Work

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The Return of the Lab Hobbit

Published April 2, 2017 by Malia

I went back to work in February.  I’m not sure I was really ready to go back to work, but our bank account was having a really negative attitude, so it seemed like the best option.  Funny thing, the people that send us bills really like when we pay those bills…

I’m back in a lab, a place I was afraid I’d never get to go back to.  Not only that, but I’m in a hospital lab.  I’ve spent years wishing I could be in a hospital lab, and now I am.  I’m feeling quite a bit happier than I have in a long while.  I actually want to go to work, which is always a positive.  As I’m starting my third month there, I find I’m still feeling a little overwhelmed by everything, but my coworkers are the best, and they’re always available to help me through the little hiccups and the big nightmares.

The boy and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary in March.  And by “celebrated,” I mean he woke up two minutes before I left for work, and that was the only time we saw each other that day (he didn’t get home from work until the wee hours of the morning the next day).  I’m hoping that by next year we’ll actually get to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and our anniversary (this year’s Valentine’s Day disaster is worthy of it’s own post).  While celebrating may not have happened, I can honestly say that I am so incredibly blessed to have the boy by my side.  We’re not perfect spouses, we both screw up on a regular basis (me, far more than him) but we do the best we can.  The first two years of marriage have been really difficult.  I’ve cried more in the last year, than I have in my entire life.  It’s been exhausting, overwhelming, and even scary.  However, I think it’s actually drawn us closer together, having to go through this.  I know it’s brought me closer to God (that’s another post, as well).

And now, I’m going to sign off for the night, because tomorrow is going to be here very soon and I can’t afford to sleep through my alarm again (that’s definitely another post.  I’m sensing a theme…).

That’s not how it works.

Published November 7, 2014 by Malia

What follows is something funny that happened at my work this week.  Since I work in a medical reference lab, I see all kinds of specimens.  This can lead me to talk sbout things that aren’t G rated, but I do my best to stay out of R territory.  Consider yourself warned. 

A few days ago at work we received a specimen to be tested for gonherrea & chlamydia.  Two super fun STDs. We get quite a few specimens through our room to be checked for these diseases. Unfortunately, the specimen we received wasn’t your typical submission.  It was synovial fluid from a knee.

Now, this may not seem weird, but keep in mind, we’re talking about STDs.  After 2+ hours on the phone, calling every reference lab we work with, and getting told the specimen was completely unacceptable,  I came to the following conclusion…
If you have to get your knee fluid checked for STDs, you’re doing sex wrong. 

Did You Actually Go To Medical School?

Published August 16, 2014 by Malia

When I was in elementary school, I remember classmates circulating a story about a man who had gone in for surgery, and when he woke up he was missing a leg.  Depending on the person telling the story, he either lost both legs, or an arm and a leg, or both legs and both arms.  I’m pretty sure that at some point, in some telling of the tale, he woke up as the Headless Horseman (and was probably missing all his limbs as well).  I learned two things from this, A. Kid’s imaginations are kind of a gruesome playground, and, B. Don’t have surgery, because the doctor will mix you up with another patient and you WILL die (sans all limbs).

When I was in vet tech school, I remember sitting in surgical procedures class, and having a teacher tell us that it was super important to count all your gauze pads-and anything else that came into contact with the patient-before the patient got stitched up, because you didn’t want Fluffy coming back in for having a sponge left inside her accidentally (and having a severe infection from the foreign body).

You always hear stories like this, and I think on some level I didn’t quite believe them until a few years ago when my grampa was staying at a rehab center after surgery.  Two days before he was due to be released, the nurse gave him another patient’s meds.  Turned out that the other patient was taking high levels of morphine.  I’ve always hoped no one got my grampa’s meds, because he was taking large quantities of Coumadin (a blood thinner, for those who aren’t familiar with it).  Grampa ended up back in the hospital for a few days, and his release date got pushed back another week.

All of these things were enough to make me a little nervous about healthcare, but it wasn’t until I started working at the lab that I truly got scared of healthcare.

Now, let me just point out that there are absolutely amazing and fantastic nurses and doctors out there.  My goal here is not to bash, or cast out a net and say, “All healthcare professionals are this way.”  There are people who truly know what they’re doing and do an excellent job at it.  However, in the last year and a half, I’ve started to wonder how many of them there actually are.

I really love my job.  The work is interesting, and I’ve learned far more in the last year and a half than I ever learned in school.  I work in a medical reference lab.  We’re responsible for running tests that doctor’s offices and hospitals can’t run in-house.  I don’t personally perform any of the testing (I’d need a medical lab tech degree for that, and all I have is my vet tech degree and training as a phlebotomist), but I work in the processing department.  Instead of a long drawn out explanation, just think of it as a combination of quality assurance and client care.  I seem to spend a fair amount of time on the phone with clients, and for every call that is smooth and easy to work through, there seem to be about twenty that make you wish you were having a root canal instead.

For example, recently, I had to call a stat result to a doctor.  Not only did this doctor have zero people skills, but when I told him what I was calling about, what the test was, and what the result of the test was along with the normal reference ranges, he said, “I don’t understand what that means.”  It was all I could do not to reply, “You ordered this test!  This is your patient!  What do you mean you don’t understand?!”  Fortunately, it wasn’t a very unusual test, and after about five minutes I was able to explain it well enough to him that he seemed to have grasped whatever it was he didn’t understand.  I hung up the phone and just sat there feeling pity for his patients.

The thing is, those kinds of calls are not out of the norm.  A few weeks ago, one of my co-workers had to call a nurse because a specimen was received that had to be protected from light and frozen within 30 minutes of collection.  The specimen arrived frozen, but unprotected from light.  The nurse didn’t understand the problem, because she had gotten the specimen in the freezer in the 30 minutes.  My co-worker then had to explain that the specimen also needed to either be wrapped in tin foil (not only does it protect the specimen from light, but it protects it from aliens as well), or put into an amber colored tube.

It scares me when things aren’t labeled, or they’re mislabeled.  It scares me when a medical professional doesn’t know that you use a lavender tube to collect a CBC, instead of a serum tube.  It scares me when they don’t know the difference between serum and plasma.  It scares me when they don’t know how to operate a centrifuge.  It scares me when I have to explain something basic to someone who supposedly has more education than I do.  It scares me when people are more interested in discussing their horoscopes, than they are in doing their job correctly.  I don’t care if you’re a Cancer, I care about making sure that the guy with cancer gets prompt and accurate treatment.

I know that mistakes happen.  I know that doctors and nurses are only human.  Sometimes, though, I have to wonder why some of them decided to work in healthcare.  Must be the great hours and the glamorous uniforms.

Apparently The Evil Copy Machine Was Lonely

Published July 19, 2014 by Malia

So, y’know how in Star Wars nearly every character says, “I have a bad feeling about this.”?  That’s how I felt last Friday after sitting through the 20 minute presentation, “You and Your New Phone From Hell.”  Just kidding, the presentation didn’t have a title.  But, if it had, that is totally what it should have been.

See, for some reason, we had to get rid of the wonderful, fantastic phones with decent reception, and replace them with phones that Crowley would recommend.  And do you know why he’d recommend them?  Because after you’ve disconnected the same client 3+ times in a row, when attempting to transfer them, you start seriously wondering if you’re going to have to sell your soul in a crossroads deal just to make the phones play nice.

Believe me, there is absolutely NOTHING a client loves more than constantly being disconnected.  I’m sure that the irritated, haggard tone their voice takes on is just a mask for how much they’re enjoying the whole experience.

Y’know what else is super fun about the new phone system?  The phone numbers.  None of our old phones had direct numbers.  However, each of the new phones has its own, individualized number.  In theory, this is a good idea.  What’s not a good idea?  The phone company assigning previously owned numbers to these phones.  I’ve spent way too much time this week fielding calls of people trying to reach Farmer’s Insurance.  Most people are pretty startled when they’re calling for an insurance quote, and instead get a medical reference lab.

Maybe the evil phones would be appeased if I sacrificed a chicken…

Happy Birthday To Me!

Published January 8, 2014 by Malia

Work birthday, that is.  Today (1/7) marked my one year anniversary at my job.  This has been a year of firsts.  It’s the first time I’ve been a recognized full-time employee for more than three months.  It’s the first time I’ve had actual benefits.  It’s the first time I’ve had PTO.  Yes, boys and girls, as of today I have finally achieved PTO.  (For those of you who don’t know, PTO stands for Personal Time Off).  Now, I’m not 100% certain how PTO is different from Vacation Days, but apparently it’s different.

It’s a really good feeling to be gainfully employed.  There was a time in my life, not too long ago, where the idea of being employed full time, in a place that I truly love being seemed an impossibility.  It still kind of astonishes me.  I’m so grateful to have this job, though.

I’m An Ergonomic Disaster

Published September 11, 2013 by Malia

Sooooooo…..I’m kind of short.  I’m not full-on munchkin, but I am just barely 5’0″.  (I claim I’m this, but in reality, I’m more like 4’11”.)  Being short typically doesn’t bother me.  It’s just one of those things.  I’ve learned how to deal with it.  Over the years I’ve become an expert at hopping onto counters and climbing all over them so I can access things that are well out of reach.  I’ve come to accept that my feet are just not going to touch the floor when sitting in a normal-sized person chair.

At work, they’re finally training me in my new position.  I get a permanent work area, my own drawer (you have no idea how much having my own drawer means to me), and I’m allowed to be as obsessively accurate as I want (not full/true OCD, but somewhere near the border of it).  It’s great.  I love it.  Well, I love almost all of it.  See, part of my new position involves putting things to be sent out to other labs into bins that are about two feet above my head.  I can barely reach them and successfully complete this task when I stand on my tippy-toes.  However, if these bins aren’t pulled all the way to the very edge of the shelf they sit on, I can’t reach them at all.  Last week, one of my trainers noticed that I have this small problem, and told me she would talk with my supervisors about it to see if they could come up with a solution.

So far, I’ve made two suggestions (because they haven’t come up with any).  A. Move the bins to a lower shelf, and B. Just let me use a step-stool.  Well, suggestion A would work, except they’re not sure what shelf to move them to.  This left suggestion B.  To me the step-stool is logical, and it seems smarter than having me play the tippy-toe dance several times every single day.  However, the step-stool isn’t going to become a reality.  Why?  Oh, this is good…

I can’t use a step stool, because it wouldn’t be ergonomic.

Yup, just let that sink in.

Personally, I find it hard to believe that a step-stool is less ergonomic than me stretching my body out to uncomfortable lengths every single time I need to access these bins.  True the stretching is great for my calf muscles, but it still hurts.  All I can do is hope that the stretching will encourage my body to add a few inches in length.