Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What's a Girl Like You Doing In a Place Like This

I drove around the place three times before I finally took a deep breath and parked my car. It was a small, quaint looking place; if you can call a hospital quaint. It was time to leave the homey florists shop that I had been working in since my divorce. I really enjoyed working there and it was fun tapping into my creative side in a paying environment, but I needed to start taking the steps that would help me achieve the job that I wanted to make a career.

The hospital needed an office girl that could work the 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. I decided that that would work nicely with my continuing education and my efforts to raise a child by myself. My son adored his grandparents and he could sleep at their house at night and I would be there in the morning to fix him breakfast and send him to school. It sounded wonderfully convenient so I grabbed my courage and walked into the quaint little hospital.

It was a small 100 bed hospital, but the greatest number of beds were taken in the psychiatric unit. After the initial interview the Office Manager took me on a tour of the premises. It was small, warm, and friendly. On the night shift I wouldn't be required to interace with the patients that were already admitted. I wouldn't have to enter the hospital part of the hospital. I wouldn't have to deal with the sights, smells, and memories that a hospital invokes in me. I decided to take the offered position.

I really liked the job. The work load was light, the people I saw nightly quickly accepted me into their midst, and I was told that I could study when I had down time. Sounded perfect! Except ........... I could not sleep in the daytime. I would drive home so sleepy that I would find it difficult to steer the car and stay in the proper lane, but the minute I walked in the door of my house I came awake and stayed that way. No matter what I did I couldn't sleep when the sun was out. I sat in my classes in a stupor, when my son came home from school I was in a trance, and when I went back to work it took everything I could do to keep from falling asleep. I went on that way for two months, and was on the brink of handing in my notice when I got a telephone call that the Office Manager wanted me to come in early. She had something she wanted to talk over with me. "Oh, oh," I thought "somehow she has found out that I walk around like a zombie during my shift. I'm going to be fired before I can quit." That dampened all hope of getting any sleep that day.

She wanted to tell me that there was a position opening in the daytime. She asked me if I would like to take the job. I was blown away. What a wonderful offer she had just made me. I would have to re-work my classes, but I would be able to go to bed when it was dark outside. I wouldn't have to be an upside down zombie any longer. I would be able to sleep again! I didn't give her the chance to re-think her offer. I accepted almost before she had finished her spiel.

On the daytime staff I learned everything there was to know about billing insurance, dealing with incoming patients, how to handle confused and worried family members, and that doctors have personalities when they are not in their office dealing with ill patients. One afternoon one of the doctors drove his Harley motorcycle through the front doors and down to the surgery. Another afternoon one of the plastic surgeons came into the office carrying a silicone filled breast implant and laughed at the disgust he saw on our faces when he said, "Avon calling!" It was a low key, fun filled atmosphere; without the hush and fear that you usually attach to a hospital atmosphere.

Then I was given a promotion. Everyone was soooo proud of me. They even had a cake and balloons in the small cafeteria. I had gotten the promotion much sooner then anyone had thought possible. I really enjoyed working there and the relaxed atmosphere had made me like a sponge. I soaked up everything that there was to learn and went looking for more. It was just that kind of place to work. All the staff was happy with their work.

The next day I walked into the office full of excitement. I was going to new heights of responsibility, I was going to gain new knowledge, break old boundries, create new ones, I was going to assume more accountability. I was going to show them that they had put their trust in the right person.

Office Manager: "Good morning, Penny. Here's your first new task."

Me: "Are you serious?"

Office Manager: "This is an important part of your new responsibilities"

Me: "Are you serious?"

Office Manager: "What's the matter, you look pale? Just go into surgery and ask the surgical nurse for the schedule. I'll tell you what to do with it after you get back."

Me: "You are serious.'

So I walked down the short hallway and approached the swinging doors to the surgical suite. I could see through the small window that the surgical nurse was walking around and preparing for the doctors. I could see the patient being readied for surgery. I could see the doctors conferring in the corner, I could see my new position floating into oblivion. I swallowed, I pushed open the swinging door, I stepped into the surgical suite, I inhaled, I fainted in a heap just inside the doors!

I woke up with doctors, nurses, and office staff bending over me. I explained to them that it was the smell and the recalled memories. It was an overload. They explained to me that it was part of my new job. I was finally able to convince them that I could do it if they would just let me handle it in my own way.

And my way was to not eat breakfast until after I had gotten the surgical schedule. I never did fully conquer the fear of entering those swinging doors, but if I didn't eat breakfast before I had to do it I found that I wasn't in such a great danger of barfing all over their clean white floors and I got to keep my promotion.

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