Notes from home care: Tree death

Posted: November 16, 2012 in nursing & health

I had forgotten paper.
With the exception of a brief eighteen month period of time in the past fifteen or twenty years of my life, I had forgotten about tree murder.

My geek life started when I was about 12 years old, and played with True Basic because I was bored.  It was Christmas, and I made the screen draw a stick Santa Claus and flash obnoxious green and red on our Commodore 64.  But, like everyone else, I learned the power of the computer.  In my senior year of high school, we editors actually put our copy onto DISK when we sent it to the printer.  (‘Member that computer, Bex?)  We had sign up sheets to get time onto the newspaper’s computer my first two years of college, and by the latter two years, I was working the night shift at Loyola/Mundelein’s computer lab.  It wasn’t weird to email term papers to professors, though it was sort of new-ish.

There was this thing called telnet, and this other thing called ftp that the computer initiated had access to.  I spent many, many nights writing fiery posts to LISTSERVs on issues I had OPINIONS about and have since completely forgotten while barking, “To print, you type Shift-F7!” to the uninitiated, the uncool, nongeek people who thought computers were something you just used at the end of the term to type into.  As if.

I installed Mosaic for Loyola University.  *sniff*  *sniff*  Now it’s the web.  With a lowercase ‘w’.  In my free time I wrote  hypercard stacks on the weird Apple boxes, or drew only slightly more sophisticated things on the Amiga III than my 12-year-old Santa Claus for my Art Institute summer course, oh, yeah, and then there was that five month period when I obsessivly played MUME.  (“Shift F7!  I can’t get there now, a worg is attacking me!!”)

Only middle aged and older nerds care about that crap now.  I had that same look on my face when I once listened to older nerds talk about punch cards, and vast rooms of tape reels.

Now we all either have iPhone/Androids, or are actively refusing to because we’re sick of watching our friends play with the damn things when we are out for a drink with them.

Not my new employer.  My new employer loves paper.  I had forgotten how wantonly we destroyed our environment in the name of bureacracy in my childhood.  You see, it’s not entirely my employer’s fault.  It is overwhelmingly the fault of Medicare, i.e. CMS, i.e. your taxes.  I have a caseload of patients that is about a third of where I need it to be, and I can already stack the papers I have filed up to being the height of half of my sadly dead aspen tree in the front yard.  Some of that paper lives in my car.  Some of that paper lives in the office.  Some of that paper lives in this file room somewhere mysterious.

I actually groused a little bit when Porter Hospital, where I learned how to be an ICU nurse, went from its trifold paper chart to the computer.  Not because I was sad to see paper go, but because the computer program could have been So Much Better had I been in charge of the team that wrote it.  I groused about how they didn’t have a business analyst and the project manager didn’t truly understand the end-user needs which is the same old story since Pharaoh built the Pyramids at Giza with not enough bathrooms or drinking fountains.


I have to have a full 8.5″ x 1″ piece of paper that shows I faxed two to seven pages to every physician that has to receive the fax.  The fax has to show my handwritten medication reconciliation (which is 1 to 3 pages, because we cannot fit all the data on one page because it is all handwritten) and I have to go to a computer, find the medication discrepancies and PRINT THEM OUT and FAX THEM to each physician, which is two pages for me….two pages for each doc.  And the med rec forms themselves are in triplicate and get filed in three places.

That’s just the medication reconciliation, one of the easiest tasks about my job.  It doesn’t even address the TWENTY page form that goes to Medicare, much of which gets filed in duplicate and spawns other forms to support itself.

Paper.  My office actually has those rubber finger thingies, which I thought were obsolete.  My right forearm aches often because I haven’t used the muscles in it to actually WRITE with it in years, aside from some signatures and wedding thank you notes.

Home care eats trees.  By the forest.


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