One Administrator, One Nurse, One Aide and 34 Patients

This morning my glucose was 129. It hasn’t been that low in several years after having topped out around 650. In recent months it has been averaging around 350. The nurse—a floater—said that 129 was a good number; I said it wasn’t. After 350, that was terribly low and I was shaking like a leaf. Try and get any staff member at James Square to get you a cup of orange juice.
And then there was the bowel non-movement problem. I am on a steady diet of the painkiller hydrocodone, which is an opioid, which causes constipation. I hadn’t had a bowel movement in almost two weeks. A prune juice cocktail—prune juice and butter, heated—caused some movement this morning—you could probably hear me screaming all the way across town.
In fact, weeks ago—if not months ago—two stool softeners were ordered three times a day. The nurse who took the order entered it in the computer as PRN, that is, whenever I wanted it. I didn’t know the order was there and James Square staff never gave it to me.
All this was told to me by Melissa Alt, R.N., and most recent—and fifth—unit nurse manager in the seven months I’ve been here. She replaced Roz Richardson, who quit after James Square failed to provide her with adequate staffing ( . The Day Shift on this unit is supposed to consist of the nurse manager, her assistant, two Licensed Practical Nurses, four Certified Nurses’ Aides, a unit clerk, and 34 patients. Roz fought to get the staffing she was supposed to have but finally quit.
Melissa, who is a lovely young woman, repeatedly tells me that she will not quit. I don’t believe her. Do you have any idea how many of these women have sat here and wept?
This morning Melissa arrived at work at 7:00 a.m. to find only one LPN and one aide staffing her floor.
And what does the NYS Dept. of Health do about it?
Write reports.

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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