I think I've mentioned in passing a few times that I recently started a new job. I don't think I've told you anything about it though. Well, I'm now a social worker in the Emergency Department (ED) of a local hospital. Let me just tell you, as disappointing as it is, ER and Grey's Anatomy are not realistic. I mean, maybe you're not shocked by that. Probably your momma told you that you can't believe everything you read on TV. And mine told me that, too, but - somehow - I believed in those. At least a little. The reality, however, is much less exciting.
We have patients who are in the ED for the first time ever. And patients who are in for the 3rd time that week. Old, young. English speaking, non-English speaking. Every color and ethnicity. Patients who are generally healthy, those who have terminal illnesses. Ones who arrive alone, those who come with every single person in their extended families.
The reality of what's seen at an ED consists many things. A lot of breathing difficulties for a variety of reasons (kids swallowing things that aren't edible; respiratory issues; RSV; COPD; etc...). People seeking drugs (for valid pain/injuries, and because they have a substance abuse issue). Falls (down stairs, seemingly from simply standing, kids from places they've climbed, etc...). Burns (often kids accidentally getting some kind of hot liquid on themselves).
There are lots of ear infections. And vomiting. And coughing. These few things drive me crazy, so here's a brief teaching (or ranting) moment: the ER isn't the appropriate place for these kinds of issues, folks, unless it's the middle of the night and your kid is in horrific pain and has been screaming for hours. Or really can't breathe. Otherwise, please access your regular pediatrician, or, of course, do whatever your pediatrician's office tells you. But, please, contact them first.
There is also a fair amount of child abuse. Injuries that have just happened. Injuries that parents claim have just happened but examination proves differently. Teenagers. Tiny, little babies. Single injuries, injuries covering much of their bodies. Babies who aren't gaining weight because of neglect (as well as those who aren't gaining weight because of some kind of medical condition). There's lots of - often frustrating - interaction with child protection. But that's a whole rant deserving of it's own post.
The reality also consists of a lot of car crashes. Like a lot. Just run-of-the-mill ones (car vs. other car/tree/telephone pole/etc...). Often associated with bad weather. Minor, and major accidents. Lots of accidents.
And these accidents are the things that seem to be affecting me, personally, the most. I mean, you'd think (or at least I did), that the child abuse would be the most difficult for me to stomach. But, apparently 12 years of social work have allowed me to be able to handle the abuse alright, and at least not take them home with me. I mean, am I infuriated that kids are being abused? Hell yeah. But those kids aren't the ones infiltrating my dreams at night. It's those car accident kids that keep disrupting my sleep.
I think it's because I look at my boys and I know they are safe from the angry injuries most of the "abuse kiddos" are experiencing. I know my boys are being fed appropriately and are growing well. I know that hubby and I, though we certainly get frustrated with our boys at times, don't use physical discipline. And when one of us has had it, the other is there for backup so that neither of us loses it. I don't worry about my kids being covered in bruises in that way.
But car accidents seem so out of my control. It feels like there is so little I can do to prevent them. Of course the boys are absolutely always in their car/booster seats, even if we're just driving the half mile to Gram's house. And hubby and I always wear our seat belts. I know hubby and I are safe drivers, though, yes, I totally did back into a parked car less than two months ago (no, thankfully, the boys weren't with me). Also, I've totally backed off on the speeding as well.
But, still. I have no control over road conditions. Or the weather. Or other vehicles. The fear of being in an accident with my kids in the car is invading even my dreams, stealing the (albeit) little sleep I could be getting.
And I'm not sure what to do about it.
Today's lesson: Slow down and drive safely. I don't want to see you in the ED because of a car accident. I especially don't want to see your kids in here for one. And, for the love of pete, pretty pretty please put your kids in properly installed car seats Every. Single. Time. Even if you're just going around the block.