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Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind

Creator: Frank L. Wright, Jr. (author)
Date: 1947
Publisher: National Mental Health Foundation, Inc.
Source: Available at selected libraries
Figures From This Artifact: Figure 2  Figure 3  Figure 4  Figure 5  Figure 6  Figure 7  Figure 8  Figure 9  Figure 10  Figure 11  Figure 12  Figure 13  Figure 14  Figure 15  Figure 16  Figure 17

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Page 11:


Jim was at the supervisor's office the next day at seven o'clock sharp. The supervisor gave Jim a routine five-minute lecture on what attendants at the hospital were not allowed to do -- don't smoke on duty, don't gamble with patients, don't lose your keys, don't accept tips, and a dozen other don'ts. Then one positive suggestion -- stand up, drop whatever you're doing and stand at attention whenever a nurse or doctor comes on the ward. "With the staff we have now, you won't be bothered with that very often," the supervisor concluded.


Then Jim was taken to the ward door, given a bunch of keys, and told this was where he was to work. Jim went in and looked around. There was a group of old men sitting around the room. About half of them were dressed. Another attendant was sitting at a table playing cards with one of the patients. He did not speak to Jim or greet him in any way; he just gave him a surly glance and went on winning the patient's pennies, and smoking.


Jim had no instructions about what he was to do, so he stood around with his back against the wall wondering how crazy the patients were and what might happen to him. One spry old patient sensed the situation and came up offering to beat his "green ears to a pulp." Jim paled slightly, the patient cackled heartily, and Jim went on standing against the wall, and wondering.


About eleven-thirty, the other attendant knocked his pipe out on the floor and yelled, "You can go to dinner now."


Jim has had lots of tough arguments to settle with his conscience in his day, but he still claims that the hardest thing he ever did was to persuade himself to return to that ward after dinner.


(Based on reports 408, 409, and 437)




"In mental hospitals, as elsewhere, the employee's satisfaction in his job depends to a large degree on prevailing practices of personnel management. If his work assignments are indefinite or confused, if constructive initiative on his part is ignored or actively discouraged, the effect on the employee's morale is often catastrophic. Each employee should be told exactly what is expected of him, and should be helped to understand the function and importance of his particular role in the hospital's total program."


Administrative Director,
Pennsylvania Hospital,
Philadelphia, Pa.


"Well, Don, I'm leaving this outfit." Jack was standing over his bag, packing his clothes, when his room-mate came in.


"Can't say that I blame you much," Don answered. "I've been working around this hospital for almost ten years, and I've wanted to leave nearly every day of it. But I haven't packed my bag yet. What's starting you off?"


"It's nothing special," Jack replied, "just more of the same old thing."


"Was 'Old Ramrod' on a rampage today?"


"Not much worse than usual. I don't mind being the bottom man on the totem pole. But when the guys on top start kicking the patients in the teeth and acting holy about it, then I quit."


"Yeah? Go on and tell me about it while you pack."


"It's not just that we eat that lousy stew over in the cafeteria while the doctors and nurses get served classy chops in their dining room. And I certainly don't give a hang that we're not allowed to speak to the nurses except in line of duty. I can almost stand it that we have to ask the 'Old Hen' when we want to stay out after eleven p. m. But darned if I can take it when they obviously don't give a hoot about the patients.


"Take today, for instance. You know that special diaper I worked out to keep old Louis from removing his catheter? Well, Dr. Graves saw that outfit this morning and ordered it removed immediately."


"No foolin'!"


"Yeah. It had been working perfectly for three weeks, and now we've had to put Louis back into a straitjacket again, to keep him from bothering the thing. You know his bladder is so bad he has to have one in there all the time."




"I suppose I should have expected something like this. When I first suggested using a diaper. Miss Lodge told me I'd better not do it even though it did sound like a good idea. 'The doctor will condemn you for your presumption,' she said. 'You just do what the doctors say, and forget about anything else.' But when I could save the patient a lot of pain and keep him out of a jacket at the same time, I went ahead anyway. Well, Graves noticed it today -- after three weeks of use -- and I got bawled out for not minding my own business. Which seemed to mean waxing floors and keeping the ward clean."


"'Well, sure. Graves is a little unreasonable, but --"


"But, phooey! It's the same way about everything. Did you ever see Dr. Bancroft on the rare occasions he's in his office? He's like a paunchy potentate holding court up there. All his little lieutenants come running in and out: plumber, gardener, farmer, carpenter, chauffeur, doctors and nurses. They all come in to get their daily orders from Bancroft.


You know I can't even get toilet paper on my ward unless he signs the order. The way everybody flits around to do his bidding, you sort of expect to see them salute, click their heels, and say 'Heil, Bancroft!'

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