Sunday, October 23, 2016

Coffee and Obnoxious LVNs

Image result for coffee humor
I really don't have an opinion about coffee drinkers as long as they don't try to force me to pay for their habit.

Some hospitals supply employees with coffee free of charge. It's just part of the hospital's budget. If it's a teaching hospital, and if they, the hospital
administrators, consider that they're expecting interns and even second-year residents to make intelligent life-or-death decisions while working an insane number of consecutive hours with very little sleep, paying for the coffee is probably the very least the hospital management can do. Some hospitals even make coffee available in certain waiting areas -- usually for the families of patients in intensive care units or in surgery.

Other hospitals are less generous. Both staff and visitors of patients are very lucky to get free toilet paper; assuming coffee will be provided is pushing expectations a bit far. Some have vending machines that provide -- for a fee -- what is reported to be among the worst coffee on the planet. At that point, were I a caffeine addict, I'd take a few steps further down the hall to the next vending machine and just get a Red Bull or its equivalent.

The hospitals at which I do the vast majority of my work are all part of the same system run by the same governing board and financed by the same operation. One would think their coffee policies would be the same, or at least similar, at the respective hospitals. One would think wrongly.

I should explain at some point that I am a non-coffee drinker. Many people say they don't drink coffee. By that, they mean they don't have it every morning, or maybe not even once a week, but if it's cold enough and they're sleepy enough yet expected to work, they'll down a cup. Or if they're with a group that decides to visit Starbuck's on the way to wherever they're going some morning, they'll order something coffee-related -- cappuccino, latte, espresso, whatever, or just plain coffee; I couldn't identify one from the other if someone held a gun to my head and demanded that I do so -- even if they might not otherwise do so.  

if I were with a group that insisted on making a Starbuck's pit stop, I'd order orange juice if anything, and I'd drink it with trepidation. I once, in perfect health,  drank just half of a Starbuck's small hot chocolate. Within fifteen minutes I had fainted, and I spent to remainder of the day either clutching my stomach or worshiping the porcelain goddess. And that was the hot chocolate. One time someone -- I cannot even remember who, which is probably a good thing -- insisted that I at least try coffee.  Someone prepared a cup of it for me with cream and sugar. I didn't particularly like the taste, but it wasn't so bad that I couldn't at least drink a couple of sips. I probably ended up finishing maybe half of one of those standard-sized styrofoam cups of the stuff. That is the point at which I began  barfing. It's unfortunate that I didn't barf sooner and more, because some of the coffee inevitably made its way to my colon, where it inflicted major damage. I'll leave out the gory details, but I ended up admitted to a hospital for what I will euphemistically refer to as a  procedure. That was the beginning and the end of my relationship with coffee.

So I was caught by surprise very early Saturday morning when an especially officious  LVN (The woman is twenty-five years old now and seems to feel that she accomplished a feat nothing short of amazing by having become a licensed vocational nurse [in some other states referred to as a "licensed practical nurse"] at the age of twenty-four. I'm not denigrating LVNs, as they're an essential part of the collective medical team. It's just that, for example,  my friend Caitlyn, now 23, who currently holds a bachelor's degree in nursing science and is pursuing a master's, graduated from high school as an LVN. There's nothing especially astounding about having achieved the rank as a twenty-four-year-old.) hollered out to me from down the corridor, "I don't know your name, but I need twenty-five dollars from you." I looked in the opposite direction, assuming the LVN must be extorting money from someone other than me.

When I saw that there was no one beyond me in the corridor, I turned and responded to the LVN, "I don't know your name, either, but perhaps you should find out what my name is before you demand money from me."  I then walked back to the main intake area of the E.R. and promptly forgot about the interaction. I took a few more patient histories and documentations of symptoms before receiving my injection and heading to my locker to retrieve my belongings and to leave. 

Officious LVN was waiting for me outside the med student locker area holding a a clipboard and pen. "I need twenty-five dollars from you," she demanded.

"I could probably use twenty-five dollars from you as well," I responded, "but I'm polite enough not to ask for it."

Officious LVN sighed. "The money isn't for me personally." she explained with mock patience. "It's for the coffee fund."

"I don't drink coffee . . . ever," I answered, trying hard to do so without even as much as a trace of attitude.

"Everyone says that, but everyone drinks it," she replied, not bothering with even a phony half-smile.

"No. I really don't drink coffee," I clarified. "A little over two years ago I tried it for the first time because a couple of my cohorts insisted. Half of  cup of the watered-down version landed me in that hospital [I pointed to the adjacent children's hospital]. My gastroenterologist told me never, ever, to drink as much as a sip of the stuff again, and I haven't. He's in the E.R. right now if you want to verify my story."

"No," she laughed. "It doesn't matter. Nurses, medical students, and interns pay for the coffee. It's the way it's done. Even the Mormons pay the fee." She paused. "Some of them drink it, too." She giggled.

"Does the coffee fee cover the cups or the costs of hot water?" I asked her. I do occasionally use the cups that are stacked next to the coffee for water when the cones provided for that purpose haven't been re-stocked, and I can see possibly bringing a package of instant hot chocolate (the very mild kind -- not like what Starbuck's serves) when I have to report for duty on an early winter morning, although I prefer bringing one of my own mugs to using styrofoam. 

"No," she replied curtly. "The hospital pays for the cups and the water.'

"I'm not paying for coffee that I'm not going to drink. I'll even make a deal with you. If anyone catches me drinking your coffee -- and the person has to look inside the cup to ensure it's not water or hot chocolate -- I will pay ten times the annual coffee fee, payable within twenty-four hours of the time the person catches me drinking the coffee. You'll probably have to find me in the E.R. or on the gastro floor to collect, because that's how sick I'll be, but I will pay two-hundred-fifty bucks if anyone catches me drinking your coffee. i'll put it in writing if you want."

"You don't need to do that," she grumbled. "It's just the point of the thing. Everyone pays. I don't see why you need to be so difficult."

"I'll remind my brother to pay. He'll probably actually drink some of your coffee," I offered.

"What's his name?" she asked. I told her. "He's already paid," she conceded.

"Then I'll remind my dad to pay. He works here sometimes," I added.

"Oh, no!" she exclaimed. "He's a doctor!" Doctors don't pay for coffee here!"

By then i was curious. "Exactly who does pay for the coffee here?" I asked.

The list was apparently so exhaustive that she needed to count on her fingers to keep track. "The nurses. The nursing aids. The student nurses. The custodial staff. The medical students. [She added a hint of vocal disdain, apparently for my benefit.] And the interns!"  she concluded.

I thought for a moment, then commented. "The people who are paid the very least [meaning the custodial staff] pay for the coffee. The people who pay for the privilege of working here [the medical students and student nurses] pay for the coffee. The people who, when you factor in their hours of indentured servitude [the interns] earn practically less than minimum wage, pay for the coffee. but the doctors don't?'

"No," she replied. "And the nursing directors don't, either." She seemed almost proud of the concept.

"Is it because you don't have the guts to ask them to chip in?' I questioned in response as I walked away from her and out of the hospital.

I suppose I'll be on some sort of nurses' shit list from now on, but I don't care. Had the LVN asked me nicely in the first place, I would have just handed over the twenty-five dollars without comment, but she didn't, so I didn't.

It's not my issue, but if I ever find the time and energy, I'll print a flyer to be posted in residents' and attending physicians' of various departments' locker rooms asking if they would mind pitching in a small amount for the coffee so that the custodial staff isn't supplying coffee for people who earn five-hundred grand each year. Of course I won't word it that way, and I'll have people with far more authority than I have post the flyers. 

I don't care about coffee. I don't think who drinks it and who does not drink it is in any way a moral issue. It is my opinion, however, that people who drink coffee should pay for their own coffee. If my stating such causes a few people to dislike me who otherwise might not have had an opinion of me, so be it. I can live with the consequences.

For obvious security reasons I cannot post an actual picture of the officious LVN, but this is a close facsimile I happened to find.

1 comment:

  1. Wow. That is a ridiculous situation to be in. Good for you for sticking to your guns.