The moral of the following story is that for working parents of special needs children, such as those with low functioning autism, being aware of a potential employer’s core values system is crucial. If you have to look hard for evidence of compassion, it probably doesn’t exist.
Employers, if you have compassion and understanding, know that demonstrating such to a parent of a special needs child will yield an unbelievably loyal and extremely hardworking employee.
I LOVE being a nurse. I always knew where I wanted to work after graduating from nursing school – Memorial Hospital, Chattanooga – whose Mission and Core Values are:
Reverence – A profound spirit of awe and respect for all of creation, shaping our relationship to self, one another and to God, and acknowledging that we hold in trust all that has been given to us.
Integrity – Moral wholeness, soundness, uprightness, honesty and sincerity as the basis of trustworthiness.
Compassion – Feeling with others, being one with others in their sorrows and joy, rooted in the sense of solidarity as members of the human community. It is the heartfelt concern for the needs of others that compels us to respond. Compassion makes a difference you can feel.
Excellence – Outstanding achievement, merit and virtue, continually surpassing standards to achieve and maintain quality.
R.I.C.E. is evident throughout the hospital, from clerical and non-medical support, to nurses, doctors and ancillary staff. My personal favorite is Compassion, and I could see and feel it everywhere I looked. My coworkers were fantastic. When my youngest daughter was gravely ill and in ICU for weeks, they constantly checked on and prayed for us. As I walked the halls to stretch my legs, the doctors I passed along the way would stop me and give hugs.
My manager was awesome. She understood my special situation and did what she could to work with me on scheduling. When I changed departments, the sweet ladies I worked with welcomed me with open arms. They were loving, kind, and reverent. It was a wonderful environment.
I loved taking care of patients, bonding with them and getting to know each of their stories. Regrettably, I left that hospital during my quest to find a better and safer solution to caring for Jess.
I was excited about my new opportunity – full of hope and enthusiasm – thinking it would be great to be working right in my community. The bonus, 7 minutes from home allowing me to feed Jess breakfast and get her dressed for the day. Then feeding her lunch and putting her down for a nap during my lunch break.
The salaried position required a full year of training. I accepted the position including signing a statement that I was willing to travel. And, travel I did. A lot of initial training was held at a district office about an hour’s drive away.
One aspect of training would be more in-depth and take an extended amount of time. Discussions began about options such as partnering with a local doctor, or, enrolling in college for a summer course. Each time I had a voice in the discussion, with explanation of my unique situation, I strongly urged the decision makers to choose the local option as they had done for other employees in the past.
As weeks passed and I admittedly missed my previous work with sick patients, I couldn’t help but compare my previous work environment to my new one. I had worked with people who truly knew me and cared about me, people who shared the mission of R.I.C.E. – healthcare professionals that enjoyed taking care of their patients. I tried to hold my head high. I tried to maintain that excited attitude that I started with, including excitement about working and making a difference in my community. I especially tried to focus on the benefits of being close to home.
Even though I was aware that I had not been the applicant that my reporting supervisor favored, I very much appreciated compliments I received from my new director. On one special occasion I was thrilled to hear my director tell my parents how “glad she was to have me there and how lucky she felt to have someone of my caliber.”
The day they looked me in the eyes and told me–without any hint of compassion–that the decision had been made to do the extended training at a college 3.5 hours away from home, I about had a heart attack. I felt disbelief but belief all at the same time. It was hurtful and disappointing. My already extremely difficult life just got more difficult. If it had been the only option, it would have been one thing. But, a simpler and logical solution could have been chosen and wasn’t. At that moment, it really hit home that they did not care about me one bit. That option was chosen knowing that it would be extremely difficult for me. There was no remorse, concern nor compassion shown for the difficult position I was in. It felt very personal.
Time rolled around for the dreaded out-of-town trip. It was Friday, and one coworker and I were planning to leave on Sunday. It was THAT Friday. The day the teacher put her hand into Jessica’s pocket and forcefully took her phone away. (Routines, Prized Possessions, and Violations) That Friday that all hell broke loose and Jessica called me in hysterics. My supervisor did not care about my personal issues. She only cared that the call was interrupting my work day.
The Director was not at work that day. Talking to my supervisor to ask for consideration for an alternate training plan was out of the question. She simply did not care. I could almost see a twinkle in her eyes as I told her I was not going to be able to go. Her excitement seemed almost tangible as I told her if accommodations could not be made, I would turn in my resignation on Monday if that was what needed to happen.
Her response? “I think that is best, you never really fit in here anyway.”
Apparently, Monday was not soon enough. She called me that night wanting to have a conference call between herself, the director and me. As if I had not already offered my resignation, she basically told me that if I did not resign by Monday, I would be fired for not going to the training. I offered, but she told me she preferred for me not to work a two-week notice.
My director was absent again on the following Monday morning, so I handed my resignation to my supervisor, cleaned out my desk, walked out the back door, and never looked back.
She was right; I didn’t fit in. Thank Goodness! Sometimes, not fitting in turns out to be a good thing. My family will always come first, and something awesomely unexpected was happening to our family.
In conclusion: In an industry where the focus is caring, giving, and health, it is unrealistic to expect to maintain a loyal and dedicated staff when management shows very little concern and almost no compassion not only towards clients but also towards employees. Within 20 months of my departure from that place of employment, 60% of the remaining nurses (not including management) have moved on to other opportunities. For a business that invests a year’s time, salary and fees to train their nurses, I would think that turnover rate would be troublesome.