Don't Curse the Nurse!

Sharing support with stories & humor

Survey says…

A lot of surveys should be landing in my parents’ mailbox over the next week or so. Between the two of them, in the last four weeks, there have been two ER visits (one that turned into an admission), one outpatient surgery, at least one diagnostic test, and I’m sure they’ve had labs done at a facility owned by the area hospital they’re frequenting. One of these visits will not garner a positive survey.

After my Dad’s outpatient surgery, while in recovery, his blood pressure kept climbing.

I observed the nurse get an order, put the smallest dose anti-hypertensive medicine possible in the tubing port of my father’s practically bone dry IV, not bother to flush the medicine with 10 cc of normal saline, and then not hang another IV bag and open it up some. She retook his B/P in under three minutes.

I remember starting to clench my jaw, but then she repeated the dose. (She had an order.)


The medicine never reached his vein.

At this point I was struggling to have that ‘we nurse stick together’ comradery.

The evening call nurse came over seconds later. It was 7:00 pm. (Call staff takes over at this time.)

She disconnects the long IV tubing, leaving his IV, with a short section of tubing, in.

So there’s his medicine, in the tubing.

They take my Dad’s pressure again.


The second nurse tells him he needs to relax. She tells him that he is tensing up. They take his pressure again.


They take it again a minute later. 205/105. He’s going to have a stroke and I’ll need to kill a nurse.

I tell nurse #2 I need to speak with her privately. She complies. I tell her, with my jaw clenched tight, exactly where I think that B/P medicine is and why. She returns and re-doses my Dad and flushes the medicine in with syringes filled with normal saline.

Two minutes go by.

B/P 168/95.

He’s home and fine. That’s the most important thing. I’m still debating whether to write a letter to the hospital or wait and see if he gets a survey.

Either way, it’s not good. Someone’s coming down a notch.


Anything Eating You?


I got in my car. A good day. Checked my phone. No messages. A quick look in the mirror to see if the ‘After lunch’ swab of lipstick lasted.


Why? Why? Why? Why?

Why couldn’t someone say “You’ve got something between your teeth.”?

After my healthy spinach salad lunch, I had checked on another patient, talked to at least two coworkers, passed through the OR to PACU – smiling at saying “Hello” to several, and discharged a patient before clocking out. And there it was, the whole time, a green wedge of iron and fiber lodged between incisor #2 and #3.

Me, the magnanimous person I am, I have sucked up the awkwardness, discretely making anyone victim of this incident aware with a graceful like movement, my hand moving featherlike up and toward the side of my mouth, parting my lips only millimeters (not the dentist office mouth stretched open look), and with my index finger, pointing to an imaginary piece of food between my teeth. I’ve always gotten an appreciate “Oh, thank you!”

Would it have been that hard?

Now I know I’m on my own. It’s every nurse for themselves.

No more spinach

My iron tablets are sufficient.

And I’m picking up extra floss on the way home.

One more item to cram into the pockets of my scrubs.





I stumbled on this poem a year or so back. The metaphor is perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

Hope is the thing with feathers                                 

Hope is the thing with feathers That perches in the soul, And sings the tune without the words, And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard; And sore must be the storm That could abash the little bird That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land, And on the strangest sea; Yet, never, in extremity, It asked a crumb of me.

Emily Dickinson


Beauty is Everywhere

When the day ends, my route to the parking lot includes walking past the balcony area by the waiting room, turning left toward the North elevator, then down to the first floor. There is always music heard overhead. Once in a while there is live piano music.

Yes, we have a Baby Grand in the Atrium area. Our hospital is small, but not lacking in classy accessories. I’ve sometimes seen a volunteer on the bench, back sloped, playing a melody — eyes connecting with each key as stiff fingers press until chords ring out.

Today someone was at the piano. I heard a tune that was a mix between Barbara Streisand’s Memories and Chopin’s Opus 9. It was a mid-pace tempo with brushes on the C note.

I slowed my pace and moved closer to the overhang. I saw at the piano, not a regal looking volunteer — silver cap of hair, starched green vest, but a stocky man in his late forties,  five o’ clock shadow on his face — wearing a thinned tank top and faded jeans. His body swayed, following the fluid like movement of his arms.

Curious cat that I am, I hopped on the elevator right behind me, rode down, and walked over to get a closer look.

Flip-flopped feet pushed the pedals under the piano.

I asked him the name of the tune.

“It doesn’t have a title. I wrote it.”

My eyebrows shot up.

He continued.

“I’m a composer, or, uh, a wannabee composer.”

I picked up a coffee for him from the Starbucks behind me and asked him to keep playing.

He needs to keep playing


On the Eve

navy medicmedic

Memorial Day has never been a ‘Holiday’ to me in the classical sense. Only weeks after my daughter’s birthday, it flies up and smacks me in the face.

  It’s been a long day here; at least I’m off tomorrow. 

The recovery room is empty. This is the last one.

Two of them turn and spin until they are draped in blue, hands donned with sterile gloves, heads capped — hair all tucked under. A third, masked and head also covered, announces the patient’s name, the date of birth, the allergies, and the type of surgery being done. Behind the vertical drape at the head of the bed, a lanky figure scans the monitor, rises, drops a tube that collects stomach bile, and then ducks down again.

As the one who announced the case moves around the room, he starts up a conversation, “…Navy…Marine…”

He doesn’t stand still much, so I can’t hear where he said he was stationed.

Scissors, graspers, and dissectors lay on a draped table. As they are passed to the conductor in the room, an intact belly quickly becomes the recipient of inserted probes that blow air, suction waste, and provide an inside look at a swollen biliary vesicle. His female assistant, while handing over tools, no prompt  needed, adds to the conversation. “While I was in…”

I didn’t  know she served for so long. Her anecdotes have everyone smiling. I can see it in their eyes.

The conductor, as he deftly probed, tugged, snipped, and sutured, brought color to the conversation, sharing how his residency in the only trauma center for miles helped prepare him for his time in Afghanistan.

Thirty-five minutes have passed. The conductor/surgeon is done.

I don’t even recall seeing him suture up the four small incisions, but they are closed. The assistant is dressing them.

To some, this might have been just a laparoscopic cholecystectomy. On the eve of this somber day, a day set aside to remember those who have died while defending our country, it was more to me.

Much more. 


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Reposting someone else’s stuff for a reason

Because it’s good, really good!

Nurse RosemaryMarie of Noble Doubt has written a wonderful piece about a nurse who opens her heart and tells a story without  forgetting her purpose.



One of My New Philosophies

As it relates to work:



Sometimes “Fine” is not fine.

Here’s that post I mentioned would follow:

I think people say “You’ll be fine” for one of three reasons; they don’t know what to say, they don’t care and want to end the conversation, or they have a self- centered focus of such intensity that they believe these mere words coming out their mouths is all you need to hear.

Now, I know there are exceptions to this — the calculus teacher looking at the test you just turned in —he has the test key — the neighbor who watched you knock over a sprinkler head — he has a spare in his garage.

That’s not the stuff I’m talking about.

I’m talking about the fears and anxieties we have when a family member learns of abnormal biopsy results, when the sole bread winner in a household gets laid off, when a fight between couples results in one walking out.

You get the picture.

There is no guarantee.

And it is never more important to understand this than in medicine.

It’s not an exact science, and it never will be.

So, if you care about someone who’s going a trial with their health or is preparing for surgery, do this:

Just listen.

Don’t interrupt.

Just listen.

It’s usually all they need.




A Hug


“Thank you. You made me feel human.”

I instantly wanted to cry.

I wasn’t upset. I was overwhelmed with gratitude to have been the recipient of her words.

In thirty years of nursing, I’ve been recognized with certificates, plaques, monetary awards, and more, but to have a patient say “thank you” for acknowledging and respecting their vulnerability is by far the greatest compliment of all.

And what did I do to deserve this — I gave her a hug.

Twenty minutes earlier, when she walked down the hall toward me in the pre-op area, I saw the anxiety on her face. So, I wrapped my arm around her shoulders as I turned to point her toward the Bay she would be ‘prepped’ in. I gave her a reassuring squeeze and promised to get her laughing before long.

It was when I brought her husband back that she reported to him of being ‘okay’ and giving me credit as to the reason why.

This is why I returned to clinical nursing — the human component of medical care.

I don’t care about climbing the corporate ladder. I believe in leading by example. And when you get right down to it, caring about the patient is step one to doing all the other things, starting IV’s, completing complex dressing changes, administering medications, etc… correctly.

P.S. for the nurses: Don’t tell them everything is going to be okay. You don’t know that. Reread all the risk on an anesthesia consent form.

I’ll be talking about this on my next post.

Goodnight 🙂


I should have been with patients.

So, last week I went to a one day mandatory retreat related to a work committee. The two main topics were How to Organize and Complete Projects and the second, Communication.

Interesting fact learned in the first hour: Success is 90 % communication.

Interesting fact learned in fifth hour: Proportion of time spent on communication for projects: 90%

I’m okay with the first fact, the second one, eh, no. Not okay.

If the group is comprised of professionals, or, people that like to think they are “professionals”, why is the proportion of time so high for communication from beginning to end of project. I see the need at the beginning, but what about initiative? Independent follow through?

Grown-ups that need to be spoon fed, are one of my least favorite things. (I give the new nurse, fresh out of school, exception to this attitude of mine.)

The words ‘self-starter’, ‘autonomy’, ‘follow through’…oh, oh, my favorite.. Accountability.

I should have stood up, gotten on one of the tables, and demanded we talk about accountability.

Right after the CNO left, yep, right after she gave the intro for the visiting speakers then left.

It would have been memorable.


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