Monday, June 13, 2011

Thank God I'm a nurse.

My father once wondered aloud what it was that made me the only nurse in a family of academics. He answered his own question to his own satisfaction with the observation that I'm the only one who was ever good at math (my 9th grade algebra teacher is staring in disbelief) and has let the subject lie since then.

I had dinner with the Sainted Mother and Honored Father tonight. I was once again reminded, during the course of the meal, how very glad I am that I'm a nurse.

See, Dad was talking about academic politics and who gets what professorship and what one's ranking in the department was dependent on, and how that was affecting this, that, and the other thing. And I was sitting there, alternately casting my eyes Heavenward and thinking, "Y'know, if some jackass tried *that* shit around me, they'd never set foot in my unit again."

Even though there's politics involved in my job, it's not the sort that touches your average floor nurse. Even though there's the little matter of the state budget, or the little matter of the performance improvement scores, or the tiny issue of staffing, I'm generally immune to everything besides the delta between Patients Alive At 0700 and Patients Alive at 1900. Less than one is good. One or more needs explanation.

I grew up in academia. I was the world's best paper-writer in college, having been inducted early into the world of poundage of production equalling quality of execution. Becoming a nurse, with its no-bullshit, no-slack way of looking at the world, was a shock. People told you things once and expected you to remember them! There were immediate consequences to your actions! Fucking up was not something you could put in an errata notice in the next edition!

It's very comforting. You're either breathing or you're not. You either have the chops or you don't. Mediocrity is not something that can be hidden, and crazy-pants behavior doesn't last long on the unit. Every problem, no matter how complex, becomes simple once you break it down into its component parts. You cannot argue with an arterial blood gas result.

Thank God I'm a nurse. Maybe the academic world needs more of us, running around like badgers with chainsaws.


RehabRN said...

Yes, ain't it fun? My only brush with academia as an employee led me to run to nursing school, get my degree and get out.

Online learning in grad school is way more fun, because you don't run into so much of the attitude. I do think there's less reverence, though, since you don't hear the whispers in the hall about the work of xx faculty member or see the fact they wear Birkenstocks with socks all the time.

Nursing in the real world has an entirely different look than academia and for good reason: we keep people alive. They study the why and how we do it, then point out ways from afar how we can improve it.

I may go back one of these days if I get my doctoral degree, but the call of the unit is more enthralling than the call of the academic office right now.

Anonymous said...

I suggest honey badgers with chainsaws!

Laina said...

I am a college nurse. I work in an academic environment. All of my supervisors are academics. It is funny to sit in staff meetings when you "can't" just break it down to "be nice or leave". You might upset a parent, or a trustee.
I love being a nurse, it has to be the best job here, for all of the reasons that you stated.

Anonymous said...

Thanks to the nasty politics in academia, I made the transition from academician to nurse and haven't looked back. My former colleagues are still shocked about my decision (I get some version of the "how can you can go from thinking profound thoughts to wiping dirty butts?" question from them everytime). I try to be polite when I tell them it's better than believing that some minutae of lyric poetry is going to change the world and sucking up to some quack of a dean to keep your pathetic job of teaching 6 sections of composition day and night.

Geosomin said...

I'm a research tech in a medical college and I mst say - we need many more badgers and chainsaws where I am :) Too many crazies, not enough practicality.

messymimi said...

You say, "poundage of production equalling quality of execution," i say, "since i can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull manure." Yes, it gets tedious after a while, good for you for getting out of it.

Urbie said...

Heh -- you're bringing up memories of when I graduated from college and took a job at a computer magazine. That ironed the BS out of my writing style in about two seconds flat -- from the typically self-important undergrad writing (further pumped up by one of my professors, who had encouraged me to try to publish one of the papers I wrote for him) to snappy, 5-Ws, inverted-pyramid get-to-the-point style. Of course, I could still f890 something up and correct it later... not possible when your article has stopped breathing!