Monday, June 08, 2009


I was reading NurseK's blog late last night and she linked to this post by Midwest Woman (whose blog, quite honestly, I have never read before) which contained this choice quote:

Read a comment yesterday...treat and street, admit and forget. Move the meat, move the product.
This was Nurse K's comment. Midwest Woman went on to (sorta) jump NurseK's shit, or bitch about ER nurses, or whine about her job, or something:

The meat is tainted and the product defective.
12 hours of trying not to let their life stories burrow under your skin. 12 hours of enduring families acting out all their dysfunctions on you. 12 hours of knowing that after all your effort, there will be a part of them broken that we can't fix. 12 hours away with memories of some of these people painfully tattoed on your heart hidden away.
Admit and forget....what a concept.
Honestly, I'm still not sure exactly what her point was; my reading comprehension skills drop off a cliff when there are no paragraphs.

I commented there, but I want to make a post here because what I said then plays a lot into where I am in my life right now. And that, just to be clear for everyone is: I'm a pre-nursing student at San Antonio College. Which means that I intend to be an RN, but I'm still slogging through my prerequisites. I have to take two more BIO courses to even be able to apply to nursing school. But I'm working my way there slowly. I really have no dog in this particular fight, though (ER nurses vs. floor nurses).

This is only my experience.

I've alluded before to the military medicine system and the shortcomings inherent therein. It's about the worst of what ER nurses have to deal with. Although in theory you can get an urgent appointment within 48 hours, in practice it was more like three weeks. So if you had anything that needed treatment within the next month or so, you went to the ER even if it wasn't anything close to an emergency.

For me, this was things like being in pain for burst cysts (the sort of thing they told me I had to come in for, but wouldn't actually do anything about once I was there), food poisoning that was really morning sickness (I've got a good excuse for that one, I swear), back pain when I couldn't stand up straight anymore, the occasional intestinal virus, etc. For my ex-husband, it was pneumonia, bronchitis, asthmatic bronchitis. For our kids it was fevers I couldn't get to come down.

Nurses are the foot soldiers of the ER. Hell, of the entire hospital. We're probably all familiar with the arguments. When you're in the hospital, you will see a doctor for a few minutes once or twice. You will see nurses far more often. They do the bulk of the actual care.

There was a corpsman at the hospital in Virginia...I don't remember his name, and I wish I did. He was a sweetheart. I met him when my oldest daughter was a wee babe. He told me about how his wife had been sure to breast-feed their kids for six whole weeks, because they knew how important it was.

He was also the only corpsman who could reliably get a needle in my arm. Once or twice they had to call him in, which produced one of my favorite lines ever: "Oh, her? I've stuck her plenty of times!"

He always cheered me up. Once when Bobbie was about 10 months old, Rob and I both got knocked down by the stomach bug and went to the ER. We were feverish, puking, dehydrated, etc. (Yeah, now I see I should've stayed home, but meh.) He was put in one bed, I was put in another. This corpsman heard Bobbie fussing, stuck his head in the curtain to say hi, and then took her and walked the floor of the ER with her, showing her off and getting me a couple minutes' rest.

I've been blessed to not have to deal with the ER or hospital much at all here in San Antonio.

I did go to the ER two days in a row when I was losing my baby. I blogged about this some when it happened. It was an ER nurse who was the only one to show any recognition of my humanity Friday night. As usual, I have no name (and here is where I really wish I did, because I'd love to write a letter to her boss and tell him how great she was). I don't think she gave one, and I wasn't wearing my glasses by then, because I didn't want to see. She helped me to go to the bathroom, and when she realized I was covered in blood from the waist down, she went and got hot, wet towels, warm, dry ones, a hospital gown, and a blanket. She got me cleaned up and feeling somewhat human again. She was with me maybe 10 minutes. Maybe. But she did more for me in that ten minutes than anyone else in that hospital did the whole time I was there.

The most recent one: Esther's face swelled up suddenly and abruptly on one side. I took her in to the same ER where I'd gone when I was miscarrying. The triage nurse reassured me I had done the right thing in bringing her in (which was fully appreciated). The nurse we saw when we were put in a room brought her a popsicle to help bring down her fever. Now, think about this a second. Here's a three-year-old girl. Her head hurts. She's hot. She's sick. And then somebody comes in and gives her ice cream! He could've accomplished the same end with ice water, but instead he chose a grape popsicle.

Now, all of those ER nurses dealt with me for a very short amount of time. And all of them did great things for my (and my daughter's) spiritual health as well as our physical health. You don't have to spend 12 hours with someone to do great things for them. You don't have to remember them after they leave you ER to do great things for them. You don't even have to save their lives to do great things for them (though I realize that's the best way to know you've done it).

The good nurses I've dealt with--not just in the ER, though for purposes of this post they're the ones I've talked about--have done much to influence my desire to be a nurse. I've also dealt with some shitty ones, who treated me as defective product (mostly floor nurses, frankly, but by no means all). They influenced me too. I'm going in to nursing as much to help someone else avoid a shitty nurse as to carry on the good work of the wonderful nurses.

It's not the whole story of why I'm going into nursing, but it's part of it.

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