-“So, we were talking about how great you are with psychiatric patients.” Gloria said in almost a motherly tone. A surprised, sarcastic mother who was just caught off guard by a good report card and didn’t quite believe it yet.
“Since there seems to be more and more of them making their way onto the med unit, and we wanted to see if we could find out why.” She added, elevating the sarcasm to an almost accusatory pitch, as if I had brought them all with me from the psych unit or something.
I didn’t even attempt to wipe the look of revulsion off of my face as she walked me into a small, semi-abandoned office at the end of the hall. It smelled of failed careers and budget cuts, the only place that wasn’t covered in dust was a 90’s era computer mouse accompanied by the outline of an ass imprint on the chair. This was probably the hiding place for a nightshift staff looking at porn, or maybe for another job, like I should have been doing.
“So you’ve noticed an increase in psychiatric patients requiring medical care?” I said in a corrective tone.
“Well yes…. we just wanted to put some real numbers on it, and see if we can get to the root of the problem.” She replied, laying it on thick, trying to pretend she wasn’t just trying to assign some extra homework to the new kid.
“So what exactly would she like me to do?” I replied, passive aggressively reminding her that my duty delegation fell under Sylvia’s title, not hers.
“We were hoping you could dig through the old patient charts and help us put together some kind of report for the budget committee. Something that would reflect our real staffing needs verses that of the regular psychiatric unit.” She explained.
“Are you looking for more staff? Sitters for one to ones, things like that?” I asked, trying to hide my skepticism.
“Well why should our staff ratio’s be the same as theirs, when we have our real patients and the nut jobs on top of that to deal with?” She said with the all of the confidence of a deranged southern politician, arguing against desegregation.
Real patients, wow, really? I thought to myself, holding back a verbal outburst that would have surely required my resignation. “I’ll see what I can do” was all I replied, but I have no doubt my expression and tone conveyed my true loathing.
“Great, well this room is yours for as long as you need it.” She said with a smile that I was sure would reveal fangs.
“Super” I said, eyeing the door, hoping one of us would soon be walking through it.
“I’ll leave you to it” she said, wedging herself out the door.
So this was brunt of her attack, on the surface I wasn’t impressed. But the underlying message hit its mark. It wasn’t so much me personally that she had a distaste for, (in fact I bet there were very few things she didn’t like the taste of) it was psychological health as a whole, having a legitimate place in her world. The fact that doctors, nurses, and the patients themselves are now much more likely to recognize mental illness, and to pursue its treatment in a traditional setting was something she could never adjust to. It is now being recognized as a real problem, and a valid illness that required authentic management, and not just being brushed aside, or even locked away. For whatever reason, this progressive movement seemed to be her nemesis. Maybe it was progress or evolution in general she feared, maybe she thought that if things continued the way they were she might have to take a closer look at herself and who she had become. I refused to believe she was born an angry hippo.-
(copyright 2015)-Kelsey David Burnham (Slow Code)