Don't Curse the Nurse!

Sharing support with stories & humor


fireblogLast night I set my regrets on fire; a small flame, a single curl of smoke – that’s all it fostered. Like the wagging tongue of a child, it momentarily taunted me, but then I thought, No.

There were too many joyous experiences from 2016 to let a few misgivings piggyback into 2017.

What I learned most from this last  year is that letting go, for me, needs to  be a daily practice. No more holding things in ( or up). It’s not some kind of measure of my character.

Besides, no one’s ever asked me to hold anything in.



“I” before “we”?


After another great service a couple of Sundays ago, I went home with good intentions to look up a study done at the University of California involving linguistics and the parallel between the use of ‘I’ or ‘me’ and an individual’s degree of self-focus.

I must have misspelled the professor’s name. I couldn’t find the exact study.

This is what I did find:

“In the 1990s, James Pennebaker helped develop a computer program that counted and categorized words in texts, differentiating content words, which convey meaning, from function words. After analyzing 400,000 texts—including essays by college students, instant messages between lovers, chat room discussions, and press conference transcripts—he concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do”

 For example, he learned that pronouns tell us where people focus their attention. The most simple is the use of “I”. Chronic use is an indicator of self-focus. Most people can figure this out without looking at it from the perspective of grammatics.

I was tickled with his reference of ‘function words’. I always thought all words had function – how wrong I was. Turning the topic on its head, I pondered…Is a lack of the use of the word ‘I’ mean that there is neglect of the self? A predisposition to being too focused on what’s going on around you and not taking care of yourself? In my opinion, nurses fall in the category of the latter. It’s a risk for all in the medical profession.

I’m going to do the New Year different. I’m going to make and share a list of my favorite things, no resolutions. Self-improvement is already an ingrained part of my character.

* Thank you for indulging me with a read of this post. I feel I meandered…and probably used the word “I” too much.


Wish I’d Said It !


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The Things You Hear

Kudos to the son figuring out a way to explain to his eighty-six year old father the prostate surgery scheduled for him:

“Dad, the doctor’s going to fix your undercarriage.”

 … the CRNA overhead saying,

“My grandmother was a nurse in the ‘40’s’, wore a cap, and had a cape…told me she was a superhero. That’s when I picked my profession.”

 And the I.T. guy who, by way of joke, told us late in the day …

Are my test results back?” sounds just like “Are my testicles black?” if spoken under a breathing mask.


Well, the third one… Joint Commission isn’t coming until January. We’ve got time to get that guy under control.


Not Just for Nurses

I zoned in on the words ‘hospital’, ‘nurse’, ‘nursing assistant’, ‘peed’ and figured the essay was going to be a rant on the occasional nursing slang that comes out when we’ve run around a little  too much, our joints have gotten loose, and we forget about the generation gap between us and our patients. So, I read on.

My bad.

This was a creative introduction to a homage to the author’s grandmother.

Check it out. It has appeal for everyone.

I aspire to go into my “Golden Years” with the described class of the patient’s beloved elder!




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Who Doesn’t Love a Clean Shave?

clipThis is Mr. Clippy. He’s our new mascot. He’s a sticker. And if you come see us for surgery on any part of your body that has hair on it, he will be at the end of your stretcher right next to your name, which sits over your surgeon’s name (the two separated by a line).

Mr. Clippy achieved stardom in efforts to improve the already pretty good score we have for keeping post-surgical site infections to a minimum. We are reducing the “hair clipping” done in the OR. We already do most of it in pre-op. Now we do more.

This is important.  I am in no way attempting to de- emphasize the goal here. Hospitals, ironically, are the places most filled with bacteria, some harmless, some deadly if they reach the bloodstream.

I don’t have a problem with visual cues. As a matter of fact, I love them!

Here’s what makes my eye twitch.

He’s a cartoon character. The raised eyebrows, the large head, and the scissors he’s flailing in the air (We don’t use scissors, by the way) — he looks demonic. As if having some nurse using electric clippers only inches above your manhood where that hernia is bulging out doesn’t provoke enough anxiety. For the women, it’s the defeminizing buzz of the clippers that can be heard twelve feet away, seriously, everyone knows the patient in Bay 6 is getting something shaved.

But, no one should worry.

They’re safety clippers. And when we’re done, we use 2 inch wide pieces of wide medical tape to effectively remove the fallen hair.  And you thought you wouldn’t get spa treatment!Glamour at it’s fines.

Now that I think about it, there’s nothing aesthetic about using tape to remove hair from a surgical site in pre-op, so I’m going to cut  him some slack ( pun intended) and be nice to Mr. Clippy for one month.

Then I’m going to start doodling on the stickers.



For All the Right Reasons

selfie choice


I photo bombed a patient trying to take a “selfie”, but it was for all the right reasons.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…there is no good reason to photobomb someone taking a “selfie”, but hospital selfies different. Let me explain.

First, anybody in a hospital gown, sans make-up or hair done, and lying in a bed, is unlikely to want their photo taken.

The process normally starts with the family or friends sitting around and wanting to lighten the mood. Conversation has come to a lull. The reality of why they are there is sobering, as sobering as all the risks listed on an anesthesia consent form. They all start commenting on the amazing beauty of the required blue net hair covering and the air-conditioned design on the back of the gown. There is deference to comments by the patient. She or he is the one actually going through the event of having a tube maneuvered down their throat and incisions made on their abdomen or other regions. The friends and family will get a one shot photo –op. Then the patient will get in on the ludicrous humor of it all and offer up their own choreographed photo for the people not in attendance; the Facebook and Instagram crowd

If I see a patient shrivel up when a visitor pulls out a camera, I’ll shake my head, give a halfhearted smile, and tell them everyone’s getting IVs if I hear a click or see a flash. I don’t have to do this often.

Now yesterday…my patient was alone.

She’d been dropped off – to be picked up at an estimated time based on her surgery schedule. She was quiet when she first arrived, but easily drawn into conversation. We had a good rapport while I listened to lung sounds, accessed a vein for her IV, and explained the pre-op medications.

It was when I stepped back to the wall mounted computer at the bay entrance that I noticed something.

Her smile had dropped. She fidgeted with the T.V — changed channels then turned it off. Reaching for the next mode of entertainment, I saw she now had her camera in her hand. All this time, I am filling in screens and toggling to the flow sheet.

I’d stepped over to print out a strip from the EKG monitor when she was angling the camera to take her selfie. It was easy to see that she wasn’t into it. There was no mock lip pursing or raised eyebrow. She hesitated then put the phone down. She picked up the phone twice but never smiled.

I don’t know what came over me, but the third time she picked up the phone and set it eight inches from her face, I stuck my mug in there right next to hers and said “You got this!” She took two photos.

Her laugh made my day.



Sometimes Patients Get the Last Word

last word

It wasn’t a full moon, but it was a Friday, and a busy one at that — twenty five surgeries and two infusions to be completed. You’d think it was a day we had all under control, and on the surface it looked like we did. Patients were prepped on time, lab personnel were making it to our area quickly for STAT potassium levels, and floor nurses had their patient pre-op check lists completed before arrival.

There were no complaints, eh, technically I can’t call them complaints, but there were a few comments by patients that came as a surprise.

One was from a patient (to me) who had his own idea about the “dress code” for surgery:

“I’ll take my underthings off when the surgeon gets here and tells me!”

One comment was from a patient who overhead my anesthesiologist comment on the large number of surgeries for the day. She sweetly waited for him to step over and interrupted his introduction with this comment:

“Suck it up, Buttercup!”

And the last one, well it was from a patient expected three hours earlier for infusion therapy. Our manager called to inquire about his whereabouts and advise that he might need to reschedule. The only words out of the patient’s mouth …

“*!$#@ you! ”

After my boss picked her jaw up off the floor, the phone rang twice and the caller hung up without saying anything else.

I guess he didn’t know how to follow that!


We still chalked it up to a good day.




Sleep Tight


“If he could get in bed with me, I think I could fall asleep.”

I looked at her bright eyes and tried to figure out where all the Fentanyl I’d given her had gone. Per her sonogram, the stones in her ureters were gigantic!

She was so awake she could probably get up and run laps around the floor. And, no disrespect to my elders, she was old enough to get senior discounts. Fentanyl is supposed to circulate faster as you age.

“Uh, well, um, hmm. You are the only patient here in pre-op. And you’ve been waiting for quite some time. Uh, okay. Yeah, just scoot way over. You,” I waved to her ‘fiancée” to get in on the left side of the bed, away from the arm with the IV in it, “you get in from this side.”

Did any of you ever see He Said, She Said ?

There is a scene where Kevin Bacon has a dream that his In-laws are at the foot of the bed giving narrative to the ‘baby making’ efforts of he and his wife. Screen writers did a great job. It’s funny. In real life, watching two people snuggle up, it’s weird.

I pulled the curtain and turned around to see my two coworkers leering at me with squinted eyes.

“It’s approved cuddling. Whatever helps her sleep.”

Five minutes later, he walked past me at the nurses station.

“Everything okay?”

“Yes. She’s asleep. I’m going to go grab some dinner and watch the game on the T.V out front.

It figures.

But my patient is sleeping.



Working with Smurfs

Fun moment between me and a patient this morning- Did the best I could to jot it down so I could share !

I’m facing her; putting on her monitors. She’s looking in the periphery behind me.

She says, “Did you notice that your Anesthesia doctors look like Smurfs?”

I turn and glance. “Um, what do you mean?” As soon as I say it, I understood what she was referring to. It was the designated color of their agency scrubs. The periwinkle blue matched the skin tone of the comic characters perfectly.

I place the last lead. “Well, they’re really smart Smurfs.”

She countered with, “You know Smurfs love to eat Sasparilla.”

Me, “Ours eat lazy nurses.”

She, “But I see they’re not wearing hats.”

Me, “They put a new one on every time they go back through that door on the corner.”

She, “They put on Phrygian hats?”

I pause. She’s got me there.

She. “The cartoon, it’s based on an old Belgian story. My dad was an illustrator. He talked about cartoons a lot. That’s what the hats were called.”

She had me working parts of my brain usually allowed to rest during work hours. I printed out her EKG and started to step away from the stretcher.

“Susan, who’s the Smurf coming this way?”

“That’s Papa Smurf. You don’t get to leave the pre-op mushroom until you speak with him.”
She raised her eyebrows and gave me a mischievous grin .

My last words: “He was on call last night. Don’t tell him he looks like a Smurf.”


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