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Sweet Torture

Have you ever wanted to just quit your job?

This Thursday is my last day at work. I am still in shock.

In many ways, price deciding to leave has been a relief. One of the doctors recently said that working at San Francisco General Hospital is kind of like being a 2010 San Francisco Giants fan. It’s all “Sweet Torture”. I couldn’t agree more. Right after graduate school, check I wanted this job as an HIV social worker because I knew that it was ground zero for HIV work in San Francisco, viagra order promising the most stimulating and difficult cases.

Nothing quite prepared me for my job at SF General Hospital which serves as the city’s back up health care for the uninsured, disabled, and disenfranchised public. At this overburdened hospital, the lines start early in the morning, and I am bombarded with requests from the moment I set foot in the elevator at 8am. The day continues with 14 patient appointment slots every 30 minutes to fill my day. I feel fortunate just to get coffee in the morning, eat my lunch and pee. Sometimes I leave the hospital so disoriented and dehydrated from the day that I wander the neighborhood trying to remember where I parked my car that morning.

There is rarely a pause of silence in my office. Actually, I need to say our office. I share a 10 by 12 room with three other social workers, and many times during the day there are eight people in our room when all of us are seeing patients. Fourteen slots by four people mean that 56 patients are scheduled daily to been seen by social work for mental health, substance use, and crisis assessments. At any point in the day, one of us is asking a question such as, “how many times a week do you smoke crack?,”  “what risks do you take when you have sex?,” and “how do you plan to kill yourself?”

In addition to being mentally draining, the clinic can be downright dangerous. Our office door is also open for any behavioral emergency on the floor. We’ve had two patients who almost attempted suicide by jumping off the building and had to be literally talked off the ledge by social workers. I’ve also hospitalized two patients who told me that they were homicidal and had a weapon and an intent to kill someone.

A couple of times I also felt that our safety as staff was threatened. I’ll never forget the patient who pretended to have a machine gun under his trench coat and made a shooting motion directed at us staff when we asked him to leave. I still get the chills thinking about the patient who threatened our lives by saying he placed a bomb in our clinic to kill us all.

So why have I been bittersweet leaving this job? Without a doubt I love a challenge. I feel a tight connection with my coworkers in our shared office as if we are soldiers facing a war together or firefighters entering a burning building. It’s easy to focus on the negative interactions rather than the positive relationships. Recently, a woman from Guatemala brought me a bouquet of flowers in gratitude for writing her a psychological assessment that assisted her in obtaining political asylum.

There is great satisfaction when you feel entrusted by patients who may not be able to talk about their HIV diagnosis and the reality of their lives with anyone else but you. The vast majorities of our patients do not have a violent bone in their body and have simply found themselves in a vulnerable moment in their lives. It is an honor to provide support and accompany patients through these difficult times. Without a doubt we do help and make a difference in people’s lives.

So, despite the relief to leave my work, I am grieving the loss of this insane job that I have loved. Despite all the privacy violations in our office, I will miss turning to my coworkers as saying, “Oh my God. Did you hear that? That was unbelievable!”

Just as the San Francisco Giants were a collection of crazy wild personalities, so is the staff at my clinic. I will miss the laughter in our office tremendously.

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