Pink Slip

I didn’t know why Nancy wasn’t at work today, again. I asked and learned she has the rest of the week off. We don’t work the same shift but it was obvious she hadn’t been there because she is one of the powerhouse cutters. What I mean by that is, she cuts a lot and fast and I could see a lot hadn’t been cut.

In another post I mention how fast cutting is not always the best cutting. Nancy is one of those cases. That has always been accepted by supervision. For years they haven’t done anything about her cutting because she cuts so much and they want a fast Turn Around Time, TAT. They accepted her doing other parts of her job by half measures as long as she cut fast. They only cared that blocks were cut and if she was damaging certain types of biopsies, she was told not to cut that type. There was plenty more to do. No one taught her how to improve.

Now she’s got the rest of the week off and no one is saying why. That silence is familiar. I suspect supervision is starting the process to fire her but, if she is fired, it isn’t for poor work. In FOUR recent cases, tragedy at home caused techs to miss work and those techs were eventually fired. Nancy just had a tragedy at home. It has already caused her to miss a few weeks. Not all at once, but added together.

vomit-303484_1280We are allowed to call off sick three days a year. When tragedy strikes, it is considered a sick day if an employee has to call off. In all four recent cases the tragedy took more than three days. One might expect to miss more than three days when a husband gets sick, an orphaned teen is added to the family, a house burns down, or children are hospitalized. One might expect it to take weeks of days over the course of a year in such situations, but we have three days. At three days we get a warning. At four days we get written up for missing time. At five days we get time off, at the discretion of the supervisor. That is where I think Nancy might be now. The next step is to fire her.

So Nancy isn’t at work today and when – I mean if– they end up firing her they will have to find a replacement. The thing is, no qualified techs applied for the last position. My workplace is now known to be a bad one. All techs with any experience in my area have seen the constant ads my workplace puts out for more help.

The histotech community is small. We know when a hospital needs to fill positions often we should avoid it or at least call our friends and find out why.

“Well, if you work there, they will fire you if you miss too much work, regardless of the reason.”business-19148_1920.jpg

“If you work there, you will be paid less and never get a decent raise.”

“If you work there, you will have to pay for parking and work the strangest damn hours ever!”

“If you work there, you won’t have any retirement plan or health care.”

Yeah, we network. It has finally reached the point where the only techs who take a job at my place are people who aren’t techs but want to be. Either that or they are people who have come from someplace worse. I fall into that last category, someplace worse. But now, we might be the worst. No tech with experience has applied for openings at my lab for months. The last guy they hired they have to train from scratch. (That’s another story! OMG!)

Because of this practice of firing people for tardiness and calling off rather than incompetence, the lab has only a couple of experienced techs who can troubleshoot complex problems. The supervisor and his assistants are not included in that. Our supervisor and assistant supervisors go to the few experienced techs when they need difficult questions answered. It is the experienced techs who teach other techs how to handle delicate biopsies, do complex jobs, troubleshoot problems and they are the ‘go to’ people for fixing errors.

The manner in which a biopsy is handled is supervision’s responsibility. If they do not retain competent help, or train their techs to become competent, then the poor work is their fault. In the event a patient is harmed by incompetent or poorly trained techs, patients should hold the hospital and the lab responsible.

It is possible to see if your hospital lab is a bad place to work. Simply look at the help wanted ads. If the lab is constantly advertising, they probably have some issues. The only other explanation is sudden growth but that is rare in histology labs.

Back to Nancy, she was not the cream of the crop. The best tech we had was fired two years ago when her family tragedy caused her to miss days and come in late for more than the allotted nine. Supervision hasn’t found anyone of her caliber again. How long before the last two fully competent techs are gone and patients don’t get the service they should expect and deserve? It seems to me, the patient is at greater risk with every pink slip if techs with experience are not applying.

Management of this sort might be the reason you, the patient, got poor lab results. Your biopsy could have been mishandled by a tech without proper training or supervision. It might be difficult to learn if that is the case, but it is worth looking into it if you are going to court with a case for a mishandled biopsy.


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