying day!

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Beginning Of The End


So Monday starts the beginning of the end. Well, at least I think so. Monday is my first day of my new job at the hospital. What I suspect is, that it may be the last time that I work in this  type of job–official so to speak, a business, corporation, a career-type position. I will be 60 this year and am mostly here to be near my Mom.  When she’s not here any longer…well, who knows?

My last 20 years in the Emergency Medical field was ambiguous. It had it’s tremendously high moments as you can imagine, but it also left me–as an employee–often feeling inadequate.

There were, of course, a whole range of reasons that this was the case: the poor system of compensation, the attitude of fellow co-workers, the absolute rarity of a woman climbing any sort of ladder upward, poor management in most places, small town politics… Well, you get the picture.

I’m know I was partly to blame.

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When I first came to the field, I was very naive and hopeful. My aim was to help people and save lives. It became quickly apparent that this golden ring was almost a pipe-dream, and only grasped by paying the piper. Bitterness of many others I met along the way turned my attitude sour as well and the grinding days of low pay, long hours and patients without real emergencies took its inevitable toll. I simply became one of the caustic, crabby paramedics just doing a job.

When I had moments of clarity and was able to stand back and look at myself, I was saddened and ashamed of what I had become. It was not what I had ever intended. Never did I want to become impatient with those ‘frequent flyers’ or gossipy at work and angry with fellow co-workers. But the years ground me down into a person I did not like anymore.

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It is partly why I have stepped away and decided to retire. Believe me, it was a very hard choice to make. Becoming a paramedic was not easy for me and giving it up I do with a heavy heart. But I always said when I could no longer do it with joy every day, then it was time. And so it is….

So now I have a chance to recreate myself in a new job. See if I can be a better co-worker, an employee that my company embraces as much as I will embrace it. As I step through the doors Monday, I have many, many years of knowing what not to do for sure–and surely there were some things I did right too.

Hopefully now I can get it mostly right and enjoy each day that my alarm clock goes off telling me a new work week has begun!

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