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The Making and Life of a Registered Nurse in the Era of COVID-19: Chapter Ten–My Experiences as a Relief House Supervisor and Charge Nurse

To break up the work of being a floor nurse in critical care, I opted to do relief work as both a charge nurse and a house supervisor. Since I had already been a clinical supervisor doing the relief work as a charge nurse did little for my resume, it was mainly for a change of pace and let’s be honest, it was easy work. The house supervisor position on the other hand was all about improving my resume and learning more about the workings of my hospital.

As a relief charge nurse, my duties were petty simple mainly just keep the ship from sinking. Most nurse managers have little expectations from their relief staff which is a good thing because I frequently found that I was overseeing two floors because they were short that often. Remember how I said they never truly recovered from the firing of all the clinical supervisors, well now you have anecdotal evidence of my claim. Our basic duties were just keeping the patients safe and making sure that the nurses did not make any lethal mistakes, Boy, we certainly do lower the bar, don’t we? I also setup the schedule for the day team. Yep, that is it.

House Supervisor work was a bit more demanding. The biggest task I had was to keep patients moving from the ER to their appropriate units, and keeping the doctors from killing each other, LOL You would be surprised how outspoken surgeons can become when it involves surgery slots in the ORs. Surgeons like to push other doctors out of their OR slots, so they can get done earlier at work. They always wanted me to do their dirty work. But I was having none of it. I made them slug it out amongst themselves. I told them that I was not getting in the middle of their fights. I was also the chief bottle washer so to speak, which means I did anything that was needed to keep the hospital running at night. This meant that I ran around the hospital getting supplies for the various units, getting food for patients, since the cafeteria closed at 7pm and other glamorous duties like that. I also was responsible for replenishing crash carts that were used from codes on the floors. I started hard to get IVs on the nursing floors and responded to all codes throughout the hospital. I was responsible for any direct admits and transfers that took place at night. My final job was completing all of the nursing staffing for the floors and the ER for the day shift. By the end of the shift I think I had walked a thousand miles.

It sounds worse than it was. Many nights went pretty smoothly, the problem arose when I had no beds available on the floors and I had to wait for discharges. This really became a problem especially when the ER was full. Oh, by the way, I had to coordinate housekeeping and make sure they were cleaning the appropriate rooms first.

I usually picked up about ten or so shifts a year doing house supervisor work…that is until the CNO refused to guarantee me my days. When I started doing the job I told him that he had to guarantee that he would not cut my shifts later in the week. That is if I worked three days on the floor and one extra as the supervisor, I would be guaranteed four days. He readily agreed to my terms as they were totally reasonable. However, after five years of following his agreement, he changed his mind and started cutting my shifts. After being screwed a couple of weeks, I stopped doing relief work not only for the house supervisor but relief charge nurse. Boy, I can tell you that they were not happy with me. He refused to change his mind and I stuck to my guns. So that ended my relief career. It took them a year before they finally were able to find a permanent replacement for me. You would have thought that the CNO would have given in but he was just too pigheaded to admit that he was in the wrong. He is retired now, so I can use what terms I want to describe him. You may ask why I was also being so hardheaded? Well, the answer was that I had to work five and even six days a week to just get my 36 hours because they would send me home to save hours. If you have ever worked nights you will know how much a pain that is. In the day, you can always do something because it doesn’t really affect your sleep. What a pain when you slept the whole day to get cancelled at the last minute or sent home a couple of hours after you went into work because the census was too low. Now you are finally getting the picture.

Even though I have mentioned this individual my first book, I want to bring him up again in this one as well. He is just that special. He was instrumental in my getting my current position of employment, of that I will be eternally grateful. Hopefully I can in some way repay him in the future. His name was Sal and he was a mentor of mine. He oriented me to the house supervisor position. This man is also a true professional in every sense of the word. I have known him for close to ten years. During this time, I have never seen him lose his temper or raise his voice. He has always been helpful and gives amazing advice. It has been an honor working with him all these years and he will be sorely missed.

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