Don't Curse the Nurse!

Sharing support with stories & humor

A letter to a patient

“I’m leaving! I don’t care. I have to go!”

I heard it and I didn’t see who said it, but I knew it wasn’t a nurse. We say that kind of stuff in our head, a fantasy played out when the week has been unbearably long, the add-on cases never ending, and patients continued to be sent down poorly prepped from the floor.

Then I heard the sotto voice of a peer who I’d describe as unflappable.

Okaaay. Well, your daughter is on the phone here and she has confirmed that although you did not make arrangements for her to pick you up and my call is the first she’s heard of this need, she can be here by 1:30.”

Then he got louder. I selfishly giggled — happy he wasn’t my patient. The nurse at the desk, her eyes grew wide.

“I don’t need her to come here. I’m a grown man. I live close. If you won’t let me take a taxi, I’ll walk! I gotta go!”

Anger emitted from his voice and I could hear sneakered feet hit the floor.

My buddy quickly explain the leaving AMA (against medical advice) form he needed to sign. She also humbly asks him to please let her take out his IV.

My manager steps over and reiterates why he needs to comply with our request.

“Oh. Now there’s two of you! I’m still going!”

And there he is. Now he’s in the galley area between the bays and the nursing station. Yes, he is alert, but he had general anesthesia. It’s still in his system.

We can’t physically restrain someone who is doing no harm to themselves or the staff caring for them. A call was made to the surgeon who’d treated the patient. The patient was again asked to stay and let his daughter come get him at 1:30.

He started walking. My boss followed him right to the hospital entrance and watched him weave in and out between cars. Two minutes later he drove past her, grinning and waving.


Dear patient that left AMA,

Maybe, just maybe, you think what you did was the proud thing, managing your “own business”.

Let me tell you what it was: It was stupid and selfish.

To think so little of the lives of others at risk while you are on the road “proudly” driving yourself home, how dare you.

To lie to our Prep central nurse, pre-op nurse, and probably to the office nurse that mentioned the need for someone to be with you after surgery means you wanted to make sure you could get on the road and sit behind two thousand pounds of steel going fifty miles an hour.

We’ve had others, but they understood — they waited. They were frustrated, but they waited.

Sir, you have no regard for life.

Have you never lost anyone? Felt the anguish of a family or friend you felt taken too soon?

Your anesthetic will wear off in forty-eight hours, but you will still need to wake up.

We aren’t going to forget you, but it will be for all the wrong reasons. You take for granted the one thing that all the money in the world can’t buy.

With cautious regards,

The ASU nurses.





Nurse On The Loose

There are times when I’m not a very nice nurse and I’m not apologetic about it. It usually involves my family.

Case in point: As I dropped off my Mom and Dad at the ER entrance last night, I told my Dad to let the vomit land on the floor — he’d get taken back sooner.

When he was being seen by the triage nurse and a little too weary  to answer the questions as quick as they came, I gave the nurse my Eat $#%! and Die stare. I was ready to let my Mom loose on her.

Then, as he  sat with a headache bringing him close to tears, I casually mentioned to the receptionist that his pressure was close to 200/100 and asked if the triage nurse could recheck his pressure. I wanted her to roll a portable machine out to him, the goal being to emphasize that he needed monitoring. It worked. The triage nurse came out  with a wheelchair and took him to room 16.

Once he was seen by a physician, my Mom and I tag teamed hovering at the doorway ( she more than me – she’s inquisitive by nature). We stared at each medical person that walked by. I know this is annoying because I’ve been on the other side of it. Oh well…

It was an allergic reaction to a Betadine eye wash post an ophthalmic injection.

He is fine now.

I would say and do all the same things again in a heart beat.


Weighing on my mind

scale While taking a pre-op patient down the hall this morning to get her weight, she mentioned that she told no one about what she was doing. I dwelled on her comment then mused about a fellow blogger’s recent post on society’s definition of beauty.

Now, I do want to preface this post by stating that I am not condoning a total disregard for a conscientious attitude about healthy living. Musculoskeletal and cardiovascular diseases are aggravated by excess weight and a diet high in cholesterol and fine sugars. However, being conscientious (I love the word), won’t bring you anywhere close to looking like Heidi Klum or the barely covered model on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Genetics, people. Genetics.

Back to how this relates to my morning with my pre-op patient (the one who’s weight I needed – needed because she was having a gastric bypass and we have to have a baseline weight).

Where is our 30×30 inch floor scale that takes up to 500 lbs.  It’s in Bay 14 — the same bay where we keep a small linen cart, extra wheelchairs, and IV poles. In the back. In a corner. With a quiet patient whose head is down, the walk to the scale always feels like a shameful secret. And I don’t want them to feel that way.

You have to move everything out of the bay before the patient arrives so they can even get to the scale. And, you pull it out from the corner — pull it out from the wall so your patient is not nose to nose with industrial grade beige wall paper. It’s embarrassing, the arrangement for where this scale is. If we weren’t so limited on space…anyhow..

I do my best and cheer my patient on for all the positive changes to come.

And I’m thinking to myself, while we at the same time elevate the waif-like figures making thousands of dollars for one photograph on an exotic beach, can we say that we support our friends and family just trying to get a little healthier.   So…

Next time your diabetic friend has a birthday, get them one of those cool Edible Arrangements with the flower shaped fruit instead of cupcakes. Someone you know walking every Tuesday night? For-go the idea of a Saturday night dinner out and offer to walk with them.

I sincerely believe that the majority try to make lifestyle changes quietly because to announce somehow implies that they don’t appreciate what they already have in life or don’t know if they will be taken seriously.  And when social events bring on temptations, we backslide. I say we because I’ve done it, over and over again. To decline dessert separates you from the group.

Getting on a scale shouldn’t be an obsession.

And walking toward a scale shouldn’t feel like a death march.



P.S. My patient recovered nicely.


Biting My Tongue

My only thought was to get in and out of work as fast as possible.

It was a beautiful Saturday morning. Not a great day to be on call.

When I saw the age of the patient (17) and the reason for the D&C (dilation and curettage), my focus changed.  What a tough thing to go through, and she was so young. I miscarried my first pregnancy, but I was twenty-four and married. What I mean is that I was in a different place in life— that being basically, years out of high school and with a ring on my left hand which magically transformed social critique into initial rounds of congratulations followed by heartfelt sympathies.

I met the mother in the ER when I went to pick up the patient and I tell you, I don’t think the frown on her face was because she was disappointed at the lost chance to be called Grandma. She declined my offer to stay with her daughter in the pre-op area, mentioning she’d be either in the waiting room or going downstairs for coffee. I watched her wobble away on three inch heels and tugging at the cotton t- shirt that kept riding up her waist.

When Anesthesia came to talk, the mom could not be found. Thankfully she’d signed the consent in the ER. Otherwise, I was uncertain how long things would be delayed

Due to OB cases, the Gyn couldn’t come immediately.

My little girl, all 112 pounds of her lay bundled under three layers of blankets and made idle chit- chat with me until her phone rang. I could tell by her affections that she was talking to her boyfriend. I tried to focus on my charting, but what I was hearing was stressing me out.

“We can leave next week hon, stay at my friend’s in Georgia. The legal age for us is sixteen. With both of us working, we’ll be fine.”

Now I’m a sucker for good love story, but my head was about to bust open. And it went on.

“People’ll give us stuff, cus you know, us being together…anyway, yeah, uh huh…I hate her. We don’t need her or much of anyone else for that matter. The stuff they gave me, yeah, it helped the cramps. That girl, she’s not still calling you is she? Uh huh, o.k. I love you.”   


Stifling the mom instinct is hard, real hard.


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