Up the Hierarchy


At James Square Nursing Home in Syracuse, there is a hierarchy. On 3 South, a 34-bed rehabilitation unit, the hierarchy starts with Certified Nursing Assistants (CNA). There are supposed to be four CNAs on Day Shift, three on Evenings and two on Nights.

Currently, two CNAs are gone: Chaz, a lazy, good-for-nothing young man who was working two double shifts on weekends, and we are—sort of—better off without him. The “sort of” is that it is very difficult to find anyone to hire for the position. No one knows whether Chaz quit or was fired.

Likewise, Belle is gone without anyone knowing if she quit or got fired. Belle worked Day Shift and was a tall, slender, young woman. She was sweet and kind, but slower than molasses. When she was washing up patients, we wanted to cry “Hurry up!” but we didn’t because she was slow but sweet.

Next up the hierarchy are the LPNs—Licensed Practical Nurses. The 3 South Unit is set up in a rectangle with two LPNs, one on each side passing medications. Theoretically, the priorities are (a) alarms, (b) pain medications, (c) toileting, and (d) passing food trays. In fact, LPNs often ignore alarms and toileting. And their stupid attitude is that they will pass meds routinely around their side of the rectangle without regard to priorities.

Again, theoretically, when a patient needs pain medication s/he pushes the call bell. Within ten minutes, a CNA answers the bell then takes the message to the LPN who, within ten minutes, brings the medication. In fact, it often takes an hour from when the patient pushes the call bell until the nurse arrives with the medication. An hour can be hell when you are in pain.

Currently, two LPNs are gone. One is Tee, full name Tanzania. I have filed multiple complaints against Tee, who has a terrible attitude and may have been doing drugs. Among other things, she ordered me not to call the nursing station “because it’s a business phone.”

Fact: James Square is being paid by the taxpayers to provide services to me. When they fail to do so then I have the right, if not the responsibility, to call the nursing station and file a complaint. What—Tee does not understand that it is a business call? Tee was terminated with prejudice and I hope she never works in human services again.

LPN Christin is also gone. She was careless, negligent, and didn’t do a good job, but I liked her. She was kind, friendly and just a really nice person. Six of one and half a dozen of the other. She would do things like throw pills in the patient’s trashcan, which is just not the right way to dispose of pills when you’ve made a mistake in bringing the wrong ones. Chris got written up for disciplinary reasons too many times, and her faults were too often potentially fatal. She finally got fired.

The next person up the hierarchy is the unit manager, a Registered Nurse with a Master’s degree. Unit 3 South has had five unit managers in the seven months I have been here.

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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