Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Of Vacation's End and The Sisyphus Syndrome

I knew that vacation was over when I walked into the office and a patient's boyfriend was waiting for me. My patient gets a narcotic prescription every Tuesday and I guess I had failed to make sure the script got written on Monday before my return to work. Oh well. I found a sympathetic doc who didn't mind penning the script and sent the boyfriend on his merry way.

Next came the mailbox filled with papers to review, the email inbox to slog through, and the new technology in the form of a Treo smartphone which needed a great deal of attention and detail management. Juggling my old Palm Pilot, old pager, new Treo, old cell-phone (with all the numbers I need and no way to transfer them to the new phone)---it was a post-modern mess. See this post for the recent history of our office's techno-struggle.

I jokingly asked the administrative staff if they had sent out a notice to all of my patients that I would be back at 9am today because the phone began to ring and didn't really stop all day for the most part. Aside from the few prescriptions I called in and fax'd, my day did not feel very "nurse-like"---more administrative and desk-based. What is "nurse-like" really like, anyway? Probably however I feel at any point of the day is nurse-like enough, dammit.

As a "wellness and health broker"---a term (that I think I made up) which I have come to see as indicative of some aspects of my work---I felt today like there were so many threads which I again needed to find and pursue. My brain's problem was the fact that remembering the details of what comes next for approximately 80 people is a Herculean task (or is it more Sisyphean? You be the judge!) Who was it who needed a follow-up visit this week? Whose blood sugar is most uncontrolled? Who died? Who's in the hospital? Whose med box needed filling today? What about those narcotics? Did that patient I love really go to Puerto Rico to die? Sisyphus would surely let this rock go a-tumblin'.

The devil is certainly in the details, as the saying goes, and the devil of details is certainly the devil I know intimately. Does one become a nurse because one enjoys the micro-management of endless minutiae? Do all nurses make those little boxes next to the items on their t0-do lists and then garner a perverse pleasure from checking those boxes off? Again, you be the judge, folks, but my obsessive-compulsive side sure likes being a nurse.

So, as Zen Mind, Vacationer's Mind gives way to Worker-Bee Mind, I'll do my damndest to make the evenings and weekends their own little vacations, while still being the (watered down) productive-obsessive which I am to my core.

The circus-tent of work as a nurse never ceases to entertain, even if that entertainment sometimes carries a certain sadomasochistic aura. I re-enter the fray, rested and vacated, but still sadly longing for the briefly carefree days of vacation. Head down, nose already sharpening on grindstone, can that softening and loosening of the tightened mind which occurs on holiday still retain its afterglow? Stay tuned......
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