Monday, February 18, 2013

Code carts and cold hearts

I am starting to get in my routine of things. I wake up at 7, leave the apartment at 7:45, hop on the metro, switch to the shuttle, and get to work at 8:25 fairly consistently. After that, I get started on my work, usually have lunch at 11:30ish, and then leave by 4. When I get home, I work out, make some food, do homework (which I really have not had much of), read, watch some TV, and then doze off before 12. Then I repeat the whole process.

This week was taken over by one big meeting pretty much. My boss, Diane, was asked to be on a committee for fixing the system of how the code blue carts are handled after use. (A code blue is sounded whenever a patient either goes into cardiac arrest or respiratory problems.) On the cart, they have the defibrillator, suction machine, oxygen tanks, intubation tubes, syringes, and a crap load of medicine and tools. It was a pretty archaic set up from what they said, and by archaic I mean from the 50’s. The defibrillator, suction machine, and O2 tanks should be on separate carts in the unit I guess.

But the main purpose of the meeting was to change the process after use. How it is now, it takes a huge trip around the hospital to get cleaned and restocked. An exchange cart is supposed to be on the unit before the old one even leaves; that never happens. The new process is to keep the cart on the unit, clean it there, and have prepackaged trays of parts in the pharmacy and logistics department to exchange. If the cart is extremely depleted or covered in blood, then it is exchanged with a cart in storage. This method is a lot more efficient and safe for the patient then the old method.

That meeting took up two days, Wednesday and Thursday, and then Friday, there was a camera crew there to interview certain head honchos around the facility on what new, innovative things the VA is doing. The main focus is of how the medical facility has switched to the patient centered care model of medical practice. That simply means that instead of the facility and doctors being the center of it, telling the patient what to do, and scheduling everything around the staff, they have the patient at the center, make appointments based around him, and inform him of all of his options and allow him to make the decisions on what to do. They focused a lot on the apps the VA is developing. For instance, they have one called My Healthy Vet that has the patient’s charts, information, and doctors’ notes on it so that the veteran can see what is going on and can interact virtually with their healing processes. They can contact their physician more easily and possibly virtually (I forget). The other app they are developing is one called My Capitol VA. It has a staff directory with bios, a map of the medical center, and allows them to make appointments/gives them push notifications when a spot opens up. The doctors also are using iPads and laptops to plug stuff into the charts while they are talking to them. It is really interesting to see new technological innovations being used like that. At first, one might think the apps are pointless because vets are old, but in all actuality, the VA’s see a lot of young people back from the Middle East.

On Saturday, my sister came to visit me! She got here around 2:15, so I hopped on the Metro around 1 to get across DC and pick her up on time. I honestly could not have timed it any better! Not to brag, but I kind of impress myself with how good at calculating travel time on the metro I am! Haha I say that, but this weekend, the Red Line, which I use daily, is under routine construction and has severe delays. Monique, my sister, and I went to a cool Latin-Jazz club in the Adam’s Morgan area, which is super cool. On the way back, we ran into some delays at Fort Totten, which is where we switched from one line back to the red line. We stood in the freezing weather for 45 minutes; it was terrible. I about demanded a free pass or something, but by the time we got to Silver Spring, I was too tired and just wanted to sleep.

On Sunday, we slept in and then battled the frigid drafts to see the Holocaust Museum. When we got there, the line was wrapped around the building, so we had to wait out in the cold for around half an hour; fortunately, the wait was worth it. That is one of the best museums I have been to, and I have been to a slew of museums! They start by giving you an ID card of a Holocaust victim that you read about little by little as prompted. You go up to the top floor and work your way down. The top floor is mainly about the rise of Nazi Germany and the history of Anti-Semitism. I honestly did not realize how anti-Semitic pretty much all of Medieval Europe was! Even Martin Luther was anti-Semitic! When he nailed the 95 Theses on the church door in 1517, some of which were denouncing the Catholic Church’s anti-Semitic beliefs, he thought the Jews would join him in his reformation and become Christians. Obviously, the Jews did not, and he said that they all deserved to burn in Hell, or something like that. I was really surprised by that. I learned a lot of Jewish history at Lincoln, and knew how they were looked down upon and travelled around all over Europe, where practically no one accepted them, but this gave what I already knew some concrete examples.

 After that section, it moved on to how the Jews were treated as the Holocaust approached. Eventually, it got the concentration and extermination camps, and talked about them being rounded up and exterminated along with Gypsies, Slavs, homosexuals, disabled people, and anyone else the Nazis thought of as sub-human. I lost all hope in humanity it felt like. In all honesty, I knew how this could happen, and how regular citizens could partake in such barbaric actions. I have studied the Stanley Milgram and Stanford Prison Experiments at least on 6 different occasions and classes; I know the effects authority, obedience, and compliance can have on someone. Please don’t think I am making any excuses for why they did that; there really are no excuses. Even though I am cognizant of how humans can do that, it was still surreal and devastating to see real artifacts, pictures, and videos of that. To see videos of corpses being dozed into a mass grave, corpses that are shriveled and look like mummies from the starvation and abuse, was horrific. The creators of the exhibit did a fantastic job planning, though. When you are wallowing in the shallowness and darkness of humanity, they lift the spirits by telling stories of how people tried to help those individuals. It raised the spirits to see the goodness of Humanity reach out and help as many people as possible. At the end, there was a video of Holocaust survivors. That may have honestly been the hardest part. I’m not gonna lie, I welled up a few times. There was this one story of this man who cried out to God and asked Him “How can you let this happen? How can you do nothing while Jews die all around me? I thought we were your chosen people!! Answer me!!” He waited for an answer, but he never heard anything. The second hardest one was told by this man who’s mother was in Budapest while her son was in a concentration camp. Some people approached her and told her that if she spied on certain people, they could get her son out. She did not believe them and refused. Somehow, her son heard about this, and he said he was so proud of her mom for not caving. That doesn’t seem like such a big deal, but the look on his face was the saddest part. Another one that stuck with me is when this woman tells the story of how she was in the same selection line as her mom and sister, who had a child, and when her mom heard that mothers who have small children with them will be killed with the child, she ran up to her daughter, took the child, and said “I just learned that those with children will go an easier area where they will take care of the children. Since you are young and can handle the labor the younger ones will go to, I will take the child.” Before the child’s mother can object, the mother tells the youngest daughter, the story-teller, to watch her sister, and then she disappears into the crowd. The mother saved both of her daughters’ lives and made the hard decision to take her grandson to the gas chamber with her. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Run-ins with hobos and such.

Feb 4th to Feb 10th

So far, this week has been rather uneventful. On Monday, I went to the National Archives. That was pretty cool! Seeing the Constitution, Bill of Rights, Declaration of Independence, and other important national documents was a bit surreal. Other then seeing those things and the grand architecture, the National Archives was kinda boring. The Museum there wasn’t too interesting.
            Tuesday was back to the grindstone. I had to get there right at 8 in order to go to the morning briefing. Unfortunately, My second alarm did not go off, so I woke up at 7:09, nine minutes after I meant to leave. That was the fasted I have ever gotten ready and thrown a suit on in my life! I made it there around 8:05, which was fine. That day, I worked on some truthPoint surveys, which is where a staff member randomly selects patients around the hospital, 10 that are inpatient, and 10 that are outpatient, and has them fill out a survey to see how the VA is doing. That was not my cup of tea. Going up to random people and asking them to fill out a survey is quite uncomfortable, especially when they are cranky vets, which some were. That was just to gain some experience and see what TruthPoint is, which is something we will have to interpret. Luckily, we will not be doing that everyday.
            Wednesday consisted of drafting up a proposal to start an award program as well as dealing with some issues. In Patient Centered Care, we deal a lot with complaints, allegations against staff, and other negative issues that need to be resolved. It is crazy to see how much drama there can be out there in the real world! Luckily, my boss is awesome and good at resolving things like that. She says the other intern and I will deal with that somewhat in the near future, which is a bit unnerving. I feel like I have been in a sink-or-swim training program since I have gotten here. It is quite a bit of a learning curve.
            Thursday was a lot like Wednesday when it came to work; we had to deal with the same type of things. That afternoon, I went to the Union Station to grab a bite to eat before I went to class at 6:30. While I was there, this man came up to me and was like “excuse me sir, can I ask you a question? Well first off, are you today?” I seriously thought he was one of those street evangelists who approach random people and are like “DO YOU KNOW JESUS???” Instead of asking me that, he said “I am homeless and was wondering if you could buy me some food? I don’t want money, just food.” It really took me by surprise! He was dressed decently, had nice athletic shoes, a good hat, and a manicured beard; I had a bad feeling about it all, so I politely backed out as best I could. I liked that he asked for food and not money, but there are so many programs and day centers for that type of stuff; scavenging food at a train station is not the best way to do it. I used the “I’m a poor college student” excuse for backing out. After I got my food, he approached me while I was eating. I was in this hallway type of thing with no one around, so it was kinda creepy. He asked “Hey man, remember me? We talked upstairs and I asked you for food.” That added to the weird feeling, because we talked on the same level, not a level up. I was like “yeah, man, I do.” Then he asked “Can I have some of your food?” That really took me off guard! I was just like “Sorry man, but no.” Then he just sat there for five minutes and watched me eat. It was super creepy. I feel bad for not helping him, but he gave me the heebie-jeebies! When I was leaving, I passed him again, and I heard him cuss me out under his breath. It was quite the weird experience! Class was pretty interesting! We talked a lot on clinical interviews and the role of professional witnesses, mainly psychologists, in the courtroom.
            The weekend was pretty good! My friend from RSU who lives near by now came to town, and we went to Chinatown with some folks and had some great Thai food Before that, though, we went to Piratez Tavern, which was awesome! The décor is pirate, obviously, but what surprised us all and really made it awesome was the fact that all of the staff dressed and acted like pirates! On top of that, some regulars came all dressed up too, and they had a band that sang pirate medleys. It was awesome!!! The food smelled good too, so I will most certainly go back there. Saturday consisted a trip to the farmers market in downtown Silver Spring followed by a trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space museum. That place was jaw-dropping; there were so many real air and space artifacts there! I will probably have to go back again. After that, my friend and I explored some of the national mall and got some pictures of the Capitol Building. Sunday was just a relaxing day topped of with the premiere of the Walking Dead with some friends. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

And so it begins...

Just as a heads up, this first blog is a long one! The rest should not be this long.

So far, I love the District. It is full of life and diversity. You can tell that it is an international icon and hub for business and travel. Getting here was quite the adventure.
I believe it is my first time flying completely alone; I have traveled alone and without parents before, but not quite like this. I had to get up at the crack of 4 oon Sunday morning, which was terrible since I was wide awake until about 1:30 and excited like a little kid on Christmas Eve; this time, however, I did not jump on my parents bed and wake them up. I have been trying to quit energy drinks, but I figured I would allow myself one that morning (and the two previous days under the banner of “celebratory” drinks}. Got through check-in, security, and boarding just fine, and had a short flight to the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. I made it to my second flight with no trouble. My sister and I got good at what we call “human parkour,” which just means weaving in and out of crowds in malls and densely travelled areas; I have used that skill a lot on this trip.
Anyhow, I got on the flight, which was about two and a half hours. I arrived in Reagan National Airport, picked up my luggage, and began my strenuous commute from the airport to my residence in Silver Spring, MD. I figured out, with the help of the station manager, how to purchase my Metro ticket and where to go. I have done some traveling to other places with Metro systems, so it was fairly easy to get down. I accidently got on the wrong Metro line, but I found out that if I stayed on long enough, I could switch to the Red Line, which was what I would have to get on from the line I meant to get on, so it wasn’t really that bad of a mistake. I arrived at the Silver Spring Metro and followed the directions to the Solaire Housing Complex, where I am staying, in an email I received. It was about a half-mile walk, mostly uphill. Lugging a hanging bag, suitcase, and school bag up hill in slushy water with a thick overcoat on over a blazer and nice clothes was a bit of a challenge.
I got there, got things squared away with my room, walked around a bit, grabbed some coffee, and met my roommate. So far I just have one. My other ones may or may not arrive. One is supposed to get here sometime between now and Sunday, which is quite the gap. Sean, the roommate here is pretty cool! He is from South Carolina; a group of 16 came from his university. Many of them live in these apartments, so I have gotten to know a few. The rest live at the primary housing location, which also is the place where the classes and meetings are held. That is where I have been these past two days.
Monday was an overall orientation. It was pretty typical. There are around 430 interns total representing 40 states and 17 countries. We had to sit in on different workshops and information sessions about our programs and different civic engagements. I will more than likely be working with veterans who have mental health issues for that; the civic engagement project is essentially just volunteering. The one with the vets fits in well for my degree, psychology, and my internship, which is at the Department of Veteran Affairs, Patient Centered Care to be more specific. I will get to that later. Wednesday afternoon was an open house with workshops, so I went and grabbed some grub. On my way out, I ran into this Chinese foreign exchange student who was looking for food as well, so her and I went to a little café! It an interesting experience eating lunch one-on-one with someone I have never met before, let alone someone from a different country. She was really cool, though. It was a neat experience. After that, we went back for more orientation stuff.
Tuesday consisted of meeting with my program, which is Science, Technology, and Society. We just had a more program specific orientation and looked at what the next 15 weeks will be like. The work shouldn’t be too hard. The group is one of the smallest of The Washington Center with only about 20 people. Our advisor, Tiffani, ordered some food for us from California Tortilla, which was delightful! Needless to say, I chowed down on that stuff. We got out about 12:30 and had the rest of the day off, so I explored the Silver Spring area. A decent mall, hotel, restaurants, and shopping area are within walking distance to my apartment, which will be very nice.
Wednesday was actually my first day at my internship. I left my place at 7:45, hopped on the Metro, got off at the right station, got on a shuttle to the VA, and got there right at 8:30, which is when I am supposed to be there. It worked out well. My supervisor, Diane, is great. She is very laid-back, knowledgeable, and a skilled supervisor and boss. The other intern, Lauryn, is really cool! I am extremely excited to work with them both.
What I will be doing is pretty cool. We will be working on different programs, like a Washington VA app for smart phones, incentive and reward programs, patient advocacy, and just making sure the veterans are comfortable and well taken care of. Today I had the pleasure of meeting a 105-year-old WWII vet who was one of the first African-American females admitted into the armed forces. She was delegated the task of sorting out a mail room full to the ceiling of letters to soldiers in Europe; her commanding officer said it should take her six months, but she did it in three. It was a very surreal, humbling experience. She was a spunky, one-legged lady who dresses up and looks nice everyday because she wants to live life to the fullest and because she “just might meet a young, charming man and wants to look good” she said. I am so honored and thankful for this opportunity to work for and serve those who have been injured serving and fighting for my rights, liberties, and freedom. The rest of my first day was dwarfed in comparison to that experience. I just did some paper work, set up my office, got acquainted with the building and personnel, and took a tuberculosis test, which means I had Thursday off. Thursday night, however, I had my first class. I will be taking Forensic Psychology whilst here; I’m pretty excited about it! I don’t think it will be too tough.
Friday was my first real day at the VA. I got some paper work for security and clearance stuff taken care of, helped with some tasks, and had the privilege of attending the medical staff’s grand rounds at noon! That was quite the treat. A surgeon did a presentation on Narrative Medicine, which is an up-and-coming style of practicing medicine. Narrative Medicine pretty much just means that the patients tell their story and talk for a time without interruption while the doctors make notes. Essentially, it is about doctors spending more times listening and getting to know the patient to see if there is anything about their lives that might add to the problem. It sounds like it should already be a common practice, but when doctors are making their rounds in hospitals and clinics, two minutes of listening seems like a long time. One thing that was brought up that I found interesting is how they said that being required to fill out questionnaires and paper work on their computers while seeing the patient takes away time and makes it harder to do that. I believe the Affordable Healthcare Act makes it so that the doctors have to fill out certain things while seeing the patients. It will be interesting to learn more about Obamacare since I do not know that much. Getting the perspective of doctors and people who work in the healthcare filed will be interesting too.
My weekend was quite fun! I met up with an old friend Friday night. We went to Jumbo Slice pizza; the name was no lie. The slices were HUGE!!!! You could put pretty much anything on it, and it was bigger than a personal-pan pizza, but it was a slice. My mind was blown. After that, my friend and I went to a latin-jazz club, which was incredible! The cover charge was only $5. The band consisted of a pianist, a bassist, and four percussionists who took turns playing the congas, timbales, bongos, and small instruments like maracas and guiro. Being a drummer and novice hand percussionist, I was in heaven. The environment was very exciting with people salsa dancing everywhere, and the space was very warm and intimate. I will most certainly be going there more often. Saturday was mostly filled with going to the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History, food, and watching some shows with my old friend. On Sunday, I went grocery shopping, chilled, and watched the Super-Bowl!
So far, my adventure has been great. It feels like it has been a month already, and in reality, it has just been a week. I will admit that for the first few days, I kind of wished I had just taken classes at RSU; that was mainly because it was cold and dreary, and because I had not made any friends yet. But now things are looking up! I feel like this will be a fantastic opportunity for me to learn office etiquette, better my verbal and written communication skills, advance my knowledge in several areas, and help those who have served my country. Be sure to keep an eye out for my next blog! I will try to blog consistently at least once a week.