Anxiety, Blog, Bosses, Cancer, Colorado, Depression, Disability, Electronic Health Records, Essential Tremors, Family, Grandchildren, Hospitals, Moving, Texas, Work

Who I Used to Be – Part 2

I was up for a new challenge–everything was going so well that I really didn’t feel like my hospital needed me any longer.  I accepted a job with another hospital system to help them implement an EHR in their children’s hospital. They had been through 4 senior project managers, and they all left saying the staff was impossible to deal with.

However, before I started that job, I took time off to stay with my grandson when my daughter-in-law went back to work.  I stayed for a month so that he could get accustomed to life without Mom for a while before he had to stay with a babysitter. It was hard to go back home, but I had a new job waiting for me.

I was shocked at the anger I faced when I first met with the ER staff. They had a list of 32 items that they were told they were going to have to live with.  I knew better…  I promised them I would get those 32 items resolved before go-live.  I started to bring the analysts to the meetings with staff so they could understand their concerns.  I also brought candy! Needless to say, the go-live was great.  It just takes building trust and making things happen. I got in big trouble when I went to the units to see how the computer installations were going. The ED was perfect–they had laptops on extending arms.  Perfect! But, the inpatient units were a disaster! IT put the computer units on the nursing work surface in each room, and the monitors about 6 feet up on the wall.  There is no way in H$%# that a 5 ft. 2 in. nurse could work with that set-up. Not only that, but that left the computers in the patient rooms, and if someone forgot to log out, patients could access their own and other patients’ records.

I met with the nurse managers of the units and encouraged them to go to the CEO and tell her they needed carts that they could take with them from room to room.  They had very small work spaces, and the mouse and keyboard were taking up space there, too, not to mention being right beside the sink! Well, they went to the CEO and she stopped the purchase of any more of these units and ordered carts and laptops. I got in trouble with my boss.  I told her she could fire me, but there was no way the setup they had was going to work, and there was no way I would change my mind. I kept my job, but I was told to never do anything like that again. Needless to say, I started looking for another job–I can’t work in a place that doesn’t support integrity.

Me at my desk in the work trailer before the hospital opening
Me at my desk in the work trailer before the hospital opening

After the go-live, I accepted a position in a hospital under construction. I joined a staff of one other analyst, building and connecting several different applications with 6 months to get it all done and in place for the hospital opening. My priorities were lab, radiology, pharmacy and ER. I also was responsible for all of the interfaces of medical equipment like cardiac and labor monitors. On the day we opened the hospital we had a fully functional electronic health record. Of course, we had some glitches here and there, but now we could go to work making improvements and adding functionality that staff requested. \

Our new hospital entrance and ER
Our new hospital entrance and ER

One of my favorite requests was when a pharmacist asked me if there was a way they could get culture results as soon as they were completed.  Yes, the results were posted to patient records when completed, but pharmacists are not mind readers, and they would have to check all patient records where antibiotics were ordered to see if results were posted. Having them sent to the pharmacy would give them the opportunity to alert the physician if they had ordered the wrong antibiotic and make sure the patient received the correct medication. It took me about an hour to make that happen, and I got a big hug from that pharmacist.  She said she had never been able to get that to happen anywhere else. It was things like that I can look back on with a little pride.  Something so simple was so important to patient care, yet no one had ever taken the time to make it work.

My grandson making funny faces
My grandson making funny faces

Every time I visited, they said I should just move here. When I was here for my grandson’s 2nd birthday, I finally gave in and looked for job opportunities in the Denver area. I applied for a clinical informatics position with a large healthcare organization. I applied on-line and told them I was in town for a few more days in case they wanted to talk to me.  I got a call that afternoon and had an interview the next day.  I went home and back to work on Tuesday.  On Wednesday, when I was driving home, I got a call offering me the position. 30 days later, I was moved into my home in Aurora and going to my new job.

I was responsible for over 100 hospitals and over 2,000 clinics to make sure they were meeting all of the documentation requirements specified by CMS. Since the hospitals were located all over the country, I had to do quite a bit of travel.  It was good to get to know the people I was talking to on conference calls, and we developed a good working relationship between the clinics and hospitals. Millions of dollars in incentives were on the line. I enjoyed my job, but not my boss. The stress of working for this person was enormous.

Me as my hair began to grow back after treatment
Me as my hair began to grow back after treatment

A year after I moved here I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I have no doubt that the stress I was under had something to do with the growth of these tumors. I had surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. I tried to work during radiation, but soon discovered that the fatigue was just too great. I did return to work a few days after my last radiation treatment in order to keep my job.  I was permitted to work from home for a while, but then was required by my boss to go to the office three days a week.

I began to experience symptoms from treatment.  The first problem was essential tremors.  I was embarrassed to go to meetings at the office because I couldn’t hold a glass or bottle of water with one hand because of the shaking. I started to have extreme swelling in my left leg–twice my oncologist ordered STAT ultrasounds, but there were no clots. I started to fall regularly–I could fall over standing still. My PCP sent me to a neurologist who diagnosed peripheral neuropathy and confirmed the essential tremors. I developed arthritis in the joints in my hands, knees and one hip. Being on the computer all day was very painful. I had a constant UTI from sitting all day. I developed Raynaud’s disease, and chemo brain began to creep up on me.  I had trouble reading and interpreting the Federal Register to find new documentation requirements. I would read one paragraph over and over and still not know what I read. I had trouble with words. Soon, people started finishing my sentences and inserting words that I couldn’t “find.” I was suffering from depression and anxiety. My boss (in a rare moment of kindness) suggested I take a leave of absence.

The kids and me at Barr Lake State Park
The kids and me at Barr Lake State Park

I have been on long-term disability for 2-1/2 years.  My benefits run out in April because I was 65 when I became disabled. My symptoms have not improved, and I have had to accept the fact that I will never be able to go back to doing work that I loved. I will be moving to TX in a couple of weeks, and I’m hoping that will help with my health, at least a little bit.

As I resign myself to who I am now, it was nice to look back at the letters, thank you notes, and awards I received when I was who I used to be. At least I know I had worth back then. I keep hoping that something of who I was will come back, but as time goes on, I know that’s not happening.  I have to accept who I am now and be proud of the person I was.