Thursday, April 27, 2006

Misadventures in the Industry of Dying.

If I could concentrate on my writing I might get published and perhaps earn money that way, but I've got the dreaded "writer's block" and the flake's shakes and so I turn to quicker, more regular methods of earning cash, such as geriatric nursing. Gerontology is a science as complicated and earnest as any other, only there is an urban myth that mostly burnt-out nurses enter the field because they can get away with murder, doing as little as possible for their patients are going to die anyway. This is a drag as old people deserve better.

I believe I'm a caring and brainy person, finding the science of aging interesting and challenging, but Jack the Rapist and Jill the Torturer are more likely to get the milch-cow shifts as they're experts at smarmy smiling and sucking up to the bosses, whereas I've often got the ironic smirk or the terse critique and can't stand kissing arse. I'm hoping one day to publish a book entitled, "Misadventures in the Industry of Dying", full of bitter, satirical anecdotes of all the of death-pits I've worked in across Sydney, surely a fascinating subject for contemporary, aging society to dwell upon.

Today I went for a job interview that I'd noticed was advertised for many weeks, the DON ringing me 3 times and begging me to consider it. I should've been warned but I thought I'd travel out to the edge of Sydney to eyeball the joint and meet the boss face to face. I got off the train and wandered up the Pacific Highway, used car lots on one side of the road, used people lots on the other, nursing homes lined up for as far as the eye could see. I laboured way up a hill till I came to a dilapidated mansion, with a fancy name, The Bonnie-view Palace, emblazoned on the front.

Inside the Federation-style edifice I was greeted with the musty smell of old age and creaky decor. Made to wait outside the Matron's office, I got nervous as I viewed the crowd of ancients in their wheelchairs in the day-room, staring wistfully into space while huge-hipped, vast bottomed assistant nurses cooed sweet nothings into their wrinkled ears, ""Excuse me, sweetheart, while I shift you over a few feet. There you go, darling, that's your diversional activity for the day." I shuddered, compassionate but terrified, thinking, "If this is old age, nogod save me from it!" Finally the DON, (Director of Nursing), came out to shake my hand, a giant of a woman, squeaky clean and blow-dried perfect; the DON's job of managing the whole shebang is a tough one and they need the build and hide of a rhinoceros to keep the entropic show on the road. She led the way into her office and introduced me to her deputy, another type-cast slave at the conveyor-belt of death, a female ogre who does all the bitch work with the underlings so the DON can keep up the saccharine smiles.

Without further ado I proceed to interview them, discovering that it's a 55 bed house, two floors, with one assistant for the lone RN, downstairs and up. It's an 8 hour shift with 4 rounds in the night, at 12, 2, 4 and 6 am, with the RN running between the floors changing incontinence pads and turning Pressure Area Care residents, no other real nursing procedures like medication or dressings, just glorified nappy-changing non-stop. I've got 2 University degrees and not one subject dwelt on the specifics of cleaning up shit. This was a private, profit-oriented concern where the RN was expected to do the job of an assistant wiping ancient bums all night as well as have the life and death responsibility for 55 patients so the owners could save and make money.

It was all too much backbreaking drudgery for this old curmudgeon as it did not pay enough, plus too far to travel for the pleasure of being a slave, an hour and a half on the train to get out there, so I knocked the 2 biddies back, much to their displeasure, and was shown the way out. "What's the workforce coming to, when a good job goes begging", they frowned telepathically at me. That job's been available for months and nobody else wants it either, and as such is a good case for bringing in a third-world worker who will work under tougher conditions for lower pay, and they're welcome to the job. (I feel sorry  for the oldies who will thus get unsatisfactory care.) I'll hire on with an Agency, get twice the pay, less responsibility, (because there will be two RNs) and half the drudgery, assistants doing most of the shit-work, me the Reg nurse doing the science. Yes, I'm a fussy fuckwit, with no cause to complain, but nursing does make for a fascinating story, so I'll continue with my anecdotes on the "Industry of Dying", as nobody else seems to have the nerve or the quirky eye for it.