What I’m going to do for St. Joseph’s Hospital


Okay, let’s start with this fact:  St. Joseph’s Hospital blocks this blog as being a “malicious” web site.  That is a very hostile attack on a woman whose writings have been described as brilliant.  Here’s another fact:  when I am writing from the hospital about being in the hospital, my readership reaches its greatest heights.

Either the literate citizenry really loves hearing about sickness or else large quantities of St. Joe’s staff members are going home and reading my blog.  St. Joe’s, your staff members want to know what I have to say and you’re afraid to let them.  Why’s that?  Because I tell the truth and you’re trying to hide it?

Recently the boss doctor and the nurse manager came into my room—which immediately communicated to me that I was in big trouble—and they handed me a printed sheet that is headed “Health Care Plan, Anne Woodlen.”

It starts out “1) To ensure quality of care a collaborative communication plan needs to be met with the hospital team.  This includes:

  • Speaking in a respectful way
  • Allowing care to be provided as directed by the healthcare team
  • Provide answers to questions when asked

If communications are perceived as not respectful staff will remove themselves from the patient room.”

That’s what the staff is going to do; nowhere does it say what the patient can do.  When the nursing staff mistreats me, what am I to do?  I am bedridden; I can’t leave the room.  On more than one occasion I have ordered staff members out of my room and they have refused to go.  Do you have the slightest idea what it feels like to be trapped, surrounded by people who have absolute physical control over you and there’s nothing you can do about it?

And oh, by the way, please note that this “Health Care Plan” has absolutely nothing to do with my health.  It has to do with staff complaints about social issues.

My doctor tells me that the nurses are afraid of me.  Why?  It’s certainly not a fear of physical violence.  The last time I struck a nurse was forty years ago when I found her reading my diary.  And I’ll tell you something else:  it is not the grownups that are afraid of me; it’s the children.  In my last blog, “Children Working in Factories,” I noted that the average age of the nurses working with me is about twenty-eight.  Today a nurse said she’d put it much lower than that.

I have taken to asking each nurse how long she’s been working at St. Joe’s and where she trained.  (One young nurse replied, “You mean where I went to school?” and my heart sank.)  Only one of the nurses went to St. Joe’s Nursing School; others say BOCES, Potsdam, Buffalo, etc.

In the discussion of the immaturity of the nursing staff, the doctor said that it is a national problem:  nurses leave hospital work because of burnout.  Ladies and gentlemen, think about that.  Can you name any other industry that is so destructive of its workforce?  Car manufacturers in Detroit?  NASA?  Coal mining?  Syracuse University?  Hospital administrators and/or doctors have created a work environment that is so intolerable that its workers can’t stand it.  Doctors don’t work in hospitals.  They spend a couple hours there and then go to their private offices.  Hospitalists who stay in hospitals are a new thing; we’re only in the middle of the first generation of hospitalists and nobody has the slightest idea how they’ll work out over time.

I have identified two middle-aged nurses who are providing care for me.  One likes me; the other really likes me.  (I am like a fine wine and it takes a seasoned palate to appreciate me.)  Of the two middle-aged nurses, one worked in manufacturing for twenty years and only has been nursing at St. Joe’s for six years.  The other woman took twelve years off to raise her kids.  They have been protected from burnout.

So here are some suggestions on how to keep grownups in hospital nursing:

  • Every seven years, they get a sabbatical.  The hospital will continue their salary while they take a year off on the condition that they return.
  • After fourteen years on the job, they can drop to a 32-hour work week while continuing to receive full pay and benefits.
  • Stop hiring nurses to work for the hospital; hire them to work for the doctors.  Fact is, doctors no longer work independently; they work in groups.  Let the nurses be hired by the doctor groups and, as a doctor sees his patients in the hospital and then goes to the group office, so should the nurses.  Each group will be pro-rated on how many nurses it is to supply for hospital work, and each nurse will work no more than half her hours in the hospital.

Those are some suggestions for changes the hospital can make.  Now, I’m going to tell you what I’m going to do:  I’m going to start filing complaints with the New York State Dept. of Health.  My attempts to work with the staff have not been reciprocated, e.g., they tell me that I’m supposed to “Provide answers to questions when asked” however they do not answer my questions.  St. Joe’s, you will deal with me or you will deal with the DOH; there is no third alternative.

I should, perhaps, post a list of my accomplishments as an activist on behalf of people who are old or poor or sick.  It’s rather impressive.  As a matter of fact, I already have gotten St. Joe’s investigated.  CPEP, the Community Psychiatry Emergency Program, has been investigated twice and the inpatient psychiatric unit once.  Among other things, the nurse manager got transferred out.  St. Joe’s had hired as manager of all nurses a woman who had just graduated from nursing school.

St. Joe’s, think of me as being here to help you become a better hospital.

And let’s start with my catheter bag, which is full to overflowing and no nurse has come in to check it.

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
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