Sunday, April 25, 2004

Things people say

When you work with sick people all the time, people that don't have the tendency to say things that either bring you up short or make you wish you had a skillet close at hand. Ergo:

A neurology nurse? Boy, you must be really smart.

I put my underwear on backwards today. How smart does that sound?

Seriously, there's nothing about neurology or neurosurgery, from a nursing standpoint, that requires one to be brilliant. Flashes of brilliance and the ability to memorize huge amounts of information help a lot, but you don't have to be consistently amazing.

It takes a special person to be a nurse.

This one always stumps me. If I say, "Yes, it really does" then it sounds as though I'm being snarky, or at the least expecting the other person to bow down and worship my specialness. If I say, "No, not really" then I'm going against the Cult of Nurse, which says that All Nurses Are Special and that we have the Hardest Job In The World.

I'd rather be a nurse than somebody who fixes computer hardware, a veterinarian, a telephone lineman, any flavor of customer support person, a parole officer, a flight attendant, or the person at the other end of the suicide hotline. Those are, to me, the really tough jobs.

You must see a lot of people die.

No, not really. Next question.

Don't you hate the hours?


What about the blood?

There's surprisingly little blood--unless you count the dried kind--in modern floor nursing. This, of course, does not hold true for trauma nurses or for ER nurses. Generally speaking, by the time some poor sot gets to me, the worst they've got is dried ook around an incision line.

Now, the spinal fluid and urine and other, less-nice-things component is still there. We do a lot of work with people who have to have cerebrospinal fluid drained out of their bodies for one reason or another and people who have to have non-healing wounds vacuumed and packed.

But blood? Nah.

I've been having this headache/rash/tingling sensation/other that I'd like to ask you about.

Here's where I need the skillet. It's difficult to explain to people that no, I can't diagnose them; no, I will not take a look at those bumps; no, I will not give them the last of their Hep B vaccinations; and no, I don't know much, if anything, about cardiology.

What I love about my job is the variety. I love the feeling at the end of the day that I've dealt with a number of problems or potential disasters in a competent way. I like knowing that at least once a week, somebody feels better when I'm done with them. I like watching people get better. I love working with very smart, very funny, very dedicated people--attendings, residents, and nurses.

What I hate about my job is that sometimes, despite everybody's best efforts, you lose a patient. When that happens, you do what you can for the body and the family, since you feel like you've somehow failed the person. Sometimes I hate the scheduling: three or four days in a row of this can make you crazy. Most of the time I'm grumped that my work schedule conflicts with that of the man I'm seeing, leading to not-enough-time syndrome.

It balances out. I'm no more special than someone who has a knack for gardening or the person who fixes your car. I just happen to have a knack for joints and brains.

And no, I will not look at that rash, even if you ask me nicely.


ibarra said...

of the 5 or 6 of your posts i've read so far, this is the best.

Caitlyn said...

Starting from the beginning. Love your blog