Missed Part 1? Click here to get up to speed.


I arrive at work, nervous about the reasons I was called in. I remember my partner walking past me, stopping, and saying quietly, “They’re out for blood, man, keep your head up in there, you took care of that patient right, this is BS.” My brain didn’t really appreciate the look on his face or his words until I sat down.  The owner of the company and the three non-owner managers sat waiting. They were never in the same place at the same time, this must be bad.

I took my seat and tried to steady myself.

A string of questions about the call start firing at me. Did I remember the call.   Of course (not).  What do you normally do for patient X?  What did you do this time?  Tell us about the narcotic replacement process.  How often do you skip counting the narcotics in the truck? What? Never.   

Suddenly there is narcotic box on the table. Can you tell us what’s wrong in this narcotics box.  

This is about when my brain starts putting pieces together and starts yelling something.  I still don’t know what it was trying to tell me, but in hindsight I like to think it was “time to shut up”.

Still working through the fog, I marched down the path they had led me on – hey, why are there 4 of narcotic A in there?  Is this your narc box?

Sure was.

I remember feeling trapped, like more was at stake than I was prepared for.  Why couldn’t I remember the call?  What the hell was I doing replacing the wrong narcotic?  Did I really give the wrong one.  The patient stopped seizing, I know that. I know there was no harm, why are they coming so hard.

“YOU COULD HAVE [expletive] KILLED THIS PATIENT”

“No, Narcotic B is indicated for seizures too!” got out of my mouth before I could stop it. I wasn’t wrong, however I didn’t follow our protocols, and my documentation was sloppy due to the number of calls we received that night and my severe fatigue.

Thankfully, no harm had come to the patient, but not remembering the call, ineffective documentation and replacing the wrong narcotic made it clear that I needed some time off, and the owner of the company agreed.

I took 3 weeks off.  Slept. Ate well. Reflected.  Was it time to leave patient care? Could I see a path to sustainability of that schedule?  No and No, I thought. I settled on dropping to one 24 hour shift per week and supplementing with other work or going back to school.

My first post-vacation shift came up, and they “would rather I didn’t take it”.  They would also rather I didn’t work with that partner again. One shift a week “wouldn’t work for us”  I guess I’ll do two? I was physically rested, but I was not emotionally healed. I didn’t care. Something was missing. I wasn’t missing things anymore, but I wasn’t engaged either.

Now, it’s clear that I was burnt out, which led to mistakes. I was lucky that my mistakes hadn’t caused any irreversible harm, but that doesn’t mean the next one wouldn’t have.


To read part 3 of my burnout series  – Reflection – click here (after May 24, 2019).