If I wasn't already a twisted individual, my fate was sealed once I became a nurse in Labor and Delivery. At some point in my nursing studies, I wanted to be a person who helps people, saves lives, makes a difference---crap like that. Today, I want to stay out of jail, get paid well, and not catch anything serious from my, 'my halo and I just had sex the one time...."patients. Just recently, a new, doe-eyed, eager little nurse emptied her zealous little pockets in front of me to showcase her shiny new scissors, her drug calculation book, her pen light, and her sparkling new kelly clamp.
"Umm..no," I responded. "A real nurse carries a chocolate bar, change for the vending machine, emergency restraints, and mace."
"Shannon, you really are crazy. Besides, you're an L&D nurse, how much of that are you gonna use on a pregnant woman?" she asked.
I shook my head--so new, so new. "Pregnant women bring their crazy families, and besides...what if I have a date later? You've gotta save your pocket space for multi-functional items. The good nurse prepares."
After crushing her spirit, I began to reminisce about my entrance into this life as a nurse, and all the things they never mentioned in nursing school. When I graduated, someone bought me the cutest "Build A Bear" bear ever with my name, and my graduation date, and I still have him. He's so cute. Don't get me wrong, despite my writing this, I really do love what I do, but every now and then I'll look at that bear, shake my head, and say out loud, "you jerk." Where was my life coach--(is that a real thing?)--when I was thumbing through the career catalog? I remember being wide-eyed, ready to heal the world, fix everything. and who cares if someone underpays me? This is human life we're talking about! If I could take those thoughts out back and shoot them, I would do so without blinking. No one mentioned in nursing school, that though I work usually only 3 days a week, it would feel like 9 days some weeks. They forgot to put it in a textbook that after having a day that makes you want to check the want-ads, your manager may beg you to pick up tomorrow,or worse yet--stay longer.
"How was your day, Muff?" he asks. He is such a civilian.
My face, no expression, "I broke a nail."
And it might even be true. I probably did break a nail somewhere in between fighting the forces of evil, dodging the administration, and chronicling it all in the medical record--someone's idea of a sick joke.
"Seriously, I think my day gave me autism, or a stroke...I literally can not verbalize what happened."
He thinks this is funny. I'd kill him, but I don't have anyone to cover my shift for the following day. Narrowly, he escapes again.
"Wanna go out?"
I nod my head up and down, I can feel it nodding, so I must not have had a stroke.
There are doctors at hospitals, that's part of my day. I must take the time to say honestly that I have the most profound respect for doctors ever. The good ones--and there are plenty, are absolutely amazing. I strive to make their job easier, because the demands on the average physician who takes call at the hospital are beyond ridiculous. But no one mentioned that doctors are human beings who make big, sometimes bigger then life, mistakes, and that the nurse must act as the gatekeeper. There's also the fact that I think there's some sort of online medical school that's slipping some of its graduates past the medical board. I've seen the kind of decisions and actions occur in a hospital room that have been the foundation for this very sadly true dialogue between myself and my charge nurse.
"Tess, do you think I should wear my scrubs, or a sundress to court? I really want the jury to like me."
She does not look up from her charting. "Sundress. And show your dimples and bring that bible of yours also."
"You are completely retarded," I say. "Do you even need me to tell you that?"
"Say what you like, Crazy, but have you looked at staffing? I can't lose a nurse who can hold her own. Bible!"
Now I laugh. "Okay, you win, but do you double as a pimp outside of work.? You might have missed your calling."
During the night shift, even the best doctors can give the kind of orders that sound like they went to school at Fisher Price, or Marlo's House of Profanity. And at all times of the day and night I've taken phone orders from doctors that were so wrong and terrible that forget the chief of obstetrics, I wanted to call the police. "Voluntary manslaughter, officer--I need a squad car, and a swat team, and lots of those drug-sniffing attack dogs, thanks!"
The public are also part of my day. No one mentioned that the public would be so...public. And no, we can't choose our families, but seriously, I have to recommend not being the family the nurses are drawing straws to avoid. I love rednecks as much as anyone else, but when hillbillies do labor and delivery it's the kind of thing for which I should be paid time and half. On the other end of that spectrum, (maybe?) are the inner city "families" where the room is so intense I'm worried about wearing the wrong colors. Now I've got to say here that I've seen the most cherry pie, blonde-haired, save the world nurse channel her inner Ludacris in the right situation. Honestly, you find out all sorts of things about yourself working in a state hospital. But sometimes, a nurse's inner gangster is in the shop, so if a patient and/or her loved ones have the manners of the Wu-Tang Clan, we might just rock, paper, scissors to get out of taking care of said clan. Just saying.
Hmmmm. More. The difference between a banker, and a nurse, is that a banker is a banker at the bank, or at cocktail parties. Nurses--we're nurses at the hospital, on airplanes when they make that stupid 'is anyone medically trained on the aircraft?" announcement, when we're out to eat and someone has decided to clog their windpipe with part of their meal, and when a friend has caught a new rash of some sort--on our day off.
Nurses have to be reminded that our job can disgust people. We are completely unphased by most things, it's the nature of the beast.
"Dude, what is it about this C-section that's making me crave lasagna?" I whisper to Deb. I'm the circulating nurse in the operating room for this case.
Deb, she's my back up for the baby. "You are so sick," she giggles. "I think there IS lasagna today though. Now I'm hungry!"
Nurses answer stupid questions. We have no choice. The good nurses are even able to pretend a stupid question isn't stupid. We also get stupid answers to normal questions that we have to ask.
To pregnant patient: "When's the last time you had sex?"
Pregnant patient: "Never!"
"Well, forget the doctor. I'll just go and page the Vatican. Be right back!"
Really, this rounds me to the whole point of this hub. Since my mind is one big soundtrack to a very, very twisted movie. I told some of the nurses at work, I'd make a playlist that best fit what we did. I said that if they copied this playlist then the people in their lives may have some inkling of what a day at the hospital can be like, when we can't put into words. So here it is:
1. "Welcome to the Jungle" --Guns-N-Roses. Couldn't fit more.
2. "Jeanie in a bottle." --Christina Aguliera. Fortunately I still have my "jeanie arms" from when I use to waitress. Other nurses have to grow their's later, after learning they will be asked to do the impossible, repeatedly.
3. "Never There"--Cake. Dedicated to some of the doctors we page....call...page...call....no answer.
4. "Sad But True"--The one and only Metallica.
5. "Please Don't Leave Me"--Pink. This is the kind of thing Night Shift will say to Day Shift at the time of shift change.
6. "Rehab"--Amy Winehouse
7. "Blame it (on the Alcohol)"--Jamie Foxx
8. "Breathe and Stop"--Q tip. (One of my sick jokes again)
9. "Live to tell"--Madonna
10. "The Freaks come out at night."-- Whodini. Boy, they really do. They certainly know how to keep things interesting...or should I remember to include myself when discussing my people and say "we" know how to keep things interesting.
11. "You can't touch this!" --MC Hammer. Applies on a thousand different levels. This one could be its own hub.
12. "Full of Grace"--Sarah Mclachlan.
13. "All by myself,"--Eric Carmen Another nurse's contribution, for the times she's found herself running to a crisis...alone.
14. "Smack my b!*ch up!"--Prodigy. Seriously, there really needs to be better men in the world; and more women in the world who will not stand for their men not being better men.
15. "Let it Be"--The Beatles. We all either have to say this to ourselves at one point, or to each other. Sometimes you have to let go, and sometimes letting go is a group effort.
16. "Keep Your Head Up"--Tupac. "Dying inside, but outside you're looking fearless."
17. "Have a little faith in me"--John Hiatt.
18. "You only get what you give."--New Radicals
19. "Heartbreak warfare"--John Mayer.
20. "Everything's gonna be alright." --Naughty by Nature. It will.
And by the way...we're hiriing!!!
Call room at work--Courtesy of some of the nurses I work with.
SJ (author) on October 06, 2010:
Matre, thanks for reading. I'm sorry you have the impression nurses are laughing at patients--that's not what's happening, and this article is completely in jest. It's concerning that you would even think that, and what you would base that on. I called my then boyfriend a civilian, again in jest, because the hospital is a war zone. I worked 3 jobs during nursing school, and being an actual nurse made that seem like heading to the spa. It's a tough job, and some nurses end up on psych wards or with substance abuse problems. I could go on and on, but bottom line, I'd really rather be funny than a junkie.
Matre on October 06, 2010:
good article, if a bit condescending to those of us who are "civilians" (?) I always get the feeling most nurses are laughing behind most patients' backs. I see I was right.
SJ (author) on July 08, 2010:
MeGunner, thank you! Well, as a physician you can speak on the war zone the hospital can be better than anyone. And thanks for doing that doctor thing by the way...one of my favorite decisions of my life was not going to medical school. I'm so glad you were willing to make the sacrifices, (which includes some of your sanity), to become a doctor. But yes, we should release some of this in a healthy way, I guess now that's writing for me. I really like my mind and don't want to lose it, so I guess it's best to continue finding sane ways to release. Thanks so much for reading! Thanks so much for the work you do.
MeGunner from Lagos on July 07, 2010:
I can imagine how 'amazed' people on the outside are when they hear people on the inside of the medical profession talk like this... Twisted? Far from it. You are better off letting it all out, otherwise, you might loose your mind. I really like your style of writing
SJ (author) on July 03, 2010:
Wow, Kristin, thanks so much...I get a lot out of your comments. That tragedy/comedy thing, almost got that tattoo, I was formerly very into theater, and loved the symbolism of the masks, then thought better of the tattoo. Opted out. But that's about right, it is a strange and beautiful mix.
I always wrote, but stopped for years, and then took it back up, oddly, from joining facebook. Writing there, lame as it is, stimulated all the writing energy again, and then ultimately led to the business we're working on. I wanted to be a writer when I was in high school, but I also didn't like the starving artist idea. That really is what lead me to decide to give up writing, and be a nurse, and by accident, I grew many, many, many stories to tell. As to what kind of nurse I am?? Well, I can't seem to get them to fire me. But nursing is kind of like starting to work out and discovering new muscles...you discover new muscles emotionally doing this job.
I can not believe the idea of me being grounded, and actually it's pretty true, but I've lead one very, very crazy life. I chose it, but it has been complete madness. Somewhere in all that crazy...I'm grounded. Weird.
Thanks, I'm so glad you're reading, and commenting!
ilmdamaily from A forgotten corner of a dying empire. OK, it's Australia :-) on July 03, 2010:
Thank you Shannon:-) The pleasure is mine!
I always get a lot out of your writing:-) It's a window into a world i'd normally never get to see. And the calmness/groundedness in your writing voice is very much the antidote to my own mania: the way you find the thread of humour in profound or difficult moments, and tug on it to reveal the absurdity or humanity that's hidden just below the surface.
I hope you're using this same voice in your book!
And besides - who doesn't like nurses? ;-)
Ultimately, you're a great writer - and great writers should be supported in their craft!
I have no doubt you enjoy your profession - it comes through in all of your work. And as good a writer as you are, I have no doubt you're an even better nurse! For me, an implicit - and maybe unintentional - point that comes up in your work is that those of us who wish just to be "writers" would do well to become proficient at something else first - something worthwhile - that we may have a story worth telling:-)
You're right. It is - or at least can be - all "one big joke." Is it a coincidence that the symbol of the theatre - that parody of life - is a smiling and crying mask?
Sometimes all we can do is laugh at the way life becomes a parody of itself - inspite of all the mess and truth.
Keep writing and i'll keep reading:-)
SJ (author) on July 02, 2010:
Yay! Lorie, thanks for reading! Your comment is somewhat of a relief. I was actually thinking this one might be too edgy. People prefer to think of their nurses as sweet, perfect little angels, especially in obstetrics, most of us have nerves of steel. Very strong women over all. Strong men in nursing also, but they almost never work in labor and delivery. We're a crazy lot, but I'm telling you, a person HAS to be crazy to do this job. Wouldn't have it any other way. And when I need a break--I take one!
SJ (author) on July 02, 2010:
Kristin, I so appreciate you as a reader. And don't let this hub fool you, I love this job! I told Deb, that I wrote her into this and she was very happy....we call her Chicken Little, she's my polar opposite. I'm a very calm nurse, if I panic, then know that the sky really is falling, when Deb panics, we tell her to switch to decaf. She's so much fun to work with, though.
I believe nurses are born, that they aren't made, and it takes a whole lot to do this job--not the skill or knowledge because anyone can acquire that. But in order to do stay true to the integrity of the work we do, it takes a whole lot of things...humor included. Know that the whole thing is basically one big joke, but there's truth in there for sure!
Something goes very wrong in the self-esteem tunnel on both sides of abuse to get people to the point of the kind of domestic violence we see at the hospital. It's unbelievable. It's appalling, there's nothing right about it, and I shouldn't joke about it, but really you get to the point where you have to, because you can't fight or change what you see.
Laurel Rogers from Bishop, Ca on July 02, 2010:
SJ, you really don't sound twisted at all to me-it's the rest of the world that's out of whack!
ilmdamaily from A forgotten corner of a dying empire. OK, it's Australia :-) on July 02, 2010:
Entertaining and a little bit visceral. Can't say i'll look at lasagne the same way again!
And amen on the "better men, better women" sentiment.
Nice work SJ:-)