The Cafeteria is having a special on Sour Pickles

Hey, Friends.

Well, I had “round 2” of compensation and pension today.  If you have been reading this blog you know my stress level at the Psychiatry portion of C&P and that I have to travel to a distant VA…because I am a VA employee.

I think I work at a very good VA hospital.  I love my job very much and I love my patients.  The staff in my clinic is, for the most part, very caring and enjoy taking care of veterans.  We all have our bad days…but I think that we try to meet the needs of our veterans with concern and compassion.

I guess the VA I went to must have had a special on Sour Pickles in the cafeteria today.  No greetings.  No smiles.  In fact, simple polite acknowledgement of the presence of another human being seemed too much for some of these people.

I started in the lab and I went in and entered my SSN into the system.  I waited for my name to come up and then I went to stand in the hall and wait.  (I know how to run the lab systems…)  Very rudely this woman goes, “Ma’am…Ma’am…where are you going?”  There was another woman there who obviously was much nicer and she joked about me doing what the screen says.  I said that I work at a VA lab…so I know the deal.  The woman drawing my blood was still horribly rude…even though she knew I was a VA employee (which sometimes improves the attitude.)  She did become much, much nicer…after she missed the vein and dug in my arm for a few minutes.  She hit me on the second attempt.  I am not bothered by that…I am very hard to get blood out of.  Still, she should have skipped the Sour Pickle.

Next stop was X-Ray.  Again, I was barely acknowledged and she wrote down my name, last four and grunted to the waiting room.  After 30 minutes I went to the desk to make sure that I hadn’t been forgotten.  Remember, I work at the VA…I know that sometimes mistakes get made with waiting patients.  It is always best to double check.  The X-ray tech finally came and got me.  Now she was nice!  She was friendly and chatty and despite all of the films they took, she tried to make me as comfortable as possible.  She had to place the lead apron up across my neck but she had obviously had some sort of experience or training in MST patients.  She was very sure to double check that I was feeling okay and even mentioned that “some patients are made uncomfortable and feel trapped, so let me know if you feel that way.”  If I were “secret shopping” she would definately get an A+.

Off to Comp and Pen.  Finally, I get some really nice people!  The LPN, who was a male, came over to help get me checked in and to give me the bad news…I would be seeing Jim.  Jim is not a woman.  I was told I would have a woman.  Jim was not a woman.  When I questioned the male LPN about this he immediately introduced me to Heather.  “We know this is a change, so we have arranged for Heather to be in the room with you the whole time.  Will that be okay with you?” 

Hell, yeah!  That will be great!  Of course, I said it much more polite than that…but those were my thoughts.  Obviously, they were prepared and sensitive to my needs.  I didn’t have to question.  I didn’t have to explain.  Arrangements had been made.

Jim, the Nurse Practitioner, was very nice and I think he was genuinely interested in my medical issues and doing right by me.  He was examining my shoulder (the one with the “phantom pain”) and when I flinched in discomfort he said, “well, that is where the muscle attaches.”  He was aware that the shoulder pain “is all in my head” but he said that he wasn’t so sure about that.  Some of it may be psychological but it seems that I might have some continuing muscle/soft tissue strain.  I don’t know if I believe him…but I do thank him for trying to do a good exam that favors me.

Jim drew me a map to the travel office but I got turned around anyway.  I was standing in the hallway with VA badges all around me, but apparently everybody in the hall had eaten the Sour Pickles that day so I didn’t see anyone I could approach.  Finally, a male housekeeper, with a smile on his face as he wiped a window seemed nice.  He was happy to give me directions and we laughed about maps without grid coordinates. 

Travel hardly knew I was there, until I thanked him for handling an earlier issue.  Then he was better.  The clerk that I got travel pay from ignored me…shoved papers through the window…then didn’t even respond to my thank you.

Overall, I would rate this facility at a C-.  The one woman in lab, the X-Ray tech, the entire Comp and Pen staff and the housekeeper all get A+ plus extra credit.  They were the only thing that kept the whole experience from being a total failure.

I had always heard from Veterans that our facility was very good and that our clinic was really good.  I knew that we had a good staff, but I guess I was really naive and thought that most VA’s were like mine.  Wow…did I learn a lesson!  Now I know why there are people who hate their VA.  If I had to go to that place for medical care…I think I would go somewhere else too!

The staff at the facility that did my Psychiatry exam was much nicer.  Maybe I just didn’t notice as much because I was so terrified that day.  I did learn something very important today about my job.  I got an up front center row view of how my patients view me.  How they see me everyday and how I make them feel.  This past week I have been in a bit of a funk a couple of days at work, on account of some things happening, and I haven’t been quite as “UP” as I like to be.  I just hope that none of my patients that come to my lab think that the cafeteria is having a special on Sour Pickles.  I know how scary that is.




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