Sunday, July 8, 2012

Tribute to old friends at work

Today, I honored  a past friend and coworker who died by going to his viewing.  He was a manager where I worked as an occupational health manager.  This is the third death this summer with people I really knew and laughed with at work.  Rough around the edges, he held the respect of those who worked under him. He did right by his people and road them hard to get the work out in a timely matter. After 20 years as a Master Sargent in the Air Force, he knew how to command but he also learned to stress the safety of his people. His sense of humor also keeps him present in my memory.  When our unit closed, I gave him a framed picture of a collage made by another nurse of those who came in for testing, injuries, or just to say hi.

The first death was an occupational health nurse who worked as a casual for the in-house Employee Health Services unit.  She was one of the first nurses who opened the unit.  Her life passed with a scarce few from my old company attending. But, I remembered her.  She had a wonderful sense of humor.  She told me I would be a great manager because of my attributes (I won't reveal what those attributes were just yet). Nurses' use humor, not always appropriately  for mixed company (non-nurses).

The second death was a man who also worked as a nurse in the Employee Health Services unit.  He was meticulous regarding standard operating procedures. And obsessive with the need to have his tools as a paramedic or he was not only uncomfortable, but anxious.  When 911 occurred, he was unable to come into the company with his tools so, as his manager, I purchased his utility belt and tools for him  all ready in the facility.  It would have been a violation of The American's with Disability Act to not accommodate his anxiety to feel confident and he only felt confident with his tools and utility belt.  As a nurse, he also had his unique sense of humor- this thing about blonde jokes, real groaners.

I miss my group of nurses. We covered three shifts, up to seven days a week with 3000 employees at our zenith.  We did not always play well together because of our diverse backgrounds.  I was not allowed to be their friends as their manager, something I regret but I was always held accountable for their errors or complaints from other employees, other paramedics, or hospital ERs.  They were all strong personalities.  In some ways,  we were dysfunctional communicating with each other but highly performing when an injury walked through that door or the injury was severe enough for us to go in an ambulance to render care to stabilize before transport.  We saved lives, saved the company in money, lost time, and pushed for personal protection equipment (PPE) easily justified through the OSHA PPE law.  It was the right thing to do and saved a couple of eyes too.

After working there for 13 years, the facility was purchased and closed.  However, it was done with total transparency with jobs offered to those who wished to continue working along with good severance packages for those who stayed on to the end until complete closure. It helped pad my income for a master's in Occupational Health  and towards a PhD in Nursing Research.  With this closure,  I lost an extended family, a place I felt safe behind the fences and security guards. I miss that environment sometimes.  But, I miss people most of all. A company is not the product it produces or transports. It is the people who work together and form an intricate community of caring.  I wish we could all have that type of community at work. It is that type of environment I want to work in again when I am done with school. 

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