Wednesday, March 30, 2011

End of March 2011 Random Thoughts

Facebook and other social networking sites are not accessible through our company’s Wi-Fi or LAN connections (well, maybe Friendster is not banned, but who uses that nowadays anymore?). However, while messing around with MSN Live Messenger, I discovered that you can see updates, make comments, and otherwise do everything else you do at the Facebook website. Psst, don’t tell our IT department or they might block that too. Incidentally, I just discovered that by responding to email notifications from Facebook, you can post comments that way too. I guess this is especially helpful when certain websites are blocked by your workplace network. . Well, excuse me, but I’m a late learner.
                After doing long walks the past couple of weeks, I mounted the treadmill to do a jog a few days ago and when I woke up the next day, my hips and lower back were very, very sore. It was the kind of soreness I used to ignore because I tolerated it better, and knowing that it would pass in a couple of days. This time I was more aware of it. How about this: when I stay immobile for long periods of time, I have to grunt or groan when I finally move. Do you think the post run soreness and the groaning has something to do with age? No doubt about it!
                I was watching a Korean soccer movie based in East Timor (A Barefoot Dream). Halfway through, I had to Google the country because I didn’t know anything about it at all. One of the websites was the CIA website which enlightened me on East Timor’s violent recent past. Surprisingly, a lot of the words in their language is strikingly very similar to my native dialect of Tausug in the Philippines. After all they are both Malay- based languages. The country also has a lot of Hispanic sounding names due to being a past colony of Portugal. Let me tell you this though, that was a very well made movie: funny, emotional, and uplifting, plus this – based on a true story.
The electronic medical records countdown has began and by April 4th we will be transitioning from the traditional chart binders to computer documentation. What does that mean to us mental health workers? Well, less paper of course. The chart packs we make on the night shift will significantly diminish. Pretty soon they may not be needing us because we may become redundant. If they can only get the licensed nurses to check the patients every 15 minutes and take them out for smoke breaks, it will make my position unnecessary.
                Are you using GPS based running apps for the IPhone or Android? How well do they work compared to GPS watches?  Will they make GPS watches unnecessary?
A co-worker ask me to look at his neighbor’s computer to find out why it wouldn’t connect to the internet. After the computer booted, I connected to our work wi-fi and instantly connected to the internet without any problems. I asked my co-worker if his neighbor had an internet connection at home. He said he didn’t know. I’m guessing that the neighbor never had an internet connection but assumed that after buying the computer, the internet automatically came with it. How many people do you think have that problem?
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Monday, March 28, 2011

The Cameras That Follow Us

There has been a rash of firings at my place of work in recent weeks for different reasons which leave the rest of us who remain quaking in our boots except we don’t wear boots. Nobody seems to be immune to the terminations regardless of how long you have been with the company. Not that the fired people are blameless because they themselves have to answer for their mistakes. So what were these mistakes you ask? One of the first who got fired had been transferred from one shift to another, and one unit to another because she just couldn’t get along with her co-workers, so when she suddenly took several days off without permission because her mother passed away, they found reason to can her. I know, I know, the timing was terrible, however she had a responsibility to at least tell her supervisor what was going on before attending to pressing family affairs. The next two who were fired were people I worked with. This is apparently what happened: one night one of them redirected a patient who wandered into another patients’ room. A week after  the patient got discharged, she reported to the staff at another facility that she was molested by my co-worker who redirected her. That started the ball rolling with a police report and the suspension of two of my co-workers. Why two? We are supposed to check all patients every 15 minutes. Apparently, at the time that one of the workers was redirecting the patient, the other staff member wrote on his check sheet that the patient was asleep. In that case he wasn’t keeping an accurate record of what the patient was doing. That may have been the primary reason for his suspension. So why were the two fired a couple of weeks later? This is where the cameras come in. All the hallways of our hospital are monitored by cameras connected to DVR’s which can record activities for a whole month before restarting at the beginning of the disk. Well, these two co-workers have a tendency to sit at their respective corners for extended periods of time without getting up to do their frequent checks. When the camera is zoomed, they can be seen snoozing in their chairs. By the way, the cameras are high definition so it’s hard to deny that you are indeed that person sitting in that corner. So what led to their downfall in the end was not the accusation of molestation, but rather the sleeping on the job. How did their firings affect me? Those were the two people I relied on working for me if I wanted to take an extra day off. Now I have to find someone else to cover for me and it’s been difficult so far. The reason why I have to take an extra day off every two weeks is because my vacation time has reached its limit and I couldn’t earn any more.
On another unit, a registered nurse and two mental health workers were also fired because a patient complained about being beaten up by them. Apparently the patient had facial bruises. In this line of work, we often have to deal with violent patients and from time to time place them in a locked room or in restraints. Some staff members though can become too rough when “taking down” a patient which could lead to serious injuries. Of course not only the patient can get injured in these “take downs”, the staff can too. I don’t know exactly what happened in this instance but the cameras probably also played a major role in contributing to the evidence against these three staff members.
Another termination happened to one of the employees who had been working at her unit for about 14 years. The claim against her? Falsification of records. One of the patients climbed a wall and escaped during a smoke break in the evening, however this staff member continued to write on her check sheet that the patient was still on the unit. It was not until another staff member saw the escapee near a grocery store down the street did the unit become aware of the breakout. A lot of the workers here question why it took three weeks before the unfortunate long term worker was fired. She was even in my electronic medical records class last week.
So lately we have become more aware and vigilant of the presence of the electronic eyes that follow us wherever we go or whatever we do in the hospital. You never know if one slip will be the one which would include you in the ranks of the unemployed. Was that a temblor that just happened, or were those just my knees quaking in fear?
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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Finally, Electronic Medical Records Class Completed!

Well I finally got through electronic medical records training on March 24th after the original class was cancelled four weeks ago. But first I had to wake up at 5 A.M. even though the class wasn’t until 8 o’clock, so I could fit in a slightly shortened workout on the spinning bike. The class itself, for me, wasn’t too complicated, but maybe I’m only saying that because there were instructors there to guide us. In a couple of days, I may have already forgotten the steps to access those medical records.
 I was wondering why they scheduled a whole day class for it and when we started I found out why. Despite the proliferation of computers and access to the internet in homes and workplaces, would it surprise you to know that there are still a lot of people (probably mostly middle aged and above) who don’t even know what a double click, a right click, or a left click is, much more even opening internet explorer? And that’s not even mentioning what maximize, minimize, or close a window are. So that was the first part of the class which took slightly more than an hour. I’m glad the instructors were very patient in teaching the more computer challenged among us. That didn’t bode too well for the next two sections we had to learn and those were entering data into the computer using a dedicated electronic medical records program, then learning to use a similar technique while using a hand held device similar to the scanners grocery and store workers use to scan products. If one already uses an Iphone or Android device, the interface is pretty similar and you have to use a stylus (although your fingertips would work as well in most cases where the icons are not too tiny). The device also has a numeric and alphabet keyboard a la Kindle, although not in QWERTY layout which makes it slightly more difficult for experienced texters, but maybe easier for non-typists. And just like the store devices, it has a bar code scanner on top to be used to scan patient’s ID bracelets and medications (to make sure the right patient gets the right medication). If I lost you at this point and even bored you, my apologies for the detailed description, but I find devices somewhat fascinating. I just hope that we learn how to use them quickly and I’m sure that by just mere repetition, we would get the hang of it soon, and maybe even find some shortcuts as we learn to navigate the menus that the program has to offer. If not, well then at least the newbies now know how to right click, left click, and double click the mouse. With a little cheese, the mouse just might cooperate.
Well, after all that description, I found a picture of the hand held device. Would you believe how much that thing costs? About $1,600 each! I hope no one drops it.
I thought I finished writing about this, but I remembered asking one of the instructors at the class if the electronic medical records were also accessible from home and she showed me the item to click on the company website. So I was messing around with the website in the evening and was indeed able to access the EMR and thus was able to practice what we learned earlier in the day. High five to me!!!

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

All This Walking And Getting Nowhere

I did my longest walk on the treadmill on March 7th, Monday morning. It lasted  two and a half hours at 4.5 percent hill. What it got me were developing blisters on both big toes (fortunately, they didn’t become full blown blisters). The main reason I walked that long was that I had to get caught up with my reading and finished the day’s newspaper and finally got through the previous month’s Runner’s World magazine which I willed myself to finish because the new issue arrived a few days prior.
                Having said that, I don’t remember exactly the last time I ran unless I look in my exercise log. I did run kinda/sorta on the Sunday of the Los Angeles Marathon except I did it on the treadmill. Most of the workout was walking interspersed with 5 minute bouts of jogging (at a 10 % incline mind you!), until I reached an hour and a half. All the while I was glancing at the TV to see the developments of the marathon, then returning to read the Sunday paper while on the move.  When the male winner crossed the finish line, I immediately noticed that it was a record. That was the fastest L.A. Marathon ever regardless of several course changes through the years. If I remember correctly, I’ve run this marathon four times and one of those had similar rainy conditions as the last one. Please don’t ask me what year it was. I don’t feel like digging into the stacks of logbooks accumulated through the years.
                In the past couple of weeks, I’ve managed to reduce my walking time on the treadmill by raising the incline to its maximum 10 % and even though I have to hold on to the handlebars most of the time to keep from falling off, the breathing pattern starts to feel like running after about half an hour. Meaning, the effort feels almost like a run, which I don’t get from a flat terrain brisk walk. Thus, this has enabled me to decrease walking time to about an hour and 15 minutes. When I finally lower to incline back to 2 % for my cool down, it feels like walking downhill. The rest of my workouts remain on the stationary bike. This is the new me without much running to speak of.

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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Stick It In Your Ear With Flattery

I went home from work Thursday morning and hit the sack. As usual, I put in my earplugs to deaden the daytime noise so I could sleep. When I woke up in the afternoon, I took them off and felt pressure in my right ear. Part of the earplug broke off and got stuck inside my ear (the top two sections or flanges as seen on the photo above were left deep inside the ear canal). I got a pair of tweezers and tried to pull it out but since I couldn’t see what I was trying to pick, I couldn’t take the piece of foam rubber out. Fearing I might do additional damage by pushing the plug further in, I called my doctor’s office for some advice. They had an opening the same afternoon and would be able to see me. I was able to do a quick 45 minute interval workout on the stationary bike before going, so that took care of my exercise for the day. Normally if I wasn’t pressed for time, I would have ran or walked to and from the doctor’s office since it was only three miles away, but not on this day.
Upon arriving at the doctor’s office, I checked in and in no time,  the medical assistant called me in, weighed me, took my temperature, then escorted me to the examination room. This conversation transpired between medical assistant (M.A.) and I:
M.A. – are you still 53?
Me - yes
M.A.  – You don’t look 53
Me –  (smiling) oh thanks, you are such a good liar, you mean I look like I’m 60?
M.A. – no, you only look 30 plus
Me – (laughing) now you’re really pushing it.
M.A. – no really, I have friends who are in their 40’s and they look older than you.
Me – (smiling more widely now) well, thank you very much.
Come to think about it, it must be the very short haircut, or the botox, or the face lift! Never had the last two of course. Then the M.A. checked my blood pressure which was high by now because of all the unexpected flattery. Well not really. I was just very anxious about something being stuck in my ear. In short time the doctor came in and I showed him what was imbedded inside one of my orifices. He asked the M.A. for tweezers to try to take the piece of ear plug out. The tweezers slipped on the first attempt but the doctor succeeded the second time. Whew! What a relief. He advised me not to use any more earplugs. I’ll take it into consideration. Afterwards, I took my good old young looking self back home still glowing from the compliments or flattery that the medical assistant bestowed upon me.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

The Race Card Conundrum

I consider myself as apolitical and as color blind as one can get and I try to follow rules as it applies to everyone, but when a charge of racism is lodged on me albeit on a miniscule scale, I just bristle and have to speak out about it in my little platform here. So let me tell you what I’m talking about (it’s not as if you are here to stop me, LOL!).
 At work, we have scheduled smoke breaks 5 times a day, however when we get a new admission specially in the middle of the night, we allow the new patient to go outside to smoke out of the scheduled times before they go to bed. This is a one-time only courtesy for new admissions. Last Wednesday night, we had a new Caucasian patient who just came in and the staff took him out to the patio to smoke. Another patient who had been there for already two days and who happened to be black, noticed this and began demanding that he too be taken out to smoke. We explained to him the behavioral unit policy regarding scheduled smoke breaks and the courtesy smoke break for new patients. The black patient responded that the reason why we took the new patient to smoke was because he was white! I told him we would have done the same thing for him if he was a new admission, but he wouldn’t accept that reasoning. He proceed to complain to the charge nurse who also gave him the same reasons I did but the patient continued to claim racism. Now how can you respond to that?! I’m even more of a minority in this country than he is after all, and I’ve never complained about being racially discriminated upon. The patient continued to raise a stink continually using the race card and asked the charge nurse for a complaint form, then asked for my name so he could include it in his complaint. In the first place, it was not up to me to override whatever policy the unit had because I’m a mere mental health worker and at the bottom of the totem pole as far as the hierarchy of positions go. That was why I referred him to the charge nurse. I don’t exactly know why this patient was focusing so much on me since I was communicating with him as respectfully as I could. We happened to have another patient being admitted who was black, and he was also taken out to smoke. You would think that the complaining patient would have understood what we were talking about. But nooooo! The racial discrimination accusations continued, so in the end, the charge nurse decided to allow him to smoke to defuse the situation. Other patients noticed this and they also happened to be smokers and that would have created a problem because they could also have complained why allow one patient to smoke outside of scheduled times and not them. We lucked out this time because the other patients did not demand equal treatment as the one who complained of racism. By the way, those other patients also happened to be black. I can only hope that the complainer was only one of a few who still complain of being oppressed because of his color even if it was not justified. Some people will just claim whatever they can just to get what they want. This is the kind of behavior which hopefully, I’m enlightened enough to limit myself to not liking the person rather than the whole race. He surely showed a very bad example of manipulation. I just didn’t like the whole racial discrimination claim is all I’m saying.
After getting what he wanted, he talked to the charge nurse again and asked him to throw away his complaint, then he approached me and said he didn’t mean what he said before. I reiterated that this was not about color and he denied using the race card. That folks, is classic manipulative behavior. Did I mention that this patient just got out of jail and was wearing a tracking device on his ankle? Well, perhaps that’s beside the point…
Any of you who read this have any thoughts on the matter?

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

To Droid Or Not To Droid

         Reasons why I resisted the urge to go out and buy the Virgin Mobile LG Optimus V Android cell phone: I didn’t really need it is the primary reason. Another was that since I was subscribed to their minute to minute plan I was only required to pay 20 dollars every 3 months as long as I didn’t run out of minutes. Plus I wasn’t sure if I could download Android apps if I didn’t sign up for their beyond talk plan ( I found out later that I would be able to download the apps using a wi-fi connection, so that eliminated the need to switch my subscription.

         The phone was on sale at Best Buy for 20 dollars lesser than the list price, but it was out of stock. I waited until the last day of the sale before I went to the store to get a rain check. Maybe by the time they have it available, my urge to buy it would have cooled. Well I’ll be darned, but the next day, Target had the phone on sale for the same price as Best Buy, plus they were going to give you a 20 dollar gift card! My first thought was that they might be out of stock too since Virgin Mobile itself hasn’t had them for weeks. The first Target store I went to didn’t have it so I asked them to check at nearby stores. There were two available about 4 miles away but they couldn’t hold one for me because it was an in-demand product. So I rushed to the other store trying to keep to the speed limit as much as possible. When I arrived, my urge to use the bathroom was so strong, but my urge to get the phone was much stronger. When I got to the electronics department, the two available phones were still there and I immediately grabbed one. The store clerk rang me up then gave me the free 20 dollar gift card. Then I was off to look for the bathroom before heading back home.
    As I was opening the box, I noticed a statement that said: This phone may only be used with the Beyond Talk Plan. Darn! Now I would have to pay at least 25 dollars every month to use the phone for calls plus internet. That would put a crimp on my budget. Well, I was willing to try and see if I could get the phone to work with my previous subscription plan or if Virgin Mobile would cut it off until I buy the more expensive plan. When I called customer service the next day for assistance in activating the phone, they confirmed that I would have to switch to Beyond Talk. I haven’t so far and while reading the Terms of Service, it doesn’t mention anything about it. As of this writing I’m still able to make and receive calls as well as surf the internet via wi-fi. I don’t plan to switch unless they cut me off.
         I’ve never had a smart phone before so this is my first one, and I’ve always been curious about apps. If I only wanted that, it was available through the Ipod Touch of course, but that would have cost almost double than getting the LG Optimus V. Other than the apps though, another thing I like about this phone is that it was easier to input contacts because it syncs with your Google contacts or you can  import them from vcards. This feature was not available with previous Virgin Mobile phones.
         There was something that Virgin Mobile did me wrong though. They changed my phone number which I’ve had for about 15 years. I think customer service mistyped my number while activating it because it’s still under the same personal information and password as the old number. I called them again when I found this out and they are going to try a way to get my previous number back. So if anyone of you call me at the number I had all these years and I don’t answer, please don’t despair for I’m still alive.
         After a week or so of use, here are my first impressions: the battery drains quickly if you are connected to wi-fi, GPS, surfing the internet or using apps; you don’t need to sign up for the beyond talk plan to use the phone and you just need wi-fi connections to access the other functions like downloading apps. The device charges faster via an electric socket instead of through a USB port. That brings me to decide whether it was an unnecessary expense or not. In a way it was one of those wants rather than a need. I can only justify it as a need because I needed to learn how smart phones work to keep up with everybody else. Besides, getting a free $20.00 gift card was too hard to pass up.
         P.S. I downloaded the following apps which enabled me to prolong the battery life: Advanced Task Killer and Juice Defender.

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