Don't Curse the Nurse!

Sharing support with stories & humor

Power in Small Packages

This is a story about resilience and what an honor it is when someone shares their fears with you.


Not long ago, I prepped someone for back surgery, their third back surgery, and this was no ordinary patient.


I had met her and her spouse a year prior. Through conversation I learned they both had military backgrounds. His — I could have guessed. He had the bearings, the posture of someone who understood regiment. Hers — a little bit of as surprise. Petite and effervescent – imagine a young Michele Pfeiffer.  Somehow, through natural flow of conversation, I learned she had suffered much loss at a very young age and built her future with a lot of hard work and determination.


Before going in for this surgery, her mood quieted, she called me over. “You got my back, right?”

She said it with a straight face. I couldn’t tell if the pun was intended, but then her eyes welled.

“Of course, of course I do. Your surgeon, he’s the one I went to see last year myself.”

She relaxed some. Minutes later the OR team entered and she gave them the most genuine smile a patient could give. I gave her the pre-op meds ordered for her.

Off to the operating room she went. I talked to her husband for a moment before he exited.

An hour and a half later I heard a rapid response call to the recovery room. I looked at the schedule at the desk, wondering Who had a problem post-surgery?

Walking over to PACU later, I learned it had been her and she was now in ICU.

My heart sank.

I went to the waiting room to see her husband and to see how she was doing. He, I learned, was upstairs with her. With permission from the nurse and an affirmative head nod from my patient’s spouse, I stepped into her room and over to her bedside. She had just been extubated.

This tiny package of dynamite wasn’t content to have an Endotracheal tube down her throat. Less than six hours after it had been placed, she had improved enough to have it removed.

Quite uncommon

Some people will never let life knock them down.

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It’s the first day of the New Year and I feel like, gosh Susan, you should have something poetic to say, but…..I don’t.

I had the day off. I didn’t stay up until midnight yesterday drinking champagne, so I was up today by 8:30 am (for a nurse, that’s sleeping in). That was my party, staying up two hours later than usual because I could.

Today I had Black – Eyed peas, beans and cornbread with the folks as a New Year’s good luck kind of thing.

Then I came home and mowed my yard.

Yep, that’s the exciting thing I did for New Year’s Day. Ha!


I am on page 42 of Melinda Gates book The Moment of Lift. (Thank you, big sister. Good choice)

My daughter has educated me enough to have some competency on Instagram.

And I can hold my plank for three minutes.

So, there’s that.

But hey, there’s a new nursing in the blogging world! Say hello to Anna.

New Year, Improved Me

New Year, Improved Me



Just when I started beating myself up for not blogging regularly…

Oh Come On!

“I’m calling for the nurse who has the patient in room 329. They’re scheduled for surgery for noon.”

The person answering put me on hold to go get the nurse I needed to talk to.

Two minutes later

“Hello. Can I call you back? I’m in a patient’s room.”

“Sure” I say.

No call back in thirty minutes. I call back.

“Hi, yes, this is Susan. I need report on your patient. They will be picked up around 10:30.”

“Well, I’m in another patient’s room.”

I pause. “O.K”

I get a call back in twenty minutes.“Great! Let’s go! Fill me in.”

“Um, okay. Uh, let me see, um”

Deep breath. Deep breath. She may be having a rough day. “They have been NPO, right? Nothing to eat or drink.”

“Of course not”

“Great. Some history please.”

“Let’s see. She has choleo, um, cholelist..”

Silent groan

“We’re taking out her gallbladder. You don’t have to try to say that word. Any other history? Diabetes? Hypertension? Renal disease? Peptic Ulcers? Abnormal labs?”


“Ok.” We’re getting somewhere. “I noticed she’s under the age of fifty. Hysterectomy?”


“Well, please give her a cup and get a urine sample so you can do a test for pregnancy. Mandatory before surgery.”

“Well, um, she uses a wheelchair to get to the bathroom.”

“Multiple Sclerosis?” I throw other possibilities out to her.

I’m getting annoyed. “Why?”

“Not sure. Let me call you back.”

Five minutes later I get a call back from the nurse. My tone is modulated to hide my impatience. “Well…?”

“Um, she’s a paraplegic. That’s why she has a wheelchair.”

I took a deep breath before speaking.

“I’m concerned that you didn’t know that. That is all I’m going to say.”


Courage is one step ahead of fear. – Coleman Young

Courage is one step ahead of fear. – Coleman Young

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“Why are you not married?”

He was having a hernia repair.

The question caught me off guard. I’d said nothing about my personal statistics; asked him how he slept last night being that he had to arrive at our center at 7:00 am, reminded him he’d have lifting restrictions after surgery until cleared by his surgeon.

IV port wiped with an alcohol pad and Zofran given, I stepped back.

One of those rare moments I don’t have a response for a patient. Choices…

“I don’t know.”

I won’t settle.”

Life is too short to chase people.”

I’m busy living large.”

It’s not in my hands.”

They’re all good answers.

But it’s not about me.

When your on the clock it’s not about you.

But still, he deserved a reply. To not answer would be rude.

“Brad’s in the middle of making a movie. It’s delaying the courtship.”


Yes! A Hardback by a R.N!

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I always take the Barnes and Noble entrance to the Mall knowing I’ll be inspired to keep writing. How can you not? Best Sellers to your right -new releases on the left.

A few weeks ago a hardback on one of the center tables slowed my steps. How to Treat People subtitled A Nurse’s Notes by Molly Case.

I’ve never seen a book like this, front and center, in a large chain bookstore.

Molly Case trained in southeast London. She writes of her experience as a student, then as a clinician, embedding patient anecdotes with her personal reflections , giving enough patient information to emphasize the critical nature of their fragile health while stile respecting patient confidentiality.

The prose is poetic, never lapsing too deep into clinical descriptions. They are there, but just enough to lend credibility to the author.

I’m more than halfway through this book, growing more and more attached to her story. It helps that she begins by sharing a high risk surgery she needed prior to entering her teens. She understands her patients’ pain.

Her compassion is a coat Miss Case never takes off.

All you nurses out there (and the other wonderful WordPress friends who support my blog), check it out!


The Alchemist

Not long ago, I visited my daughter and she asked if I’d read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist.

It was so long ago that I could only reference the basic  story line about Santiago’s journey to reach his personal legend and comment that I remember the story having a big message to all of us about the journey we each take.

I gladly took her copy that she offered to me for reading.

I’m just more than halfway through and so happy to have the opportunity to read it again.  Below is the last passage I read yesterday evening before putting it down for the night:

The Englishman, after the boy returned the loaned books, asked the lad, ” Did you learn anything?”

” I learned the world has a soul and whoever understands that soul can also understand the language of things.”

The depth of this story is amazing. I’m not even done and I know I’ll read it again next year. It’s infused with messages about the treasures we have right in front of us, the treasures we have within, and the value of the journey, not just reaching the destination.


Endless Types of Impairment

This last week I had a patient to prepare for surgery who was blind in one eye and with significant vision loss in the other. He, and his wife, had come in a week earlier for his surgery interview.

It was there that the consents, surgical and anesthesia, were read to him before a large ‘X’ was placed a the signature line in order for him to navigate where to place his signature. At the bottom of the form the P.A.T nurse ( aka interview nurse) had written ‘ consents read to patient.’

Yesterday, the O.R. Nurse challenged this as being sufficient. Out of earshot, my simple response to her inquiry was ,” Hey, he’s alert and orientated, told me exactly what he is having done today. Actually a very articulate gentleman.”

She sought the input of her supervisor.

The supervisor came to our area and approached me. I stated that asking his wife to sign a durable power of attorney was diminishing to his intellect, awareness, and sensitivity as he was read every single risk to anesthesia – and there are fifteen listed at the top of our anesthesia consent forms. It’s a daunting read, whether you’re doing it yourself, or someone is reading the consent to you.

The supervisor took an alternate route and told me she wanted to first call Risk Management before he was allowed to go the O.R.

Risk management confirmed that what the P.A.T nurse did was appropriate.

I’ve never wanted this blog to be a place where I make habit of blasting leadership, the nursing profession, or my peers. In theory, calling Risk, not a bad thing, it’s a valuable department. But for this situation, it was, in my opinion, overkill.

And it pushed my buttons.

When you enter the hospital for treatment and sit first with someone in registration, I suspect that no one reads the whole financial statement form to you.

Just sign at the bottom.

After your insurance information is verified.

After it is know where to send all the bills.


There are worse impairments than visual impairment.

And often they belong to everyone but the patients.


Stirring up trouble

A family member, a week ago, gave me a newspaper article about bilingual nurses having their job threatened if they continue to speak their native language to each other when at work.

I took it to work to get the thoughts of some of my bilingual peers.

(Here’s a link to a news broadcast about it)

So…..the one paragraph news piece, I took it took work. Two people just shrugged their shoulders – had no opinion. One of them, she took it, said she’d read it later. The next day she took a moment to sit with me as I got my purse from the locker.

Her two comments:

” What does this mean?”


“What is this? You have a problem with us speaking Spanish?”

I quickly explained “No! I’m just not bilingual, so I don’t feel e Read the rest of this entry »


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