I have recounted some of the positive effects I had on the Army’s medical supply system, in theater and out. When you do something in the service, especially in wartime, you have a blank check to complete your mission. The comptroller wanted a tally of what you spent but you were free to spend as much as needed.
When I went to the private sector, it was the opposite. Looking back, I was no longer a logistician. I became a bean counter and actually cut the supply lines in order to track every penny spent by providers. My job was partially one of automating the space between the loggies and the nurses. Here’s how it went.
I finally got my BA in sociology in 2015. As many know, the paper pedigree opens you up to new job opportunities. I was a college graduate, but I was also terribly sick from bipolar. Still, I managed to get hired somehow because of the magic paper and my enthusiasm for returning to logistics.
Now back in the service, we in supply either controlled what left the warehouse or the supply was behind cabinets you couldn’t access without a keycard. Those approaches helped us curtail abuses by providers. Now I know when someone in healthcare needs something fast, you tend to not give a damn about logging your choices. But it was for their protection as well as helping us keep track of what was being used. Let me explain a little.
At one of my Army gigs, every type of supply used in a unit had its place in a cabinet and underneath it was a button you could push whenever you took something and the machine would debit the amount you took in the computer system. It couldn’t have been made easier, but for some reason people couldn’t abide by the rules anyway. That in turn made it difficult to know what to bring them on a daily basis, because the levels in the machines were off every single day. So there was no easy solution to allowing providers to access what they wanted while keeping track of what they accessed. That problem was much more intractable at this private hospital I began to work at in 2016. People, it was a mess. There was no locked cabinet with simple pushbuttons to encourage people to account for their supply. It was just sitting there on shelves and there was a computer adjacent to them and they had to badge in and enter their transactions by scanning the barcode below the product. Needless to say, providers were not encouraged to do the right thing because everything was right there for the taking. And when their closets were short on supply, they’d bitch to upper management about the logistics shop. We had to tell them time and time again that if you want the right amount of supplies, you have to use the damn scanner so the computer can generate a proper pick sheet and then we bring you the right amount of shit. The lesson never took with most units. Thus, we had the extra task of counting the closets before we generated pick sheets so that the proper number of supplies were brought up.
It fell on me to go to war with the providers. I am sad to say that I participated in making it harder for the nurses just so we could tightly manage supply. On one level, we were just trying to make the system work for everyone. There were egregious mistakes that I made, though. Once I tried to stop nurses from abusing the special order system to order basic supplies. That function on the computer was only to be used for supplies outside what was in their closet, not for them to push a panic button and make logistics hop to whenever they ran out of the basics. I tried to punish them by removing the button and got myself in a lot of hot water. There were nurse managers who supported some of my reforms but I did not feel like I had the backing of upper management in logistics. No one was guiding me on how to do things, I had to learn the system on my own and come up with my own fixes to these dilemmas. And I was crazier than fuck throughout all of it.
I developed a vicious case of anxiety over the job and quit after seven months. Following this position I took a job as a produce clerk while I waited for a disability rating from the VA. It was favorable, and I’m totally and permanently disabled which means my work career has come to an end. I think that’s a fair conclusion. Being housebound is not the greatest thing for me, but it might be a shade better than not doing a thorough job in the working world. If I get wound up and stay that way, I can’t do anyone any good. It’s simply too easy to wind me.