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Will my poor mopping skills hold me back?
July 25, 2012 12:01 PM   Subscribe

How can I best interpret the feedback I'm getting in a veterinary work experience placement?

In December, I will complete a qualification in animal care. During the summer break, I've been doing unpaid work experience for three days a week in a vet's surgery. I've been doing this partly to help me decide whether to pursue an apprenticeship in veterinary nursing after my course finishes.

In general, I'm really enjoying my placement. In addition to helping with day-to-day maintenance, I've been able to assist the vets during examinations, and even to perform minor tasks in the operating theatre. The vets seem to like me, and one of them even told me I would make a good nurse, which made my day.

But the actual nurses don't seem to be as keen on my work, and I suspect that their opinion may be more relevant. In particular, they seem to be unhappy with the way I clean. We vacuum and wash the floor every afternoon before lunch, and at first I was doing it in more or less the same way I would at home (I'm a mature student, so I'm not new to housekeeping). The head nurse mentioned that I was not vacuuming corners and crevices thoroughly enough, so I started taking extra care. Then she said I needed to get the job done faster, so I've been trying to do that. Then today, I asked another of the senior nurses if she wanted me to help mop, and she said, "No, you always get the floor too wet."

I feel quite bad about this. I've been in the placement for exactly a month, and am concerned that despite my efforts, I'm still not cleaning to the nurses' satisfaction. Does every aspiring VN take a while to learn to do it properly, or am I just housekeeping-impaired? How big a barrier would this be to my success in nursing or another veterinary profession? Besides keeping on with practice, is there anything more I can do to improve my skills? Or should I look into jobs where cleaning isn't as important?

Thanks.
posted by Perodicticus potto to Work & Money (11 answers total)
 
Are you on friendly terms with any of the nurses? Would it be possible to say, "Hey, I really like this job and I want to do my best here. I'd feel silly if something like my mopping skills held me back. Could you show me how you'd like it done?"

Remember that it's always okay to ask for help, especially if you're new.
posted by Flamingo at 12:08 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I may be way off base with this, but the complains you're getting from the nurses make me think they're treating you this way because the vets like you -- kind of a territory thing -- and that nothing you do will be good enough for them.
posted by jabes at 12:15 PM on July 25, 2012 [6 favorites]


I like flamingo's answer, but i'd also point out that people have quirks. It sounds like these nurses have a particular way they like things done, and you will too after you do a job for a while. Think of this as less of a housekeeping lesson and more of a "how to deal with quirky superiors" lesson.
posted by Blisterlips at 12:24 PM on July 25, 2012 [3 favorites]


(Actually also want to point out it sounds like these nurses are being a little nasty, seeing as though you are there to learn AND with no pay, helping them- but it doesn't help to dwell on their bad attitude.)
posted by Blisterlips at 12:30 PM on July 25, 2012


This is one of those things, everyone has a way they like something done. When you're the nurse, you'll have your method.

Husbunny was a people-nurse and he never mastered Hosptial Corners. I'm kind of kinky about how we make the bed and it maddens me that he doesn't grasp the concept. His point, "I worked in hospitals for over a decade and no one makes a bed that way."

Wherever you apprentice, they'll teach you their way.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:30 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


Echoing jabes, I had a family member work in a vet office as a vet tech ("nurse," I guess) immediately after graduating and getting certified by the state. There was also someone in the vet's office with no certification doing the same kind of "is this the kind of job I want" look-see. (I think she was getting paid, though.) The vet techs all hated her guts.

To them, "doing small things in exams/the OR" was interpreted as the trainee being uppity, since she lacked the training/certifications that the techs had, but was nonetheless edging them out (for work experience that they also needed, as recent grads). I would guess that (part of) the reason they are down on how you clean is to remind you (and themselves) who has a diploma and who doesn't.

Needless to say (if this is what's going on) it's pretty shitty, but you can at least think about what you can do to minimize the tension. As long as they aren't getting the vets involved (and its the vets you will be relying on for recommendation letters etc.), you can probably just play the "you're right, you have more experience than I do -- can you demonstrate how to do it quickly and properly" card. Ego boost for them, potential learning experience for you, and you sail right between the Scylla of passivity and the Charybdis of obdurateness.

In general, people have their neuroses. You'll probably have to learn some kind of "house style" wherever you wind up working (have to wash the walls every second Tuesday, or whatever). But as long as you are generally clean and sanitary (and remember that Dr. Whatsit has a thing for clean walls), I doubt that you will be disappointing to future employers.
posted by dendrochronologizer at 12:58 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


I feel quite bad about this. I've been in the placement for exactly a month, and am concerned that despite my efforts, I'm still not cleaning to the nurses' satisfaction. Does every aspiring VN take a while to learn to do it properly, or am I just housekeeping-impaired? How big a barrier would this be to my success in nursing or another veterinary profession? Besides keeping on with practice, is there anything more I can do to improve my skills? Or should I look into jobs where cleaning isn't as important?

I suspect that this is not a cleaning skills problem, but an interpersonal relationships in the workplace problem.

Maybe they're just condescending people. Maybe this is a sort of mild hazing. Maybe you represent something to them -- like youth or privilege -- that is making them jealous or resentful, after all, you still have so many choices ahead of you, and you can afford to work "for free" to figure it out. Maybe you're being wishy-washy (sorry, terrible pun) and they're trying to toughen you up. Maybe they have valid points, but you aren't quite catching on to their attempts at constructive criticism -- which could be the fault of their communication skills or yours or both.

Find a way to get along with these people. There will always be someone who is petty and negative, so you may as well figure out some ways to minimize the irritation.
posted by desuetude at 1:15 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I may be way off base with this, but the complains you're getting from the nurses make me think they're treating you this way because the vets like you -- kind of a territory thing -- and that nothing you do will be good enough for them.

I have worked in a number of veterinary hospitals and with dozens if not hundreds of veterinary technicians/nurses. I guarantee they are being territorial. This is very much par for the course as a well-educated, ambitious new hire or (especially) volunteer.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:21 PM on July 25, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am a former Vet Nurse. Unfortunately, bitchiness sometimes comes with the territory in this profession and I suspect that is what you are encountering here. Just keep doing your best and don't take it personally.

As far as I know there are practices where VNs do minimal cleaning, and there are certainly some RVNs who refuse to clean at all. You seem to already realise how important good house-keeping is, so that's a sign you'll make a great nurse. The best colleagues I've worked with really care about the details even if they don't always cover everything perfectly.

If you really want to appease the VNs, try to make as little work for them as possible by being proactive but not doing anything they've told you is unsafe. They may resent you because they have to do redo tasks after you've done them, on top of having to show you the ropes - it's nothing to do with you or your efforts, it's just that nursing is already a demanding job and a lot of VNs just don't have the time or patience for what they perceive as extra tasks.

If there is a cleaning job you've done that they haven't complained about (ie cleaning the kennels, laundry, folding drapes) stick with doing that unprompted rather than mopping or vacuuming. If there are no obvious cleaning jobs, get stuck in with the vets or watch an op. If they ask you to mop again, shine your halo and ask them to show you how they strain out the excess water so well.

A month isn't a long enough time to learn how the practice really works. If it's your dream stick with it and you will win them over.
posted by wigsnatcher at 1:42 PM on July 25, 2012 [2 favorites]


If the Docs like you, you probably would be a very good veterinary nurse. I have been a CVT in the US since 1984, most of that time for a single ER practice, but with a lot of relief work at regular "day-time" practices sprinkled in here and there. Bitchy-ness is indeed everywhere, although every practice is different, and some are MUCH worse than others in that regard. I hate it and always try to discourage it when I am in the position to set the tone in that way. I think it is rediculous and it's one of the top reasons I want to try something new after all this time, even though at this point I am rarely the target!

Seconding this from wigsnatcher: If you really want to appease the VNs, try to make as little work for them as possible by being proactive but not doing anything they've told you is unsafe. They may resent you because they have to do redo tasks after you've done them, on top of having to show you the ropes - it's nothing to do with you or your efforts, it's just that nursing is already a demanding job and a lot of VNs just don't have the time or patience for what they perceive as extra tasks.
-Don't do things you haven't been trained/cleared to do, whooh-boy can that cause trouble, and maybe hurt a patient

Also, here are some things that have jumped to mind:
-We see a never-ending parade of well-meaning persons that LOOOVE animals, that hope to explore veterinary medicine because they want to help animals. This is great! But many have never considered the realities of the work (and how would they know beforehand?) For instance: Animal is panicked and painful and needs pain injection, of course we are going to give him his medicine, despite his objection, oh yes. Ready, team? (Or, more realistically : "Ready, self?") Don't go into it for the "puppies and kittens", the soft, cuddly ones. They DO exist, but that is not what the job is mostly about.
-This job is HARD. Hard labor sometimes, and you have to be able to juggle about six mental chainsaws at once on top of that. Many CVT's (or VN's) are exceptional at this. Most of them weren't born into the biz, so they had to learn somewhere, just as you are. I agree with RockSteady that there are territory issues with many (which I find petty and stupid but there you are). All I can say is to try not to be that way when you are in their position.
-The best of us are able to deal with the inevitable and frequent heartbreak of some aspects of the work and still do good work. It can be difficult. Life and death are one of the few black/white things left as black and white in veterinary medicine (and even that is more in question everyday with brain studies of some human comatose patients (sorry no link, heard on RadioLab on NPR but found very believable/true), and death can be an everyday occurence. You will need to find a way to square the injustices/unfairness of life to some animals to the significant work you do. Which I have done and you can do too.
-Lazy people: Get 'em out!
-Cleaning. Be ready to do it all. I mean ALL. Laundry, poops, whatever, any time. Many jobs have specific protocols. Some rooms are maintained at cleanliness levels others are not (surgery suite not the same as isolation or treatment/x-ray/exam rooms). Ask what/why to gain understanding if that makes sense, and follow the rules! There are tech jobs with little/no cleaning, but much of our work is all about the maintenance of certain environments. Not knowing that a 3% bleach solution aerosolized on a stainless steel eaxm table and left to dry is more effective at killing germs than wiping said solution off after 20 seconds is something you will learn in tech school (or even if you persue medicine at all). Come to think of it, I was called to task on my mopping as an intern. Ouch!
-If you like the work, keep doing it and keep trying. People will notice!
-There is room in the business of veterinary medicine for pretty much everyone that wants to be involved, if they truly love the work and can handle the pains.

So anyway, if you really like the biz:
-be 10 minutes early, fed, cheerful, ready for work
-keep an extra pair of scrubs in the car/nearby
-keep an open mind
-ask the vets why they do things the way they do
-ask the techs the same thing
-know that panic in an emergency will never help you, or your patients. Think about what is important (ABC's etc) and be ready to do that, then breathe and go do it
-Remember that people love to show what they know, so learn all the tricks you can!
-THESE NURSES ARE NOT BEING VERY NICE TO YOU.

Good luck to you! I always want the best people handling MY animals. Never less. Never!
posted by bebrave! at 12:48 AM on July 26, 2012


If there is a cleaning job you've done that they haven't complained about (ie cleaning the kennels, laundry, folding drapes) stick with doing that unprompted rather than mopping or vacuuming. If there are no obvious cleaning jobs, get stuck in with the vets or watch an op. If they ask you to mop again, shine your halo and ask them to show you how they strain out the excess water so well.

I disagree with this. Jump right in and do whatever needs done, whenever. Be the best wringer-outer ever, get all the corners, etc. Bitchy people are just liable to run to the vets complaining you don't pull your weight in the job you're supposed to do, and you don't want that. Even if they don't, they'll yack to each other about how you think you're too good to do those jobs. You can't win. It's not forever. Just be your shining self.
posted by BlueHorse at 5:17 PM on July 26, 2012


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