This week is nurses week in the good ol’ U.S. of A. What does that mean for me as a nurse? Not much. What? I’m not talking books or writing today? Not today, because my career as a nurse is what pays for my career as an author . . . or should I say, the writing career that sucks all the money from my nursing career. yeah, I need a real job to support the everlasting dream. Why? Because I’m a single mom, running an entire household, putting food on the table, and handling business on my own. Is there a single mom’s week? And if there was what would you get a single mom? A cook and maid would be nice.
Back to nurses week! What is happening during this fine nurses week at my job? Not much. I worked yesterday from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Count those hours and it amounts to SIXTEEN hours at work, and what did I get for it? Zip. Zilch. Nada. No, “Happy nurses week,” or “We appreciate your time.” Nope. Of course I did get double time, but after taxes I’ll owe more than I actually get. Hearing the words, “Happy nurses week” would’ve been nice. Of course, all my nursing friends have blasted this all over Facebook and Twitter, but we are in the trenches with other, so it should sound more like, “Hey buddy, we survived another year!”
Now here is what truly irks me about the nursing stereotype. One, I really don’t mind if a guy thinks of a nurse as some sexy woman with wild hair pulled back under a small nursing cap, wearing a short and tight white scrub dress and white fish net stockings. Why don’t I mind? Because I’d rather be thought of as hot and sexy rather than, “Please tell me that is chocolate on your gloves.” If you could see me at two a.m., you wouldn’t elect to have your appendix removed and then have me as your nurse. *shivers at the thought* It’s not a hot look, unless dark circles under the eyes, hair pulled up into a sloppy bun held together by a syringe, and dried tear stains (from when I silently cried in the corner at a one a.m. moment of delirium) is sexy to you. It’s not to me.
What do nurses do? I tell you this so you can get a better understanding at the fact that we don’t sit around the counter, passing around food, and gossiping all day. Trust me, if you ever see that happening then the apocalypse has surely begun! And yes, it does occur, but mostly we are comparing notes and trying to maintain our sanity by venting to other staff. What do nurses do? We are the consummate multitaskers, and given the opportunity would love to take the time to get to know our patients better. But we can’t, and that’s not your fault.
Healthcare is a broken system, and not just because of the insured or the uninsured, but because it is not run by doctors and nurses, it is run by CPAs and bureaucrats. Not your fault, but not mine either. So if I can’t spend more than five minutes getting to really know a patient, it’s because we now wear many hats. CNA’s, LVNs, aides, techs . . . they are all being slowly phased out. Now a nurse has to take vital signs for all patients, cleans beds, dole out the gambit of meds, hunt down your doctor to clarify his orders, then reclarify the orders with pharmacy only to discover the new medication is not in our system. Track down doctor–who is now livid–reclarify order, recall pharmacy and wait! It is a vicious cycle. Now add that a patient needs to be prepped for surgery which can take a good two hours if all the labs and ancillary workups aren’t done. Heaven forbid another patient needs a blood transfusion which now requires the nurse to sit at the bedside for half an hour to ensure there is no allergic reaction. Don’t get me started on the one hour process to admit and the two hour process to discharge. It’s all about the paperwork and the need to cover your ass (CYA), or more-so, to cover the facility’s behind and in the meantime the family of our patients are yelling at our blatant neglect of their loved one. Arghh!
We do this twelve hours a day, and in some instance like mine, twelve can easily turn into sixteen (once it was twenty) hour shifts. And at two a.m. there is still a family member screaming over the phone at how they are going to call the CEO and file a report. “I understand,” is all I can say at that point, and still, I sit patiently by the patients bedside and ensure he/she is not in pain, spoon feeding ice chips, putting dentures back in their mouth, and changing a soiled diaper, all the while ensuring the patient who is apologizing for being so helpless that this is my job, and that he/she is my main concern. Meanwhile, I am being reported by family to a department manager for being uninformative, or something equally as assanine.
Let me explain this: It isn’t that I don’t want to field a million questions, it’s that for every minute I spend defending myself and my actions to a distraught family member, is minutes I am taken from my patient. So, yes, sometimes I’ll opt for being reported. I am an advocate for your family and sometimes for you if you are a patient. My loyalties lay with you. This is my job. It is my oath. Even when you scream and yell at me, I ensure you receive perfect care. Even when you are rude and condescending toward my abilities in my chosen profession, I ensure your safety. Even when you poop your pants, I console you and say I am doing my job and not to worry, I’m not judging you. Even when you degrade me for forgetting something off my ever growing list, I apologize and sincerely mean it. Why? Because I’m a nurse. I’m about as tough as nails as it could ever get . . . and still, I care.
HAPPY NURSES WEEK
Tania L Ramos, Author and Recovery Room Nurse