Competent Confidence

A hundred years ago I used to (try to) sell mobile homes, or the proper term is Manufactured Houses. These weren’t trailers and none of them could be hooked up to the back of a truck and moved in the dead of night to skip out on space rent. When I started in the business the licensure was a step above used-car salesman. I worked at a now defunct firm in Santa Clara called Roney and Associates where the broker was ga-ga over a real estate sales guru called Tommy Hopkins. He was big in the business at the time and he did seminars, boot camps in Scottsdale AZ and sold all sorts of books and cassette taped lectures. Though he was an accomplished real estate salesperson, he made his hard core money selling his classes, books, boot camps and cassette tapes. My mother internalized a lot of it as a professional way to manipulate the family. Her mistake was to let my sister C and I listen to the tapes and we could hear the “close” coming and realize we were being played. I bring him up because one portion of a lesson has always stuck with me…

The Stages of Competence

Stage 1: Unconscious INCOMPETENCE

This is a euphoric state when you realize everyone around you is floundering and you’re sailing through. All the square blocks are effortlessly falling into the really large round holes but you’re too pleased with yourself to notice. You keep plugging along because it’s working and you aren’t sweating it.

Stage 2: Conscious Incompetence

Suddenly the euphoria erupts into chaos. The round holes are smaller and the square blocks were actually pyramid shaped and they HAVE to go sideways into the only visible hole in front of you. You throw your hands up and scream to the heavens but you don’t quit because you know you can and will get it…..maybe……someday…..if they don’t fire you first. I will have to say, at this stage it never occured to me I could go back to my old job. Like I said before, the benefits are just too good to leave. So, the only thing to do is remember all the kind encouragement, barked instructions and training and keep pushing toward stage 3.

Stage 3: Conscious Competence

I think I hit this stage today. Our float to help out didn’t make it, probably had to cover for someone who didn’t make it to their site. It was steady and I wasn’t overwhelmed by a throng of patients. Luckily. I found myself pausing when stressed and taking a deep breath and (I hate to admit it but…) the trainer from Training Is Fun-Da-Mental‘s advise of highlighting everything (even though it eats into the wait time) is helping me catch things like stool samples that also read as blood, duplicate orders and other things I’M SUPPOSED TO BE CATCHING but generally don’t. We’ll see how well this works when it’s busy tomorrow, especially if I’m alone at the desk but it was nice to evaluate myself today as not drowning at the front desk for the first time EVER.

Stage 4: Unconscious Competence

The hithertofore yet to be obtained stage for my work at the front desk and in the lab.

This is the goal.

This is the ultimate of ultimates.

I know once I subdue the beasty known as the front desk my next battle royale will be the lab. I’m doing okay, I have help if I have any questions, but I need to go faster. But I’m not beating myself up about it because I’ve learned in the post apocalypse, I can’t handle more than one challenge on my plate at one time. It stymies me into inaction which doesn’t help anyone…..especially me. So, for the front desk, I’m hoping by the end of this month or the middle of next I will have a handle on it and the aforementioned trainer won’t have too much of a need to bark instructions at me from over my shoulder. The lab is just a matter of accurate speed. Speed is a matter of muscle memory. Muscle memory in a body which feels like it’s wrapped in dementia most of the time is the hurdle I need to clear. But that, my dear reader, is a blog for another day…..soon.

Heart Beats in Time

Back in Uncomfortably Numb I mention my heart was constantly racing and I was dealing with runs of palpitations. I willed it not to be a cardiac problem because I didn’t have the time or emotional bandwidth to deal with it. I convinced myself it was the anxiety flipping switches in the my electrocardio system. I believed once I moved, got settled, got my unemployment paying my bills while I looked for a job everything would settle down back to normal. It didn’t. I’m able to track my heartrate thanks to this cool device called an Oura Ring. I learned about it when I was doing home exams and was told a big research hospital (either Johns Hopkins or Mayo, can’t remember) and the military were using it to predict COVID symptoms days before they were visible. It also tracks sleeping patterns, tells you how hard you should work out depending if you recovered enough from the day before based on your body temperature, restfulness, and heart rate through the night. It also tracks activity, not steps. Steps might be better because when I do a marathon stretch of crocheting it says I’ve walked 5 miles….without leaving my chair.

When I first got the ring my resting heart rate when I slept was in the 45-50 range. When I did my EKG training we had to give one another EKGs and my strips actually were marked as bradycardic (a slow heart rate under 60 bpm) but just barely. I bought it in March 2021 and wore it for about 5 months then it disappeared. I put it on it’s charger, went to the bathroom and when I came back it was gone. I cleaned out my room looking for it and didn’t find it. When I was moving at the end of this May it had miraculously found its way into a caddy I kept under my bed; a caddy I searched twice. Paranoia has provided a list of suspects and reasons, but I won’t go into that now. I charged the ring and when I first uploaded the nights report I was astounded to find my lowest heart rate was in the upper 80’s. Sometimes it would dip to a low to mid 60’s bpm but it still was hanging out in the 80’s. This was the week I was unpacking, so I wasn’t too worried. But it became a constant. I would take my pulse during the day for a whole minute and I would get the same numbers, plus I could feel the premature atrial contractions (PACs) which make up the palpitations. I figured I just needed to settle into my life more and find a job, so I tried not to worry about it.

Once I got the job my heart rate did decrease down to the low to mid 80’s. Still double when my consistent heart rate was when I first got the ring. All through the LabCorp training my heart rate was consistent with my pre-employment rate. I wasn’t having the palpitations as often as I did before but I was still having them when I sat still and cleared my distractions. I started working at my site. And then I got paid. And then my resting heart rate went back down into the low 50s. I’m still feeling the anxiety because I’m worried I’m going to fail, but that’s a normative state for me and I’m still having problems making ends meet right now because I’ve only had one paycheck and several months of bills but my sister C has been helping me (Thankfully!). Having the consistency of a job, of a schedule, of an income seems to the the balm my anxious heart needs to settle down into a normal rhythm.

This is something I’m going to need to keep in mind when I finally do make the big move. I need to have more money in the bank and a job in place so I won’t have to deal with my heart racing three paces ahead of me for months on end until I finally catch up to it.

Training is Fun-Da-Mental

So, I’m employed. I think I mentioned that. If I didn’t, sorry.   I spent one looooong week in a school-like training in front of a computer reading, no thinking required, and it completely flattened me. The second week was learning how to read, and enter orders then mock draw and process the ‘blood’. This week marks my first full week putting the second week’s processes into practice. I draw more in a day than I used to in a week, and after the first few very painful days I’m starting to get the hang of it.  I am picking things up quickly but as per usual with me, never quickly enough.

A question I get from my family is “will you be able to do this job?” Their meaning is are you going to be able to do this long term without going around the bend.  I think I can.  It’s not rocket science, it’s just sticking people with needles. It is very fulfilling when you think you know where it is and you’re right.  It’s rewarding when people say they didn’t feel anything or when they say they’ll ask for you next time because you’re one of three people to EVER to get the vein on that arm.  It is nice to have validation from perfect strangers that I am doing the job I am meant to be doing.  (To clarify, writing and being a writer is who I am, vampire is what I do to be who I am).

I’ve been thinking back to the late nights spent with my  journal planning for after the apocalypse.  The plan was I would go to the two week vampire school, I would get a job, I would move away and happily become who I want to be instead of what I was.   I expected it to take about a year. I was a little short sighted as to  how long it would take and how hard of a slog it would be and, of course, COVID. The joke about parents walking to school ten miles in the snow barefoot uphill…both ways, barely describes the process it has been. (Note ‘it HAS been’, not ‘it is’.) I’m still pushing forward on those plans concocted alone in bullet-proof ink only now I’m stronger, a bit wiser and just a little germaphobic.

Training was an exercise in keeping the anxious ‘I can’t do this’ and ‘I’m going to fail’ carefully cordoned off with a rope of self-talk and prayer. I did better than I thought I would even though I over-thought the simple stuff. The last few days of this week I purposely stretched my back and shoulders between the waves of patients, found comfortable shoes and meditated during lunch. Basically, figuring out what I need to do to do my job with the way my mind works. I’m enjoying the people I work with, they aren’t off put by my anxiety and understand I will do more and go faster I just need to settle a little. We had a float/trainer come in on Friday who, I don’t know if she meant to or not, but did a great job in shaking those foundations I had already built. She’s one of those trainers who believes her way is the best way and just barks instructions over your shoulder while you’re trying to learn something. Telling me to put in a code isn’t training me to find the code when she isn’t there. I’m sure I’ve been that kind of trainer when I was younger but I sincerely don’t appreciate it now and I strained to hold back my comments on her ‘training’ skills. How do you tell someone they need to be trained to train? My experience for training is from training volunteers. Two different animals, I know, but the process is the same.

So, the tally is…two weeks at an off-site training facility, one week on site, one paycheck that is already spent and my first six day week coming up. I’m looking forward to September 5…..Memorial Day…..a paid day off. What a concept. I balked at the two week off-site training we were required to endure when I was hired, but because of it the first week onsite was far more fun than mental.