More Than a Match – prologue

Lisa Geraghty

Prologue

Jennifer Burke stared at the two people in front of her. She doubted they had been listening to a word she said. The pretty, red-cheeked nurse glanced across at the tall, skinny man beside her – a doctor, Jennifer presumed, judging by the stethoscope dangling around his neck. What are they waiting for? she asked herself. Can’t they see I need help?

Then the man spoke. ‘Tell us again what brought you here, Jennifer.’

‘I’ve already explained this,’ she replied. ‘I have a headache.’ Her eyes were glistening now. ‘There’s something seriously wrong with me. Why aren’t you ordering a CT scan or something?’

The two glanced at each other once more. ‘Okay, we will take care of that,’ the doctor said, his attention never moving from Jennifer’s face. ‘Tell us how you got here, Jennifer. Does your husband know where you are?’

‘I drove myself,’ Jennifer answered. ‘Don’t tell him I’m here. Don’t tell any of them. If they think there’s something wrong with me, they will take my kids from me. I know they will. They are waiting for the right opportunity. They keep pushing and pushing so that I will break and then they can take my kids.’

More shared glances.

Jennifer continued. ‘They hate me, you see. It’s jealousy, of course. They never wanted me here. John has been completely brainwashed by them – my husband’s sisters, I mean. They cannot find out that I am sick. Promise me? If I could just get this headache sorted, I would be fine.’

Taking Jennifer’s chart from the nurse’s hands, the doctor turned to his colleague and said, ‘Why don’t we find Mrs Burke a bed in one of the wards so she can be more comfortable while she waits for her tests?’ The nurse looked instinctively at him and nodded.

Tests sound good, Jennifer thought. She needed to know what was wrong. She worried that she could have a brain tumour, or an aneurism, or meningitis. Whatever it was, she just needed to know. She needed it to stop.

Minutes later, she followed the nurse into a large six-bed ward which already accommodated five female in-patients. The middle cubicle on the left was free. Jennifer sat on the bed and watched as the nurse drew the sterile blue curtain around her. She suddenly felt self-conscious. The reality of where she was unnerved her momentarily, and she felt the need to explain the situation to the nurse, to justify herself and how she had arrived at the emergency room that day.

She really did have such a headache, she explained. The nurse smiled sympathetically. Jennifer continued to talk, rattling off the prequel to this impromptu admission to hospital: how she had been under so much stress lately, her struggle to cope, walls closing in on all sides, and this goddamned headache. Minutes passed. Jennifer was still explaining. The nurse was still nodding. Eventually, seeing the distress on Jennifer’s face, the nurse reached over, took Jennifer’s hand and promised her that everything would be all right.

In that moment, Jennifer believed her, but as she rose to pull back the cover on her bed, she heard a murmuring from the other side of the curtain. She stopped moving and listened. No, she wasn’t mistaken. She could hear a woman’s voice saying the words ‘Burke’ and ‘solicitor’ and ‘must know her’? Her blood boiling, Jennifer pulled back the curtain to witness a middle-aged woman in her nightgown, hand covering her mouth and phone, divulging the information she had collected in the past few minutes.

‘Do you have everything you need there?’ Jennifer barked in a temper. Aggressively, she took a step towards the nervous woman in the bed beside her. ‘I mean, can I help you with any personal information that you might have missed? Why don’t you invite your friend in and I can arrange an interview? What do you think of that plan, you nosy bitch!’

At that point, the nurse pulled Jennifer by the arm and sat her back on the bed, while at the same time paging the doctor for assistance. Jennifer was fuming and still ranting about the breach of privacy.

‘Well, seeing that you know I’m a solicitor you should also know to be careful what you say about me,’ Jennifer shouted in the direction of the curtain.

The doctor’s return was not before time. ‘Jennifer, how about you lie down and rest? I am going to give you something to make you feel calmer and less stressed.’

‘Will it take away my headache?’ Jennifer asked.

‘Yes, it will take away your headache,’ the doctor replied.

Jennifer complied, and in what seemed like one second, the nurse secured an intravenous line through which the doctor injected a cold, clear liquid. Jennifer felt warmer now. The bed felt softer. The nurse’s voice sounded further away. And as her eyes closed and her thoughts slowed down, Jennifer wondered what on earth she was doing there.

Workplace mediation – does it have a place in veterinary practice?

Mediation is a form of conflict resolution. It works by engaging an independent, trained facilitator to allow both parties in a dispute to reach an agreement, or resolution, in a comfortable, voluntary, confidential and non-judgmental way. Mediation is ideally used in the workplace to manage a variety of different types of grievances, both between employee and employer, and between staff members.

Mediation has several advantages in workplace dispute resolution including the following:  

•      The agreement made at mediation is legally binding; 

•      It is significantly cheaper than using solicitors alone; 

•      It provides for earlier intervention which prevents situations escalating; 

•      It is less time consuming and more productive than going through the courts; 

•      It is entirely confidential; 

•      As the process is voluntary and either party can withdraw from the process at any time, mediation is more empowering for both parties as the outcome is entirely in their hands;  

•      It allows participants to explore relationships and historic conflicts thereby getting to the root of certain issues and clearing the air;  

•      It is an opportunity for management to send a clear message to staff that it is interested in investing time and money in their wellbeing at work; and 

•      Where a resolution cannot be found at mediation, the case can still progress to the courts or the WRC, whichever is appropriate, and the discussions which took place with the mediator are non-prejudicial (they will not be used against you in a subsequent hearing).  

Best success is achieved with mediation when both parties genuinely want to resolve the issue. Ideal cases for mediation are interpersonal issues between staff members, and employee grievances and complaints. Care should be taken when enlisting the use of mediation in bullying, harassment and sexual harassment cases which should be carefully assessed to ensure genuine agreement to mediate between both parties, and to avoid the risk of coercion at all costs.

There are, of course, situations which arise in the workplace when the use of mediation to resolve the conflict would not be appropriate. These include serious allegations which would warrant a formal investigation, any case which would result in further risk to a participant’s well-being, or cases where one or both of the parties is not committed to the process and is merely ‘ticking a box’ as part of the organisation’s code of practice.

For more information see lisageraghtyconsultancy.com

Who do you think you are?

A poem by Lisa Geraghty

Who do you think you are, they said?

With your shoes and your grand designs.

With your opinions and indulged femininity.

Who do you think you are, they said?

With your swag and your shameless self-portraits.

No air too thin or cold for you to hoist your head.

Probing eyes map her path, to see

But not include this time.

He whispers, she laughs, a touch, a graze, a glance.

Some newspapers will be sold today.

Who does she think she is, they said?

Discomfort in her freedom

Let me tell you who she thinks she is.

She is a sister, a daughter, a friend.

She is of tough skin and soft heart

And of pride, and breeding to understand

That she can start again tomorrow.

Same shoes, same brass, more lived to give.

Beside him

Beside him

I watch him.
His pale and blemished skin,
Sporadically sprouting hairs on his beautiful face.
I watch him, head held in two hands,
Feet tapping robotically on the rosewood chair.
Oblivious to the slap of the passing dog’s tail
and the burst of perfume from the recently opened lilies.
A familiar ping solicits his attention
Like a programmed command. His phone is his captor.
Then a long sigh drains from somewhere deep, near his gut,
Reporting his not so hidden torment.

His pain is my pain.
His fears are my fears, only sharpened for impact.
If I could, I would take the burden that strangles him now
And I would wear that noose for him.
If I could, I would put my fingers in the hair that was once baby golden
And tell him this will pass.
Everything does.
His young eyes cannot see the way that life finds a way
To heal and teach and stretch out before him.
My words fall on fledgling ears.
In the silence I will be here beside him.
Today’s heavy load will be his teacher.
Until then, I will cover both sides of the road.

Veterinary practice managers, would your employment procedures and policies stand up to scrutiny?

Year end is the time for reviewing your business decisions, your services, your costs, and your staff.

Now is a great time to think about your workplace procedures and ask yourself whether you are making the best use of them. In particular, it is worth reviewing your disciplinary procedures, your grievance procedures, and your dignity at work policy (bullying, harassment and sexual harassment). Too often, it is not until practice managers are answering to the Workplace Relation Commission (WRC) following a conflict in the workplace that they realise that their policies were not, in fact, fit for purpose.

Year end is also the time of the year for reviewing the performance and suitability of your staff and questioning whether some changes in your management system might be required.

Perhaps you need to review/rewrite your staff handbook to include:

Grievance procedure

Disciplinary procedure

Dignity at work policy – bullying, harassment, sexual harassment

GDPR policy and Privacy policy

Use of company equipment policy

Internet use policy

Do you need to review your safety statement to ensure that it includes a comprehensive risk assessment of your workplace?

Perhaps you need to implement or introduce a staff appraisal/performance review system to your workplace.

Are you currently dealing with an employee’s grievance or complaint within in your practice and need help mediating the situation to a resolution so that costly litigation can be avoided?

Contact an employment law consultant and accredited mediator for a consultation.

Dr. Lisa Geraghty MVB, MSc, BA (Law), A.M. by phone 0872234689 or email at lisageraghtymediation@gmail.com

www.lisageraghtyconsultancy.com

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