Saturday, July 10, 2010

A Balancing Act: The Chaos of Life

While this blog is primarily geared towards my spirituality and spiritual practice, this entry may end up being more about work. This blog is still in its early stages, and as I believe all areas of life are intertwined, aspects of life such as where one works, can effect their spiritual practices(and vice versa). Therefore, I feel occasionally discussing my work(to the extent I'm legally allowed), such as in this entry, provides a bigger picture of who I am as a person, and how that impacts my spirituality. So while there is a spiritual topic in mind for this entry, as has happened before, the backstory may end up becoming the focus. Such is the case with free-association writing, I suppose.

I work at what is most easily explained as a mental hospital for adolescents. The facility has two units: a general aggressive/addictions side, and a sex offender side. From February 2008 to July 1, 2010, I worked full-time, 2nd shift. As of July 1, I am part-time/flex. This basically means that every month, I give my supervisors a calendar of what days and hours I'm available to work for that month. This month the schedule is pretty much the same, and I still will primarily work 2nd shift, with a few days doing a split shift(i.e., first shift is from 7:00am-3:30pm;second shift is 3:00pm-11:30pm; on split shift days I will be working, for example, 11:00am-7:30pm). I did this in part to make more time for grad school, as I start my first internship next month. In part, it is also because I'm just sick of the drama and want to be there as little as I can. Since other places seem hesitant to hire a grad student, this is the best arrangement I've been able to come up with. If all goes as planned, I will be there just enough to pay the bills; financial aid overage checks each semester will fill in the gaps; and aside from vision, I'm not worried about insurance, as I have student insurance through my school, which is included in my tuition.

This place is one of the most corrupt I have ever worked. We are supposed to have a staff-to-patient ratio of 1 staff for every 5 patients, however I have been regularly left alone with as many as 15 kids. We don't find out until we arrive at our shift which unit we are going to work on - 99% of the time, I work the sex offender side, although once in a while I work the general aggressive side, usually when it's decided one of the sex offenders has become unhealthily attached to me. I've been involved in three serious runaway attempts since starting working there, and in all three incidents, they have tried to find some way to blame me for it. Two of those incidents, I was the only staff actually trying to catch the kid. The most recent, I single-handedly stopped the kid from jumping over the gates, and their reaction was still basically "you should have never let him get out of the building to begin with." The one prior to that, it was thought(admittedly by myself as well) that the kid running was somehow due to not getting to talk to me when he wanted(because he was VERY attached to me, and pretty much as close to my stalker as you can get in a hospital setting), and I worked the general aggressive unit for two months, until I was assaulted, resulting in a black eye, busted lip, bruised ear, mild concussion, and a broken nose that required surgery. It was premeditated for two days before the attack, the kid's therapist had been warned, as had administrative staff and my supervisors, and I still ended up assigned to that kid's area. And then, they attempted to cover it up. Some co-worker friends looked shortly after, and the documentation regarding the incident "disappeared", the police report I still have in my possession being the only evidence I know of.  Most recently, we admitted three patients who were on their local news for starting a riot at their previous facility. The parent company, Psychiatric Solutions, Inc., has been in a slew of legal troubles and malpractice issues involving patients being raped, deaths, and even a riot that required a SWAT team.

 At my facility I work in itself, there is little communication between staff or departments. I've seen staff curse at kids;a staff was recently fired for throwing a shoe at a kid;and I've heard of at least one staff who sneaks alcohol and drinks on the job. On the sex offender unit, the kids are divided into groups 1 and 2. I was assigned to group 1, with the additional assignment of being in charge of monitoring laundry. The kids are designated specific laundry days to manage this, Rooms 1, 3, and 5 on Monday, rooms 7, 9, and 11 on Tuesday, etc. This is because in a 60 bed facility, there are only 3 washers and 3 dryers. The sex offender unit has one washer, one dryer, and 27 kids. I went around the rooms, making a list of who needed to wash clothes, starting off with whoever was actually designated for that day, and planning on fitting in emergency washes as I'm able afterwards. A co-worker and good friend of mine was assigned to shower duty. 27 kids and two bathrooms mean one staff pretty much has to spend the whole shift making sure everybody gets a shower and is able to use the restroom when needed, because of course, there can't be more than one person in the bathroom at a time, because they could rape each other and God knows what else since there are no cameras in the bathroom. Another co-worker was assigned to the hallway, to monitor the kids who, for one reason or another, was either unable or unwilling to go to their designated group areas(each unit has a "day room", a "living room", two bathrooms, and their bedrooms, the doors of which have to remain open) and remained in their bedrooms. However, that staff took on the responsibility of doing laundry upon himself, resulting in (1)kids getting to do laundry that I had not intended to do laundry yet, (2)kids not doing laundry that should have, and (3)my co-worker, a female, being basically left alone with a 17year old schizoaffective serial rapist who has even tried to rape his social worker.

Thursday was probably the only day that week that I wasn't assigned, alone, to the hall, with the kids who can't or won't go anywhere. Included in that group is this one 11 year old kid. I have been instructed by not only my supervisors, but their supervisors as well, not to restrain the kid should he become destructive or aggressive towards himself or others. The reason, is because he specifically puts me in situations to where I do have to, because he is attracted to me and gets sexual gratification out of my restraining him. But yet I still end up being assigned to his area 95% of the time. So what always ends up happening, is that I'll be with him, inevitably he'll start acting out, then I'll have to switch out with another staff so that they can restrain him, because I've been ordered not to. Yesterday, I was with him for a good 3-4 hours before a co-worker finally relieved me so I could take my 30 minute meal break. When I returned, I asked that co-worker if he was okay staying there for awhile while I worked his area a bit, to give me a chance to move around a little and work off some energy, get some paperwork done, etc., and he was fine with it. The kid started biting himself and proceeded to be disruptive for the next 2-3 hours. Knowing that he wanted me there, I intentionally didn't return to his area after that, because that would be reinforcing the negative behavior and thoughts that say "If I want this, I'll hurt myself and get my way". It gets to be very overwhelming - I'm the "go to" person for a lot of my coworkers, and I regularly get called on by most of the kids on the unit I'm working for everything from "I need to see the nurse for my headache" to "My roommate just hit me". Even if there are 5 other staff in the area, I'm the one people keep yelling for. In spite of my unsuccessful attempts otherwise, kids try to call me "Uncle", "Dad", "big brother", etc. All at once, I'll have one kid asking me some weird question, the 11 year old acting like my shadow, and another kid trying to talk to me about some book, and then inevitably going into tirades of "shut the fuck up, I'm talking to Chad!" when someone interrupts him.

I was going to do this as one entry, with the reflections on the background info at the end. But, as I predicted, the backstory became the focus, and it's gotten very long. So this is to be continued in "A Balancing Act: Order out of Chaos".


JeniMac said...

Dang, I knew it was bad...but my word!

Angel said...

You are a brave, brave man. Please tell me you have a script for Xanax.

The sad thing is that if you went to the medical board concerning the illegal ratio of staff to kids you'd only end up getting fired.

Chadly said...

Pretty much. From things I've heard, the place has been reported to DSS,etc. before, even before I got hired. It's a bad position to be in: legally you're really required to report abuse, etc., but in places like this, doing so would also put your job in jeopardy, and plus if the place has already been reported and they haven't done anything, then what?