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Around three hundred million people live in the United States. About three million of them are nurses. I make that one in a hundred.
This demographic worried me a bit when I first retired. Nurses just don’t share a shift or a workplace. They share a culture and a lifestyle. I wondered—and fretted—about what life would life be like when I wasn’t around a lot of nurses anymore.
What was I thinking? If you are a nurse, and do not live on a desert island, you cannot escape other nurses. And they cannot escape you.
The rule of Chaos Theory known as ‘strange attractors’ states that there is really focus and magnetism to seemingly chaotic and random social patterns. Nurses definitely have something like that going on. The only other thing similar to it that I can think of is gaydar.
Gaydar is the ability make an intuitive identification. The nurse-strange attractor thing is like that, but different. Consider this.
It is child’s play to pick working nurses out of a crowd. Once a nurse isn’t working, though, the characteristic nurse outfits, accessories and shift-related circadian rhythms are no longer in play.
How, then, do I always find the retired nurse in a crowd without even trying? For lack of a better word, I’m calling it radaRN. No offense meant to our LPN/LVN brethren. It’s my word and I’m counting you in it too.
When I first joined my new church, I was told to look out for someone named MaryAnn, who was a retired nurse. Read more…
Let’s take a little walk down memory lane and listen to some old stories we told when Nurse Talk was first on the air. Not sure any of you remember RN and co-host Maggie McDermott. Maggie comes back to visit from time to time and she always has a story about a funeral she just attended or a “fender bender” that wasn’t her fault. We think these Comedy Pharm clips are at least amusing—funny? Well, that is in the eyes of the beholder!
Moving on—Lost for many observers in last month’s end-of-the-year hullabaloo was the annual Gallup Honesty and Ethics Survey which by a wide margin again ranked nursing as the most honest and ethical profession.The survey found that 84% of Americans believe that nurses have “very high” or “high” honesty and ethical standards. RN and co-president of National Nurses United Karen Higgins is with us to talk more about the survey and what it means for the nurses, health care and social activism.
AND we share a wonderful story from RN, writer JoAnn Spears. JoAnn has generously contributed some stunning blog posts about her life and career as a nurse. On a recent post she describes what she learned from a mute patient in a chronic psychiatric ward. Read more…
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Before I was a nurse, I had occasion to be a young patient.
I had a brief but painful procedure to undergo. My nurse was named Anne. She told me that if it hurt, I should just go ahead and scream.
It was nighttime, and all the other patients on the floor were asleep. It must have been the incipient psych nurse coming out in me; I was determined that those other patients not be woken up.
“I’m not going to scream,” I said gamely.
“Well, then, here’s my hand, squeeze it really tight if you need to,” Anne said, resting her right hand in mine.
I needed to, all right. I squeezed really hard, and I screamed anyway, waking all the other patients and probably a couple of the dead down in morgue, not to mention shattering a few glass pipettes down in the lab. I also suspect that I broke a couple of small, unnamed bones in Anne’s hand; as soon as it was all over, I could see that it was already turning purple.
I remembered Anne when I was a student doing a rotation through a same-day surgery unit. They were preparing to do an I&D on a man with a badly suppurating scrotal abscess. It was a dead heat as to what was absolutely the worst thing about the situation: the sight, the smell, or the man’s embarrassment at having a skinny little nursing student in the room. I remembered Anne, gave the man my hand, and told him to squeeze it if it hurt. Read more…
I recently bit the bullet and started text messaging. It’s not like face time and it ain’t Hallmark, but it has its advantages. It was an added bonus to discover that a career’s worth of nurses’ notes was the ultimate preparation for a would-be texter.
I avoided texting for a long time because I was put off by all the cutesy abbreviations. What was I thinking about…nurses invented abbreviations. KCL? We know what it is, what it can do, and how not to kill people with it. We can tell if someone is AAOx3 at 50 paces. We know if an LBM calls for NPO or BRATT. LMAO (laughing my ass off) or TTYL (talk to you later) is small stuff compared to a G10P9, V-fib, or calling Dr. Strong.
I was also text-resistant because of my grammatical principles. I went to Catholic School in the 1960s, when grammar had glamor. There was nothing of subtle, sexy, Audrey-Hepburn-in-a-little-black-dress-restraint about prose as I learned it. Less was not more. Less was…less.
Then came nursing school, where I committed sacrilege against everything the good Felician Sisters taught me and took up ‘telegraphic speech’. Old-time telegraphers got right to the point because they paid for their messages by the word. I learned to write my nurses notes as if I did the same.
If non-nurses read those notes, they would probably say the same things that naysayers say about text messaging. Disjointed. Poor grammar. Unfamiliar words, phrases, and abbreviations. Impersonal. Redundant. Lots of minutiae. Read more…
I had two pieces of furniture delivered yesterday: a really nice lingerie chest and a basic nightstand. They joined two pretty little tile stands that I bought for bedside use a few weeks ago.
I did not buy the basic nightstand to use at the bedside; I bought it to put under my internet router. Don’t ask me why, but in my new house the internet router is hooked up from about a foot above the bedroom floor in the middle of one of the walls. I had to do something to get that router off the floor; you know how nurses are about clutter on the floor.
The little nightstand is perfect for the job. It has just enough top surface to hold the router. It doesn’t stick out enough from the wall to get in the way of walking through the bedroom and to the bathroom, and I don’t have to tell you how nurses are about ANYTHING obstructing the path to the bathroom. And as if all that weren’t enough, it has a drawer.
The decorative tile tables do not have drawers, so there was just something that made having a real live nightstand with drawers in the room seem…well, right.
My realtor friend Sheila came over to see my new furniture. She admired my pretty little tile tables. She thought they were unique and different. She thought the nightstand was boring. “It has a drawer,” I pointed out. “Not to mention a shelf. And it only sticks out from the wall by twelve inches, so it won’t block the path to the bathroom.”
“It sure won’t”, said Sheila, noting the path and its full thirty-six inches of clearance. Read more…
I lost my keys the other day. Most boomers would chalk it up to a senior moment and move on. Most boomers are not nurses. Nurses can be weird about keys. It was the beginning of a compressed, forty-eight hour, Kubler-Ross, Five-stage experience.
The keys were not lost at all, I reasoned—they had to be somewhere. I rummaged through the garbage, but they weren’t there. Denial being denial, I went through the garbage three times. I only went through the compost pile twice. The resultant spider and worm activity checked any further emotional excesses. I hefted each of the cats to see if one of them had become suspiciously heavier. None of them had. I rummaged the laundry—no keys. I washed the laundry, figuring maybe I could float them out. Uh-uh.
I was less than gracious with the Kia lady who informed me that my replacement car key would arrive in two days, and cost about $20. I felt bad about that, but $20 is $20. I was no nicer to the Home Depot house key lady. Since that key cost only $3, I felt pretty small. When the lady at Food Lion made me fill out a great big form to replace my plastic keychain card, I got pissy. Since she was actually saving me money, there was no excuse for me. I had to get past the anger.
I asked God if getting a metal detector would reveal my lost keys to me. I priced out some metal detectors and realized the answer was, “no”. Read more…
You could say that Ol’ Arthur beats my butt, or that I have a hitch in my git-along. In short, my back hurts.
Since the lifetime prevalence of musculoskeletal injuries among nurses is as high as 80%, I am guessing you are sympathetic, but not impressed. Your back probably hurts too.
I started attending exercise classes after I had been a nurse for a while, so I had to learn from the get-go how to work out with a bad back. Kickboxing, step, Pilates, trampoline, circuit, resistance training…I figured out the back-friendly way to do each one.
I did push-ups against the wall. I lifted barbells without any weights on the ends. I roundhouse-kicked like someone stepping over a puddle. I did ballet releves when everyone else was jumping up and down, a substitution friendly to the bladder as well as the back. I marched in place a lot. I was in an exclusive relationship with the only pair of one-pound hand weights at the gym.
I’m not sure when everyone else at the gym suddenly got a lot younger than me, and somewhat disdainful of my exercise modifications. I think it was around the same time that the gauntlet of body-builders to be run between the gym door and the ladies’ changing room grew better tans, whiter teeth, and less body hair than I had. I started feeling sheepish about my exercise limitations. I decided it was time for a change. I began to Jazzercise.
Jazzercise has worked out well for me. Read more…
I am selling my home. I just know that the anonymous buyers who will soon be parading through my bedroom will think that a peep at my clothes closet is fair game. Being a congenitally poor closet organizer, I decided that the best thing to do was to just strip the thing pretty bare before the parade started to pass by.
The Continued Stay Review on the nurse gear stockpile in that closet was tough.
The Dry Rot Test eliminated some 20+ year old stethoscopes, the lowest-hanging fruit.
The striped polyester uniforms from my student days were harder to let go. They remained on the keeper pile even after they failed the Would You Wear This into a Hospital Today test. Then they failed the Maybe Your Granddaughter Would Like to Get Married in This test, and I got shaky. When they failed the You Will Never be a Size Two Again Test, I desperately sought a way out, but realized that the only thing likely to take me down to a Size Two again was a terminal illness. I let the pantsuits go, but kept the half-dozen hospital gowns I had acquired by nefarious means.
Then there was the stretchy pair of vintage 90s white uniform pants. I gave them a pass on the Size Two Test because of the elastic waist. I reasoned that if I ever had a granddaughter and she wanted a quickie Vegas wedding, the white pants might come in handy. Paired with a scrub top, I reasoned, I could wear them into a hospital today if push came to shove. Read more…
There was big news last week with the nurses strike in Northern California. Over 23,000 nurses took part in the one day strike against Sutter and Kaiser hospitals.
Tragically as we spoke with RN and co-president of National Nurses United Deborah Burger, a patient at Sutter’s Alta Bates Summit Medical Center died due to a medical error while under the care of a replacement nurse.
And in studio Casey and Dan welcome RN Laurie Barkin. Laurie is a psychiatric nurse consultant at San Francisco General and has written a fascinatingly vivid account about her twenty years as an elite psychiatric trauma nurse treating San Francisco’s most complicated cases and how treating the trauma of others affects caregivers.
For more about the drunk Swedish moose and fake bomb threat, you have to tune in to the show…
Behind Blue Eyes playing on the radio reminded me of the mute, azure-eyed patient who taught me a big life lesson.
He was a low-maintenance patient on the chronic psychiatric ward where I worked per diem. I worked with him for probably three years before I learned that his muteness was selective. Long-time staff on the floor remembered him speaking – weird delusional Hitler stuff – long, long ago, but no one had heard him speak in many years and no one went out of their way to get him to talk again.
The windows on the dorm of that ward were painted part-way open. On windy winter nights, it was freezing back there. It took a lot of legwork and major sweet-talking skills to scare up the extra blankets necessary on those winter nights; those cotton honeycomb blankets had to be piled up pretty high to be even close to warm enough.
The men who lived on that ward, most of them for years if not decades, were creatures void of choice, and I felt that void keenly. There wasn’t much I could offer them in the way of choice, but there was something. It was those blankets.
Which blanket do you want-the white one? The beige one? The blue one?
My blue-eyed patient would never answer the question, not even with a gesture, so I always picked for him. “The blue blanket for you, of course, I would tell him, “because it matches your eyes.”
One night, I was working on charts at the nurses’ station when I felt eyes bearing down on me. Read more…