“Hey, by the way, Lewaltzia (not her real name) left the gas on in here, so you should stay out for a few minutes while the room vents.” I said, poking my head out of the recently vacated operating room (OR) into the hallway that connects all of them to one another, referred to as the sterile corridor.
The other scrub nurse, who is pregnant and therefore on a zero-exposure protocol for the isoflurane gas we use for anesthesia in the ORs, was not pleased. “Again? Okay, that’s three times. I’m going to report it.”
I tried to talk her out of it. Lewaltzia was already not having a great day, having gotten into it with one of the surgeons because one of her xrays was of the wrong limb. Which is her fault, yes, but also probably not something she needs to be lit up, down, and sideways for, because she’s an ape, and all apes make mistakes from time to time. Like, would it have been so hard to say, “Hey, that isn’t the correct leg, do you have any other views?” instead of stomping around and being pissy about it? Apparently it would.
But I digress.
“No, nonononono, don’t do that,” I returned. “Or don’t do it today, anyway. Just don’t do it today.” But the other nurse was adamant. And I have to say, three times in two weeks is probably something that should be reported. Technically, four times, because Lewaltzia did it once to me, too, the week before, but I’m not pregnant and have long since discovered that reporting every single minor error to management – of whom Lewaltzia is one; she is one of the two co-managers of our department – is a royal waste of my and their time and my energy is better spent getting over it and moving on with my day.
“Just send an email, then,” I allowed, still suspecting that this was not going to end well.
It turns out I was right about that, because later that day, I could hear Lewaltzia and my friend talking about it in the OR while I was in the sterile corridor scrubbing in, and it was clearly not to my friend’s advantage. She came out of the room extremely upset, because during the conversation, Lewaltzia had insinuated that it “wasn’t a big deal” because the oxygen pressure was at zero so there wasn’t an exposure risk, and that it was “everyone’s responsibility” to make sure the gas was turned off after a surgery.
There is so much b.s. in that argument that I don’t even know where to start. There are a few things that are “everyone’s responsibility,” but turning the anesthesia on and off is decidedly not one of them – only licensed technicians are supposed to handle the gas. Speaking of responsibility, stocking the ORs is supposed to be everyone’s responsibility but I can’t remember the last time someone came down on anesthetist rather than an assistant if something was missing. And, of note, every single other anesthetist I’ve worked with turns both the oxygen and the isoflurane off him or herself, every single time. Technically, unlicensed nurses aren’t even supposed to touch the damn machines other than to clean them. Finally, if there’s no chance of exposure, then why do we bother turning the gas off at all?
“You know that’s not right!” I hissed – I didn’t want Lewaltzia to overhear us – “That’s so much bullshit!” I wished I could hug my fellow nurse but I was already scrubbing in and couldn’t touch anyone. “You know if that happened while she was pregnant she would lose her shit!” Lewaltzia knows the protocol, better than any of us. I was awed by her audacity, but not really surprised. There’s no accountability in this institution. The only people who ever get in trouble for anything are us lowly assistants.
Anyway, what had happened was this: my friend reported it to the other manager, Quideara (not her real name) who has a false equivalence problem. She assumes that whenever there is a disagreement, both points of view are equally valid. I’m sure this is true some of the time, but by and large it isn’t, and it’s her job to point that out and hold one, rather than both, parties accountable, which she refuses to do because that would require mental effort and could possibly lead to someone disliking her, both of which she avoids like the plague. It’s frustrating, but it’s how things are. So I was pretty sure, before my friend reported Lewaltzia, that it wouldn’t yield the proper outcome. But I crossed my fingers that Quideara might surprise me and do the right thing.
I don’t understand why our supervisors are so allergic to admitting they might be doing something incorrectly, or otherwise taking responsibility for their own actions. I certainly have gotten exactly nowhere when trying to explain to them that normal instructions for higher-order tasks are not enough for a person with autism. I wonder if it’s because they’re worried that if they admit they were wrong about something or don’t know something that people will lose respect for them. But paradoxically, the opposite is true. Because they refuse to admit that they’re ever wrong and always push it back on their staff, their staff resents them and will undercut or ignore them at every opportunity.
If managers would hold themselves to the same standards of accountability that they hold us to, it would be different. We’d relate to them and respect them more. We’d be more likely to do what they ask and give them the benefit of the doubt if we didn’t understand them. We’d also be more respectful of each other, instead of continuing to gossip about them and one another behind one another’s backs. Which still happens, and seems to be getting worse, no matter how many emails we get about a respectful workplace. It’s fascinating to me that my managers have yet to realize that these and other such policy emails are absof***ing useless. I mean, I’m the one with autism, right? I’m the one who is supposed to not understand how social interactions work. And yet here I am again, in a position of seeing quite clearly what is going on while those around me appear to be willfully ignorant.
I don’t bother emailing my complaints for much of anything, and if I do, I agonize over it because I don’t want to be responsible for another assistant getting written up for something that probably only requires a gentle reminder. But for my supervisors, emails are a way of feeling like they’re doing something without their actually having to do anything. If you want us to be more respectful to one another, for instance, firing off another email isn’t going to get you there. You have to treat us with respect and make us feel valued, which again, requires more thought and effort than I’ve ever seen from any of my immediate supervisors, who claim to be too busy doing their “real” jobs to care. There’s no point in trying to get them to pay attention to the staff or put themselves in our shoes; it’s not going to happen. They only notice us when something goes wrong. Otherwise, we’re invisible grunts.
I’ve also learned that having a response doesn’t make you responsible. Responsibility takes strength and work. It’s not automatically conferred by your title. So I just fix stuff if I am able and ignore it if I’m not. Because I don’t care any more.
You don’t care about me, I don’t care about you. That’s how it works.