Workplace Bullying at Norton Sound Regional Hospital

Before I went to Nome I called Behavioral Health Services and asked about AA meetings. I was sent a page filled with AA meetings and on some days there were more than one. I was impressed that such a small town had so many AA meetings. Plenty AA meetings fit one of the criteria I had for making my decision to move there. I still have that list and it is impressive. There is just one problem it is bogus just like so many things at Norton Sound Health Corporation(NSHC). I started trying to find meetings on Monday and then just went down the list of days of the week. I had the priest say,"I don't think that meeting is here anymore". Most of the places I went to were simply locked buildings. By Thursday or Friday I quit. I never got to the one meeting that did meet. It was on Saturday. Since I worked every other weekend I could have only gone to two of them a month.
What I did chose to do was bring my AA big book with me and I read it to patients who were interested in recovery and loaned it to those who wished to read it. I also talked to patients about recovery. I told coworkers that I am an addict and alcoholic. I am use to doing this with coworkers in the lower 48. I always got support before. I got contempt from many of the nurses in the inpatient unit where I worked. Since there is a high incidence of addiction in nursing I always make it known I am in recovery. This allows nurses to approach me and ask for help if they have a chemical dependency problem. In Nome many white people think of a alcoholic as applying only to native people. This makes it impossible for them to seek help. The native people have a saying."A native person who drinks is a drunk, a white person who drinks is sophisticated." This attitude is pervasive in Nome. I hoped to be an example of a white person who is an alcoholic and in recovery. I was looked down on because of this. I ignored the looks and even laughed about it. I just hoped if anyone needed help they would feel comfortable coming to me for advice. No one ever did.
Right off the bat the first day I noticed there were people who sat in the break room a lot and spent a lot of time on line. Believe me if there is nothing to do I am all for sitting around. These people took turns being the charge nurse. They assigned the newer people or people who were not in their clique the brunt of the patient load.
Universal Precautions have been used in nursing since the 1980s. Without going into great detail it is simply common sense, protect yourself from body fluids. You wash your hands before and after any contact, wear protective gear if there is a risk of body fluid, etc. I was around when nurses cleaned up poop without gloves on. We were rarely shielded from any exposure. I was around before all the safer syringes and needles. I have been stuck by needles from an HIV patient and a hepatitis C patient. There were other sticks too, it was common back then. I am very appreciative of the precautions we use. So, I was not happy that Universal Precautions were not used. In fact there was not even the alcohol gel outside the patient rooms as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control. I requested some and put it on the outside counter of the nurses station so I could use it as I walked up and down the hall. It would disapear several times a day and I would have to hunt for it. They said they would not use it because it dried out their hands. Really? Get over it, dry hands come with being a nurse. The new types of alcohol gel do not dry out hands. There was rarely any hand washing either. They did not take well to being reminded of it. In the hospitals I have worked in we remind each other, everyone forgets sometimes. Being reminded helps us be more vigilant.
What they did at NSHC was the"OB" nurses would say because they may go in the nursery or take care of a baby they could only take certain patients to reduce the chance of transmitting an infectious disease to an infant. This meant there was no equitable distribution of the workload. They refused the really time consuming patients or patients with difficult families, "They don't like me", one of them would say if she did not want to work with them. They never took anyone in isolation which is time consuming as gowns and masks have to been put on and taken off to go in the room. They also never took anyone who had diarrhea, etc. I remember one nurse who would wretch and throw up every time she was around diarrhea. She was much too delicate to be around it. I guess this is why she sat in the break room all the time. This phenomenon is called,"dumping" in nursing. I call this system which I have never seen anywhere but NSHC using the "OB card". They would sit and watch the rest of us run our butts off. If anyone had the audacity to say something about it they were seen as a huge problem. A threat to the status quo. Now, at first I thought they will stop after a period of time. They never stop. Now, you may ask where management is. Well, she was usually outside smoking a cigarettee with the compliance officer. When I did complain about them using the "OB card" and tell her this system is unfair and bizare her response would be,"They aren't suppose to be doing it that way". Then she would do nothing and it would continue on. The compliance officer couldn't get her work done because she was always at the nurses station listening to everyone's conversations and then running to the manager to discuss them. They went outside as many a five times an hour to smoke, I counted. They smoked right outside the door. To get in and out of the building everyone had to walk through their smoke. It was as illegal as hell. Upper management was quite impotent to intervene in anything they did.


Anonymous said...

Hi Celia,
I just read your post this morning and I am so sorry you had to experience this sort of treatment. My name is Valerie Cade and I have written a book on Workplace Bullying. I also have worked as a professional trainer and consultant to healthcare organizations all over the US and Canada; Bakersfield as well especially with nurses.
Currently I have a POD cast each month I send out to people who have been bullied. It is a source of hope and encouragement to hear from someone such as yourself who has suffered and it looks like, has ralized adn left the situation.
Would you be interested in talking or sharing your story at all?
I can be reached at: val@performancecurve.com
Thanks so much Celia.

Valerie Cade

Assistant Village Idiot said...

If you are still there 6 years later...

My son in Nome sent this along. Tragic. I hope it's better now. I started working in psych hospitals in the 1970's, and this sounds like the attitudes that prevailed then.

Celia Harrison said...

Assistand Village Idiot, I am still here and still fighting. There are many people in Alaska working on the workplace bullying problem. The workplace bullying at NSHC in Nome is continuing and so are the problems in the community. Now the state has decreased the mental health budget by $8.3 million when it was inadequate and dysfunctional to begin with. That is going to allow them to lock up large numbers of the chemically dependent and the mentally ill in their horribly run prisons.