harmoney: (Default)
posted by [personal profile] harmoney at 02:18pm on 21/01/2011 under
I've been gainfully unemployed since July. Well, not so much gainful. More like painfully unemployed since July. The lengthy unemployment came due to a departure from my previous employer (to say simply, I was fired) over disagreements on "acceptable" staffing and duties. I shouldn't have been nearly as upset over the dismissal as I was. Honestly, there were a few issues that if we hadn't found an appropriate compromise, I was preparing myself to resign. But, a dismissal, no matter how flowerly given or no matter what benefits succeed the dismissal, a dismissal is painful. It's a clear declaration that your employer did not feel you were worth the effort of fixing perceived issues. If you resign, you take that decision into your own hands, but when an employer makes that decision for you, especially when you consider yourself loyal and dedicated, the pain is immense.

The dismissal I experienced was painful. I had protected my subordinates quietly in the shadows, and even took responsibility for one of the doctors who was going to be dismissed a year prior in an effort to save her job, clients who would be upset at her departure, and chaos that would have erupted as a result. Naturally, because of the politics behind those protections and responsibilities, nobody could know, but a very small number of people (namely myself and one or two others). Not the people who I was protecting, and certainly nobody else in the company. I regularly cut my hours to ensure those reporting to me had enough wages to pay for rent/groceries/whatever bills they had. I would schedule around little things they had going on in their lives without requiring time-off requests. When I was told to choose one of my subordinates to lay off during a business crisis, I found a way to keep her employed by the hospital - EVEN THOUGH she would no longer be in my department. She didn't know about that. She only saw a demotion without a pay cut (yes, I managed to keep her wage the same, too). When I finally built up the courage to lay out concerns and complaints I had, to call upon promises made by upper management months prior, and with a couple of plans on how to make things work, I was fired. I was simply not worth the effort of fixing perceived issues. And more than that, there was nobody - NOBODY - to protect me when I needed it.

It seems to me this is a common crisis in veterinary medicine. Technicians are difficult to hold on to and in constant demand (except when the economy tanks, apparently). Why can't veterinary hospitals hang on to their technicians? The job is emotionally, mentally and physically draining. Pay scales are above minimum wage, but comparable to much, much easier fields. Overtime is regularly frowned upon, but any one technician must be able to balance the workload of at least 2 people while being able to do the job of nearly anyone (except the veterinarian, of course) and never let anyone know you're drained or tapped. You are expected to give your all to every client who walks in the door (or calls on the phone or emails), but make sure you only do it within a certain time period, because you have other clients and duties to see to. You are expected to give your all to every patient, but make sure you do it in a timely manner so you can still answer phones, check in appointments, monitor/induce anesthesia, or prepare radiology. It's not the multi-tasking that wears on people, it's the constant barrage of high-priority duties while never taking a break, while always being mentally attuned to the environment, and not even flinching when you have more work than you can possibly do by yourself.

I was taught in school by MULTIPLE instructors that a well-run veterinary hospital has 2 technicians and 2 assistants per doctor. Apparently practice managers, the people making the human resources decisions, are taught that for every one doctor SHIFT, you need to ensure you have enough people to cover TWO SHIFTS. So, when you count it out, if you have 8 doctor shifts per week, that means you have 16 technician/assistant shifts available. If you have 4 people on 4-10 hour days, you're golden! Except, when you put it to paper and realize that 2 of those 4 people will NEVER have 2 days off in a row in any given week based on doctor availability, or 1 of those 4 people works 2 shifts as a kennel attendant, leaving you with 3 people to cover 2 doctors (1 in surgery and any technician appointments that come in), you're suddenly short-staffed. Only, it's not so sudden, and it's not short-term. This is one of many factors that can contribute to burn-out. And, in my case, has.

Finding a job in this economy has been painful. The unemployment rate in Oregon has been tragically high for the last few years, and has been gradually dipping. Is it because people are getting jobs? Possibly. Another possibility is the one I face in the next couple of weeks. Unemployment benefits are running out and I will no longer be able to claim. I've done everything that has been asked of me. Despite not wanting to return to veterinary medicine, I have applied for veterinary positions KNOWING FULL WELL I would take a pay cut and likely burn-out further and find a steeper decline into depression.

I managed to get an interview at one of the places I looked into, and they plan to pay what's considered a starting wage right out of school (with no experience and just having passed the boards, that is) despite being a specialty hospital, and couldn't give me clear answers on benefits or hours (other than I may be scheduled until 8, but expected to stay until well past 9, or may be expected to come in on the weekends on short notice, etc.). Still, I smiled, and remained engaged in the interview to the very end. I thought I had done well, even if they didn't. I was supposed to be called back within 3 days for a working interview. Since this time period fell over Christmas (and thus, New Year's), I gave them the benefit of the doubt and waited until after the new year to give them a call. I was told, and I quote, "We haven't decided yet if we want you or not." A quick glance at Craigslist confirmed that they had reposted the position. And an IM from a tech friend of mine let me know she was interviewing there that day.

This delivered a lesson to me with the force of a run-away freight train. Veterinary medicine, despite its cries and woes of being unable to attract and retain good technicians, does what it can to grind the people they get into the ground, then toss them aside when they're burned out or experiencing compassion fatigue to start over. Why? Because in this economy, where else are you going to go? You could be like me and spend 6 months looking for a job in or out of the veterinary community, and find NOTHING. I received a message that there were many qualified applicants, but only the most experienced would be interviewed FOR ANSWERING PHONES. No, I didn't get called to interview.

What do I want to do? Well, that's tricky. I'm not entirely sure at this point. I *want* to work in a field that either fully supports music, or is somehow involved in music. I *want* to use my customer service abilities that I've honed pretty well. I *want* to work somewhere where I'm encouraged to be creative, to grow and expand, to learn and somewhere that encourages me to give back to the company I'm working for. However, my technical skills are all over the board. I can type well, I have a pretty good attention to detail. I research very well, I write very well. I can handle customer disputes with ease, and I can keep conversations productive and moving forward. I LOVE to learn new skills and new trades, and I like doing things that are intellectually stimulating/challenging. I'm a problem solver, and if given a crisis or problem, I will work on it UNTIL IT'S SOLVED. If I'm given a task, that task WILL BE DONE. But, I can't market myself. I don't know what computer programs I know, because I simply sit down at the computer and DO IT. I don't know specifically what skillset I have because I just do what needs to be done, and research what I don't know how to do because it needs to be done, too.

I guess, I just want to work for someone who believes in me, and someone I believe in, with goals and philosophies I can stand behind. I want someone who will be flexible to allow me to attend things like DebConf and UDS, but also still be flexible for being involved in an orchestra or community musical. I want someone who will see me, see my skills, put them to good use, and help me build more skills. I want to work for a company that I'll feel happy working for for DECADES, not just a couple of years. I want to smile because I feel like smiling, not because it's expected that I smile at that customer/client. But, most of all, I want an employer whose goal isn't to grind me into the ground and toss me aside when I'm no longer needed or relevant. Where's my boss in shining armor?
Mood:: 'hopeful' hopeful


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