Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Dull is good. Creative is better.

The most exciting thing I did yesterday was dig a splinter out of Sparky's finger. Sparky is a physical medicine and rehab attending who works with spinal cord injuries. Her nickname is her own suggestion; everybody has nicknames at work.

Anyhow, Sparky came up to me with a splinter in her finger, so I washed it down with chlorahexadine, slapped on a pair of gloves, and popped that sucker out with an 18-gauge injection needle. Took about thirty seconds from start to finish.

We like dull days. Being a nurse on a neuro unit is a lot, I think, like being a cop: long stretches of routine punctuated by absolute frantic insanity. You learn to love the long stretches.

And during the long stretches, we get creative as only a bunch of over-intelligent, high-strung people with an assortment of issues can get.

Miss Italy brought an ancient Polaroid with equally-ancient film, so we took a series of sepia-toned candid photographs and posted them on the walls with appropriate captions. Those joined the brighter Polaroids that Carolita takes on a regular basis. We've also cut questionable pictures out of the fashion magazines provided to the patients and stuck 'em up on the wall.

Once in a while we'll line dance in the nurse's station. We sing songs. The only thing we don't do is roast marshmallows, and that only because the fire extinguishers would kick in.

And, of course, everybody has to have a nickname. We have T-Bird, C-Dog, Even Steven, Megace (that's a type of medication used to stimulate appetite), Amiemamie, T-Max (the maximum temperature a patient sustains over a shift), C-Lo (one of the neurology residents), Sparky, Peg Leg, Budgie, Judy/Judsie, Cindy-Lou-Who, Godlike Tim, and Carolita. Some of these people are doctors; most are nurses. It must make for an interesting time for the patients, as we've pretty much given up on formal names on the floor.

All this silliness drives the administration crazy. Pity the poor floor manager who has to put up signs in the break room about whose ACLS is about to expire: the pronouncement at the end of each posting is "Disciplinary action, up to and including termination, may be taken."

We don't take well to things like that. When somebody printed out and posted a picture of a well-endowed domme, complete with whip, just under the "disciplinary action" notice, it came down. We kept putting it up. Finally the administration gave up.

We got a "contract" about "customer service" a few weeks ago. Now, given that our primary mission is good health care rather than customer service, this was rather a shock. Also, given that our floor is the floor on which every VIP that comes into the hospital gets put on, due to the level of that indefinable "customer service" and the quality of care we give, we were a bit surprised. The memo--er, Contract--specified things like smiling when speaking to patients and helping each other out with lifting and so on.

I've worked all over the hospital, as have all my colleagues. The general feeling on every floor is that though we may be weird, we're the tightest group of nurses in the building and the best at what we do. So the Contract was insulting.

We signed it, though, and turned it in.

Three days later The Semi-Bigwigs came for a surprise inspection of the floor. We all, keeping the Contract in mind, walked around with rictus grins on our faces, saying things like, "Thank you, valued member of the health care team!" "No, thank *you*, my esteemed colleague!" "No, truly, you're too good to me!"

Not a word about the Contract has been spoken since.

This is why I love where I work: no matter the reputation we might have as tetchy, strange geniuses, we all pull together--and the other floors respect us. When Beloved John died, we chose a couple of representatives from the floor to go to his funeral. The rest of us planned to stay and work.

Until thirty minutes before the funeral started, when a phalanx of nurses from other departments strode on to our floor and started taking over our patients. They came from every department: cardiology, surgery, PACU, admitting. As a result, every single one of us got to attend John's funeral in our scrubs with our stethoscopes still hanging around our necks. By mutual unstated consent, we didn't remove the badges and doodads that mark us as nurses when we walked into the church, either.

Not a bad group to be a part of. Not a bad thing to do for a living.

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