Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

It's 1 AM. Do You Know Where the Third Shift Is? It Doesn't Matter What Time It Is, DSPs Need to Be There. (Workforce)

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

It's 1 AM. Do You Know Where the Third Shift Is? It Doesn't Matter What Time It Is, DSPs Need to Be There. (Workforce)

Article excerpt

2:11 AM, MAY 24

One hour ago I was beeped by a house manager. Third shift had not come in. So I'm now sitting at the group home with Gilligan's Island on the TV, contemplating why I'm working in this field.

It was the typical supervisory scenario. All the safety nets had broken except the final one. The on call system worked, but it was me on call, the director of the 14-home residential division of a community agency--the "big cheese."

As I was responding to the call at 1 AM., I was thinking of every way to cover this shift without having to come myself. It had been a hellish past month on the job. I had been working 12 hour clays plus Saturdays and Sundays completing the budget, Regional Monitor Reports, Quality Assurance Reviews; attending an evening job fair which we were hopeful would recruit much-needed staff; and assisting in the opening of several new supportive living homes. When I get called in the middle of the night my gut reaction is to decide who is to blame. Ninety percent of the time you can't blame anyone and the reality is that the shift has to be covered, and you're the one to cover it.

Tonight, as I was driving, I remembered my personal experience. My father was a doctor in a small town in South Dakota; he was always on call. We rarely could plan activities as a family because he had to be available. We managed, and I learned a social responsibility that is the backbone of my existence today. There is also the daunting reminder that I'm 49 and a cancer survivor, and I can't keep this up for too much longer. Burn-out is very high in this field and I'm seeing the signs in myself. I'm becoming the person I swore I wouldn't be when I started in this field.

I've worked in direct care supervision for the past 10 years. In the previous 15 years I worked as a case manager, psych tech, adolescent counselor, etc. The first time I provided coverage for a house manager it was for 10 days over the Christmas holidays. There was no one else willing to cover. The couple who were the house managers wanted to go home for the holidays, so I left my family at home and moved in for the duration. Everything went fairly well until New Year's Eve-third shift was a no show, no call. So I stayed awake thinking, "Okay, when the first shift comes in I can get some sleep." The first shift called in to say they too weren't coming. I was exhausted. …

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