Knowing your Limitations

LkAfter working at Kindred Hospital for 2 years, someone convinced me to work at a brand new hospital.  I mean new as in no protocols and little policies in place with no hospital system to fall back on.  I quit before I finished orientation because of the lack of structure hospital wide and got a bad feeling of where heading.

The skin I live in

After over 40 years, I have come to the conclusion that I’m not a social person.

This realization doesn’t cause me fear and embarrassment as much as it does relief because it signifies an acceptance of who I am and an end of feeling guilty about not more extroverted.  And hopefully this admission will help me be more at ease with my life and my environment.

I equate being socially inept to having a mild physical ailment in which there is no cure.  It doesn’t cause harm as much as it is more annoying than anything for the person that possesses the affliction.  While most of society don’t give it a second thought (a few point and laugh or make an improper joke about it), the afflicted feels like they are walking around with a huge sign around their neck and try hard to compensate for it and do everything they can to appear “normal” – which seems to make the matter worse.  For example, those who are possessed with poor social skills will do things that seem bizarre to many but are really coping mechanisms – such as buying extravagant gifts for people or buying everyone at work lunch for no particular reason.  While things like this seem strange to many, sometimes it is reaction for situations that a person feels bad about such as an awkward, stressful situation.

I work on a shift that I have been for awhile – weekend nights.  I recently thought seriously about jumping ship to a new job – more money and way more “prestige” (another thing socially inept people struggle with – self worth).  But a coworker, the only one I trusted talking about this with, said something that seriously influenced my decision.  “Raymon, people know you here”, she said, “people that care about you and watch your back.  If you leave here you will have to start all over again, and you will be alone.”  I realized she is right, despite as alone as I feel sometimes an as much as I really don’t want to talk to anybody, there are people I work with, at night, that have come to understand that.  They don’t take it personally when I don’t feel like talking and, most importantly, don’t hold it against me.  And as much as I refuse to go out during the unit’s “outings”, they still invite me in order to give me the feeling of belonging, even if I don’t take them up on it (I have to drink quite a bit to overcome the stress and nervousness of seeing coworkers in a social setting, and although I don’t do anything “stupid”, I still feel embarrassed later).

So, in the end, I am starting to become more comfortable in my own skin.  I understand I am not the type who can instantly start up a conversation with someone, nor will I win any popularity contests.  But I have a loving wife, coworkers who sincerely care about me, pets that adore me, and a knack of making patient’s families feel at ease and comfortable in the fact that their family is being properly cared for.  At the end of the day that is good enough for me.

Nursing Stories – Midnight in the ICU

“Mr. Lewis, is there anything I can get you?  So you need anything to help you sleep?”

“No, thanks.”

“Do you need something drink?”

“No, I’m okay”

“Okay. Well, if you need anything, just hit your call button.”

“Will do……..Raymon?”

“Yes Mr. Lewis?”

“How old are you?

“I’ll be 32 next month.”

“Are you married?”

“No sir, Mr. Lewis.  Not yet.”

“Do me a favor.”

“Yes sir?”

“Don’t let life pass you by.  I’m 73 years old and I know I’m going to die soon.  What I regret is my life.  I wasted it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I worked so hard my whole life.  I skipped almost every important event in my family’s life in order to work.  Hell, I almost missed my daughter’s wedding because of a business meeting.  Birthdays, anniversaries, parties, get togethers – I was always too busy to enjoy life or the people in it.  I feel like an idiot.”

It is this point of the conversation that nursing school doesn’t prepare you for.  The open handed “tell me how you feel” exercise we learned in school feels like complete bullshit.

“Do you have grandkids?”

“I have 2 grandsons and 2 grandaughters – all four graduated or soon to graduate from college.”

“How many kids do you have?”

“I have 2 sons and one daughter.  Why?”

“Are they all successful in life – work, etc.?”

“Yes.”

“It sounds like you are successful in at least one aspect of your life.  Does your wife work?”

“She never did.  She was a housewife, and took care of everything – even our finances are in good shape due to her.  I couldn’t have made it through these last few weeks without her.”

“Mr. Lewis, you helped raise 3 wonderful kids who has brought into this world 4 smart, productive grandkids.  You worked incredibly hard all your life to provide a good life for your wife and kids.  Do you have good relationships with your kids?”

“They all live in Texas, but we aren’t close.  They have families and lives without worrying about their old man.”

“Call them later today and ask them to come, then tell them what you just told me.  It isn’t too late to set right whatever you feel you need to.  As for working, I’m sure your kids can relate to you working so much – at least a little bit.  Your kids are successful in life due in no small part to the sacrifices everyone made.  Make your family’s lasting memory of you one of forgiveness and peace.”

“Okay, maybe I’ll call my wife in the morning to call the kids.  It’s time to see my grandkids, maybe for the last time.”

“Sounds like a good plan.  Well, I’ll let you get to sleep.  Call me if you need me.”

“Will do.  Raymon?”

“Yes, Mr. Lewis?”

“Thanks.”

“No problem.”

A Nurses New Year’s Resolutions

It’s that time of year.  Time to make resolutions that probably won’t make it to the second week in January, but that hasn’t stopped my yet.  hhmm…what would I change about myself?

1.  I will stop referring to doctors that get on my nerves as “jack wagons”.

2.  Whenever someone tells me they are interested in nursing, I will not say “Save your sanity.  Just say no.?”

3.  Whenver someone asks me why I got into nursing, I will not say “For fame and glory”.

4.  I will not refer to nursing administration as “The winter of my discontent”.

5.  I will refrain from expressive facial expressions when a family member is concerned about a patient’s socks when the room is filled with equipment, 8 IVs going, on the ventilator, blood pressure tanking, and nurses doing CPR.

6.  I will keep my cool when my relief is 15 minutes late after I showed up 15 minutes early to relief them.

7.  I will stay away from the McDonald’s downstairs.  Seriously – a fast food joint filled with employees of a ” hospital”?

8.  I will stop fantasizing about running over slow moving cars with a 4X4 as I leave the parking lot on Monday morning (my Friday Night).

9.  I will try to be nice to all my fellow employees – even if I wonder how they filled out their application.

10.  I will “try” to keep my composure when some fellow or resident (who is 10, 20 years younger than me) tries to speak to me in a demeaning tone.

Looks like I have my work cut out for me, but I feel good about these.  I think I just might be able to keep my resolutions this year – at least until the third week.

Another day, another class

Besides paperwork, the one thing that drives me crazy is the amount of classes we have to take for nursing.  EKG class, IABP class, LVAD class, Mock codes, hemodynamics – it is mind numbing how many hours we spend in class.  While it is important to keep up to date with current procedures and equipment, there is nothing more sleep inducing than that third hour in a class with a instructor that refuses to add some life into their monotone voice.  Or worse, the instructor that mistakes the class for an audience that hangs on every word of the description of their dog’s last bowel movement.

I would like to stand up and proclaim “We are not here to regale in the hijinx of your niece.  Tell us what we need to know and let us leave!”  But I already have a reputation of not being overly friendly, so I sit there and smile, pretending that the instructor’s every word is pearls of wisdom.  “Nevermind the effects of epinephrine on the SVR, tell me again about  how you got your dog’s poop stain out of your rug?

If I Ran a Hospital

Everyone who works in the medical center will mutter this line “If I ran this place…”

If I ran a hospital (or just the nursing department), I would make a few changes.

1.  I would make it mandatory that everyone with an “RN” after their name would do direct, bedside patient care at least once a month.  To me, you aren’t a nurse if you haven’t cleaned someone else’s butt (and I don’t mean a family member) in the last 3 months.  It would do the world of nursing a tremendous good for the “leaders” of our field to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty.  Don’t sit behind your desk and tell me how hard it is until you have gone out there to the bedside and put in a full shift.

2.  Bonuses for educational achievements.  I know of too many hospitals that could care less if their nurses get additional training, and that is a shame. A reward should be paid for a nurse that goes to work, takes care of the house, and follows it up with getting an advanced degree.  Nursing departments across the country should fight to put in more incentives for nursing to pursue more knowledge.

3.  Monetary fines for doctors that get “out of control”.  Whether a doctor brings in business shouldn’t excuse him from treating nurses as peers.  While I’m fortunate to be male and big enough to give any doctor pause before talking down to me, I have seen plenty of other nurses get “dressed down’ by a doctor who is having an overall bad day.  If a doctor cusses, yells, demeans a nurse, the hospital should levy a fine on his (or her) ass.

4.  Better treatment of night shift nurses.  Night shift gets the shaft – all in services, classes, recognition ceremonies, parties, giveaways are all on day shift.  The cafeteria closes at 11pm (it is more like 10pm by the way the cafeteria staff breaks the place down), any treats left for the nurses are either gone or picked on down to nothing by the day shift.  The hospital and doctors rely more on the night shift nurses to do their job right and take appropriate action if a problem arises, and they should be treated as such.

I know there is more to it than just words, but the next time there is a crunch for nurses at a specific hospital you can bet it isn’t because they treated them well.

A New Nurses Day

My boredom at the hospital has given me a great idea.

There are groups for every small section of nurses – ethnic groups, speciality groups, etc.  – so I am proposing a “day” for a nursing group that is grossly underrepresented. I’m going to come up with a new holiday – Heterosexual Male Nurse Day.

The celebration will start off with an all you can eat special at IHOP, and after stuffing ourselves with pancakes we will go home for a nap to sleep them off.  We will then head to the local arena for a special UFC match followed by a WWE Divas meet and greet.  We will be bussed to a local Hooter’s, where the NFL team of the respective city will meet us and regale us with football jokes and stories while the Hooter’s girls bring us stacks of chicken wings while we feel guilty for looking at their “shirts”.  Afternoon will be a viewing of “Boondock Saints” with the cast at the local theater, and after that a game of basketball with the members of the local NBA team.  Then there is dinner at Maggiano’s followed by a concert by AC/DC.

The only problem I see is getting the hospital to foot the bill.