Tuesday, June 12, 2012

WTF did I just say?

Warning: This is a super long-winded post consisting of:
The main story,
Part 1 of 2 for note 1,
Part 2 of 2 for note 1,
Case 1 of 3 for note 2,
Case 2 of 3 for note 2,
Case 3 of 3 for note 2, and
some reflections.


Main story

This week, I had a pretty tough time handling kiasu-ism1 and bullying amongst my GNIE classmates in school. This Sunday and Monday, the freaking competitiveness1 and selfishness of my Filipino clinical group-mate JC (and to a smaller degree IT) rubbed against me. 
In fact, I suspect that by morning break today (Monday), JC probably realized that she had somehow offended me. Suddenly she was sucking up to me, kissing my ass by lathering on flattery of my nursing skills -- out of ear-shot of the CI (and my other classmates), of course! Sorry, no cure. For someone who had regularly asked for and received help from me, but frequently excused herself when I asked her for help in return (even when I was assisting her patient, not mine), flattery isn't going to buy my goodwill back. In fact, when I mentioned to AP about my observations of JC's behaviour, AP agreed that JC is a selfish bitch.
At the end of our extended shift today (Monday), a minor incident happened where an overworked and highly-strung RN staff made a small error. She insisted on ordering a pre-mixed IV medication from the pharmacy instead of allowing the clinical instructor (CI) to supervise a student (AP) to do mixing. This resulted in a delay in medication and our CI and my group-mate AP laughing with a 幸灾乐祸 [celebrating over others' misfortune] glee because they were offended by the RN's insistence.
Note: Earlier today, that same RN also harassed our CI to harass the student (yours truly) to complete the pre-op checklist at around 1420, before our 1/2 hour break at 1445, even though the patient was only due for operation at 1700. Actually by then, the case had already been transferred from the RN to her LPN colleague. And strangely, the RN did not come to me directly regarding the pre-op checklist, but went to our CI several times and each of my other student nurse classmates. Initially when my CI asked me for it, I was transferring my patient from bed to chair with assistance from my classmate KS. When I was done with that, I went back to the nurses station to check the charts (to do the pre-op checklist), but decided that I should re-write my nursing notes as I felt that my English expression was ambiguous at one part. While I was transferring the nursing notes to a fresh charting sheet, the LPN chased me once and to which I replied, "I will do it once I'm done transferring my nursing notes. Later, if my CI is not free; can you guide me through it?" I think the LPN then chased our CI once for it. Thereafter, our CI chased me several more times for it. 
Anyway, long story short, I was a little annoyed but mostly bemused by this roundabout chasing. Then I found out later that the RN had her 2 stable patients (of her 4 workload) transferred out of her hands and dumped with 2 new cases, and then subsequently when 1 of the new cases stabilized, she was dumped with more new cases (my deductions based on the census board statistics and snippets of conversation between the RN and the unit clerk), my perspective changed to one of sympathy.
AP was laughing gleefully, "Serve that smartypants RN right!" repeating her story to my classmates on our way out of the hospital, again in our carpool home and repeatedly laughing with 幸灾乐祸 [celebrating over others' misfortune] glee. That was it! At was the last straw that broke the camel's back. This week I had found one or another behaviour of each of my Filipino classmates beyond minor irritation. Somehow AP's 幸灾乐祸 [celebrating over others' misfortune] glee over and over again on our carpool ride home triggered in my mind some association with the "Filipino selfishness and cruelty" [click here, here and here] especially when group loyalty runs amok.

I suddenly blurted out, "Look, maybe it's one of those busy days where everyone had a bad day. That RN had her 2 stable cases taken away from her and dumped with more and more new cases."

AP challenged, "Are you sure she had new cases?"

I rebutted, "Yes, IT and my cases were hers, taken off her hands. She was then dumped with 2 new cases. One of those was YOURS. When you were passing report to her, I noticed on the (census) board that she was being dumped with more new cases. Did you not notice that? How would you feel if YOU were that RN?"

I added, "I had bullied new people before, when we were so busy and overworked."2
[I am human, I have my flaws and they rear their ugly heads when I am overstressed. Aiming for a less stressful and healthier work environment is part of the reason why I chose to hasten my departure from Singapore despite the hefty costs incurred (especially the repayment of uncompleted bond). 2 of the 3 alleged bullying cases happened during my Singapore nursing student days when I was accused by 2 classmates of bullying. Bear in mind that I had worked for less than 1.5 years as an RN in Singapore and I was mostly a victim or a by-stander in nursing-workplace bullying.]
JC slimed, "I didn't have a bad day! I had a wonderful day."

To which I thought, "That's because you're a selfish bitch!" but I held my tongue. I had done enough damage for the day. The car journey was quiet for a while.


Part 1 of 2 for note 1

1Note: Here's the part 1 of the details regarding kiasu-ism, the Filipinos and JC in particular.

Besides the results of the first nursing theory test for this semester being released last week, the first Sociology test result was also released. When the Sociology professor returned us our papers for review, I was seated with IJ to my right, and LP to his right. Behind us were PT, AP, and IT respectively at our usual Filipino corner of the classroom. JC and DL were seated on the middle aisle together with the Filipinos from the other sub-group as usual. As our marks were written on the test paper returned to us, IJ, LP, PT, AP and IT all knew my score.

The gang made an audible "Wow!" I suspect they did it to piss-off the competitive Filipino folks from the other sub-group. [Note: As I commented in aSingaporeanSon's blog, they expect me to carry the Filipino flag for our sub-group as well.] When I walked to the front to return the papers later, one of my Indian sub-group classmate asked in-front of the other Indians "How much did you score?" to which I declined to reveal despite repeated teasing/pressure from her and the other Indians to reveal the number.

Since JC did not sit with us, she did not know my score. Suffice to say, she guessed that it was kind of high. On Saturday morning, while waiting for IT to fetch us in our carpool, she "casually" asked, "WD, have you done your Sociology assignment?"

I replied in negative. Then she expressed, "I haven't done it either. But it is easy for you, since your English is sooooo good."

I decided not to take her bait. After a pause, JC asked, "WD, what did you get for Sociology test?"

I gave a shrug and a roundabout answer, "I'm happy with my marks."

JC opened her mouth (I think she was about to push on for the number) when thankfully, the other Indian in clinical sub-group RR chipped in with, "We all pass, y'know."

I smiled at RR and rejoined, "We all passed. That's the most important thing. Happy!"

The reason why I was guarded against JC is that she had shown selfish, competitive and manipulative behaviours since the first semester. I suspect Filipino loyalty decrees that they accept her as part of the group and close their eyes to her flaws.

p.s. In any case, I am not the one with the highest score. According to AP, when the Filipino gang gave the "Wow!" remark, the professor responded by mentioning quickly and quietly that there is someone else who scored 70 marks (91%). Frankly I don't care either way, I'm just here to learn, make sure that I pass the GNIE course... and hopefully have some fun along the way.


Part 2 of 2 for note 1

1Note: Here's the part 2 of the details regarding kiasu-ism and my clinical group in particular. This is something that I did not share with others in the class or my clinical group, because I wanted to preserve the "group unity" image of my clinical group.

Flashback to the last semester before we started our first clinical. By then, we had several weeks in class and the results of our first pharmacology test and our 1st 2 nursing theory tests. Suffice to say that the Filipinos were pissed off with AmP's competitiveness and her look-down her nose attitude, thus they adopted me as the Filipino flag bearer since I hang out with them for lunch.

As the 1st day of clinical approached, PT, IT and a few others, each approached me privately to be paired with them. They wanted to be paired with a perceived "strong" partner. To each of them, I gave a non-commital "Sure, I don't mind", because frankly I don't care as long as we try to work together. I had told them frankly that I am not that great when it comes to clinical, yet I continued to receive repeated requests even until the night before our 1st clinical orientation. By then, I recognized that AP probably needed support and either IT or myself would be best placed to assist her. Thus, when IT texted me the night before the clinical to further confirm that I would partner with him, I replied, "Let's help everyone pass the clinical. You and I are probably the strongest in the group, let's each pair up with a weaker student, so that we may all pass."

IT replied, "Let's see what the CI assigns. We may not get to choose our partners."


Case 1 of 3 for note 2

2Note: Here's case 1 of 3 details of my bullying new people while nursing in Singapore.

Case 1: Let's start with RC. RC, my nursing buddy CL and I were sponsored by (i.e. bonded to) same hospital under the Accelerated Diploma in Nursing scheme.

I met RC during the pre-course orientation, we have not met CL yet. She was super-sociable, critical of people who were selfish and had come from an NGO servicing the handicapped. We clicked quickly. Since she told me that she had some graphics background & publishing skills and had done various graphic design works for her NGO (e.g. the newsletter, brochures, etc), I offered her an opportunity to partner with me on an electronic newsletter contract that I was contemplating to bid for from my banking client. I am a software techie who dips her toes occasionally into the design stuff when needs arise, so having a graphic design oriented partner would be great. RC agreed and was excited about it. I went ahead to bid for the contract and won it based on my reputation amongst the banking staff and my assurance of delivery of a highly polished product. We started cracking on the work.

RC's initial submissions were (IMHO) amateur efforts. When I gave her constructive suggestions on how to re-work the art (since I knew the bank's standard pretty well), she insisted on making only minor changes each time and I had to repeat my suggestions again and again. After a few rounds, she became defensive. Since she seemed busy, I told her that I would create the first composite image to meet the progress deadlines, which I did. I presented the first composite to the client and did some simple edits as per the clients' request. Then I passed my entire work done to-date to RC for any follow-up changes. Now anyone who had worked within the artistic circle professionally would be familiar with clients having their own 2 cents input on adjustments here and there until "press time". RC took those personally, dragged on the delivery, and finally just before the next deadline told me that she's out! I pressed on to create a product framework myself, gave it to my client and apologized to them honestly that I could not complete the project as my creative partner had bailed on me. My clients were understanding enough, offered to pay me for the efforts to-date, after all I did create a usable framework that they loved. I emailed them in black-and-white that I would not charge them for the framework as a goodwill gesture for the inconvenience caused to them by my change of plans. From there I knew that RC was not open to constructive criticisms and so I was very careful with any suggestions to her.

When school started we met CL and our other classmates. RC, CL and I and several others sponsored by another restructured hospital decided to form a group. CL was pleasant, non-competitive (focused on passing), had just entered motherhood, juggling between her toddler and her studies. I instinctively felt supportive of CL. RC too stated that she just wanted to pass, but each time the results of our first tests came out, she could not stop whining about how/why CL and I did better than her. Finally I told her in a roundabout way* (bearing in mind from past experience that she did not like direct criticisms) not to compare her grades against others, especially since she had already achieved her objective of passing. I didn't dare to tell her that I could get away with passing with minimal effort because of my IQ.
*Note: What I cited was my experience in a university hostel where myself, a guy and a gal were studying for Operations Research (a form of mathematics) together as fellow hostelites. Each time, the guy would show us the questions he had solved and asked me about the questions that he was stuck on; the gal would complain how she could not solve any despite trying; and I would be the blur one who didn't even know which questions were on our assignment, but went through formulating the solutions with both. When the exam results came, both the guy and the gal failed, but I passed that unit. The gal was fuming mad that "someone who didn't even study had passed but she who had put in so much effort didn't". In fact, she did not speak to me for some time over "how unfair life is". [Frankly, I found it ironic that she would be jumping about how unfair life is, given her family's socio-economic background (hint: ivory chopsticks for daily use, anyone?) and how pampered she was by her parents, over her brother. Anyway, that's a different story, and it's all good now that she is happily married and wealthy.]
Anyway, RC started spreading gossips behind my back that I was a show-off with "high IQ, no EQ". CL was upset and concerned so she pulled me aside and told me about it. I laughed that RC only got the gossip 1/2 right. That's when I confessed to CL about my high IQ. I also told her briefly about RC's earlier behaviour on our business collaboration. Well, my EQ isn't great, but it is certainly not zero. At least I know how to please my clients. CL told me clearly that she saw the whole process of what happened (with respect to the test grades) and that she would stand by me.

To cut a long story short, things worsened between RC and us, as she felt left out of the threesome. CL and myself avoided the other classmates for lunch as we didn't care about wasting time clarifying useless gossips. Unfortunately, RC took her unhappiness to our project group dynamics. She continued to declare that she only wanted to pass, but insisted that projects must be done with all inclusive contents her way (including stuff that are irrelevant), because she and some other team-mates feel that it is the way to get good grades. She lobbied other team-mates to her side, which fractured the team into 3 vs 2, and 2 neutral persons. Near the final week of presentations, RC and her lobbyists called for a showdown meeting -- which obviously did not turn out well. They felt truly offended when I told them angrily in response to their personal attacks that, "You don't have to like the people you work with. You just have to be professional. It's nothing personal."

Things didn't get better at our 1st hospital clinical with RC, CL and myself posted back to our sponsoring hospital. I remember snapping at her for not being a team-player. RC told my other classmates that I was a bully. I was pretty much excluded from most outside-school social events organized by some classmates. Initially they invited CL to the events too, telling her to come without me. The first time CL told me about the invitation, I encouraged her to join the others and not be excluded from the rest of the class because of me. CL told me that she would stand by me because she did not appreciate the exclusion attitude (i.e. social bullying by RC and gang) and she felt that I was not in the wrong. I thanked CL for her support and belief in me. I told her that she did not have to tell me about such invitations in future, I didn't care if I was excluded from the social events since I have a busy enough life as it was (juggling serving my IT contracts and full-time school). [Note: I would attend if invited just to "give face", but I was kind of glad not to be invited.]

I accept that I share the blame for things spiralling to such a bad state, and I could certainly do better in my EQ. Nevertheless, I can deal with the fact that I had tried my best under that relational aggression situation (where a bully claims to be the victim).


Case 2 of 3 for note 2

2Note: Here's case 2 of 3 details of my bullying new people while nursing in Singapore. Again this involved a classmate during my Accelerated Diploma in Nursing days.

Case 2: It was the 2nd semester. We had formed groups by drawing lots and some minor swapping. My group consisted of CL, LN, PL, JS, YB, of which CL and YB were from my 1st semester group. Once again I was arrowed to be the group leader.
Note: Each time, I didn't asked for the leadership position. I even asked each team-mate, if he/she would like to lead and I would support him/her. But I kenna again (i.e. I was appointed again). In fact, even now in my current GNIE class, I am the de-facto leader of the sub-group and the clinical group. That's why I try to hold my temper and suck it up when I see minor annoyances, because I recognize from my Singapore nursing school experience that if anyone in the group started bitching, it would break the group rapport.
LN was rumoured from previous semester to be a parasitic team-member. Frankly I didn't give a hoot considering that the gossip network had it that I was a bully. Given my reputation of the class bully, PL and JS were very wary of me in the beginning. On our first major project together, when PL challenged my draft of our group presentation (since I was tasked with doing that), I casually replied, "Do you have an alternative suggestion?" To her credit, she did have an excellent alternative, which I took up immediately. From then on, JS and PL slowly changed their opinion of me.
Another side-track: A little background from my university (Computer Science) days. We had Operating Systems tutorial under Professor Y in our final year. By then, I had a reputation amongst my classmates for having the guts to ask questions and being able to answer questions (despite falling asleep during lectures). Prof Y answers questions by asking counter-questions. My classmates who had questions didn't dare to ask him because they didn't want to be dumbstruck when he counter-questioned them. Thus, they would get me to ask him questions on their behalf (which I gladly did, since I didn't revise and was interested to know the answer too). As the tutorial discussions proceeded with Prof Y, I would jot down notes on his explanations. After class, a few classmates, who passed me their questions in the first place, would ask me if I had understood what Prof Y said, and got me to explain it to them again. I would share my notes with my classmates who asked. The group that wanted my notes grew bigger and bigger. I'm not sure but I think at one point almost the whole tutorial class photocopied my notes. When the results were out, I am sure that there are some who did better than me at Operating Systems, but I am happy for them because they put in the effort to overcome their challenges. That's what I believe in. Friendly competition with one's peers (i.e. support each other so that everyone does their best), instead of adversary competition against one's peers (i.e. dragging each other down by withholding information). I think it is in the Information Technology culture to be collaborative by nature.
As with my university days, I would lend my tutorial notes to my classmates who asked for it. LN photocopied my notes for the 1st test. He claimed that it had helped him, and requested for my notes again when the 2nd test came around, to which I agreed. 

However, JS and PL were by then pissed off with LN for his parasitic behaviour in our project work -- he claims he didn't know how to do research, wanted us to do the research, then he said he is not good with powerpoint and didn't do his presentation slides (I ended up picking the slack), and finally could not even present simple topics well (strangely for someone supposedly from sales), wanted us to write his presentation script for him word-for-word (which I did in exasperation). The final straw that got JS and PL's goat was that LN thinks of himself as very capable and demanded to present the "meat" of a project even when he couldn't manage the introductions and conclusions well. Frankly, I didn't care and was willing to let him present the "meat", since I know that we would pass overall as a group because PL and JS were strong players and all the other team-mates worked well together collaboratively. Finally, one day PL and JS overheard LN demanding for my study notes and pulled me aside. They advised me to stop helping LN and that I am not really helping him because he is not facing his weaknesses with my help. They told me to start off by not lending LN my notes, even if I had previously agreed to.

LN was furious. He went to the lecturer JC and lodged a complaint against me, JS and PL, especially me. He claimed that we deliberately sabotage his grades by not allowing him to present the "meat" of our group projects. He also told the lecturer JC that I had promised to lend him my study notes earlier and I am setting him up for failure by not fulfilling my previous promise. I was called in for questioning by JC, who in the end asked me, "Why must you lend him your lecture notes? They are yours."

I was tongue-tied. I did not know how to explain the collaborative-IT culture that I came from to my lecturer JC. I felt frustrated and burned out by the bickering from my 1st semester and being accused once again of being a bully. Honestly I felt that while I have a right not to lend LN my notes, I didn't feel good about going back on my words and previous agreement with him. Since my lecturer JC had instructed me not to share my notes with LN and I didn't want to upset my preciously gained rapport with JS and PL, I chose break my agreement and did not lend LN my notes.

LN retaliated. He shot emails to everyone in the class, including YB, but excluding JS, PL, CL and me about how we were bullying him. So there, that's my 2nd bullying situation.

As a blessing in disguise, JS and PL personally experienced how it felt to be maligned by the gossip network. They fought against the gossips and advised me to clear my name too, but I told them that I was too tired to do so. One year down the road, while waiting for the other team-mates to arrive at the meeting, JS and PL told me that they had to keep defending me throughout the past year because some classmates kept saying nasty things about me behind my back. I told them that I didn't want to know about the gossips -- click here and read the "自扫门前雪 [Sweep one's own doorway of snow]" section for an example. They asked me why I didn't defend myself and clarify with others about what actually happened. I told them honestly that if people wanted to be swayed by hearsay rather than to get to know me personally, then it's their loss, not mine.


Case 3 of 3 for note 2

2Note: Here's case 3 of 3 details of my bullying new people while nursing in Singapore. 

I was working as an RN in a Singapore hospital for around 1 year by then. For some reasons, my hospital decided to host students on career/work exposure. Note: These are not nursing students but students in pre-university (i.e. academic preparatory courses) who were visiting to get a glimpse of the healthcare industry. 

The first time they visited my ward in Nov-2009, I stayed an extra 1 hour on my personal time to show these students around. In 2010, when a different batch came visiting during our morning shift, we already had our new rooms opened and the staff were badly overloaded at work. The students clustered around the nurses station, generally ignored by the staff. Finally when the Nurse Manager returned to the ward, she assigned each student to tag along with a staff, claiming that these students can help us with our workload. I seriously questioned if the NM understood our legal liabilities. Nevertheless, she was the boss, I had no choice but to suck-it-up. In retaliation for being overworked and now having the additional work of showing this newbie around, I put on a grouchy face and practically ignored the student attached to me. Kudos to him, he was patient and quietly followed & observed me as I moved down the corridor with my medication trolley, administering medications. I guess maybe he was as much forced into the situation as I am.

Finally, I relented and started explaining bits here-and-there to him. I thought, "What the heck! If I ended up being late, I am going to blame the NM for any delay in medication and the shift handover report." Since I had to nebulize a co-operative child who had supportive parents, I introduced the student to the patient's parents and asked for their permission for the student's participation in the patient's care. I guided the student as he mixed the medications, dispensing it into the mask, administer the nebulizer. I gave him instructions on how to know when the nebulization is finished and what to do when done, and left him with the patient. Guiding him took longer than doing it myself, but he did help me save a few minutes as he stood with the patient for the nebulization to be completed while I proceeded with the next medication administration. When he came out of the patient's room, he was all smiles. I think it made his day that he got to handle medications while his peers who were assigned to the staff on supportive roles only got to do the runners job.

So there, I would admit that I was a bitch to that student initially. I am not proud of myself for being a bitch to an unfortunate innocent person. In mitigation, I plea that I was already overloaded with work, and the students are not like my new RN colleagues who could and would take over workload from me if I trained them; and neither were they nursing students on clinical attachment who would join the profession and be my peers eventually.



On my journey home after my extended shift on Monday, I decided that I was too stressed and not making any sense (even to myself). Thus I decided that I must go for a swim to de-stress. I swam 20 lengths of a competition pool, roughly 1km of swimming. After swimming, I don't know why, but my former nursing buddy CL's advice (when I was facing relational aggression, see cases 1 & 2 of note 2 above) came back to me. She had said,
"WD, you don't have to care what they do or say about you. These people need you more than you need them. Without them, you can still succeed. Without you, they can't. [That is, get their goal of A's in group projects/presentations.]" 
Actually, when my nursing buddy told me that, I was kind of skeptical because I felt that it was important to be a good team-player, and be seen as one. As it turned out, those folks had deep grudges to bear, my buddy & I ended up working with a different (fabulous) bunch of group-mates from the 2nd semester onwards. Suddenly, I miss my original (Accelerated Diploma in Nursing) nursing buddy.


[Addendum on 14-Jun-2012]

AP told me today that she documented in her anecdotal notes that she should have communicated better with the RN involved such that the medication delay may be avoided and/or would not be worsened. I told her that we learn along the way and asked her how did our CI respond to her anecdotal notes. She showed me the CI's reply and I told her that it means that she will be alright - just learn from the experience and move on.

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