Thursday, October 15, 2015

Whaaa. . . .what? Wait, what?

The family member insists that I called her a bitch during report.

Okay. (Nods head.) A reasonable assumption.

Except I didn't. I see no point in prejudicing another nurse against a patient's family member, or using profanity during report. As opposed to the rest of the workday, when I'll happily use profanity whenever.

But this particular family member? The one who threatened to sue because the room wasn't big enough? The one who tried to get her aunt arrested for simply visiting the patient? I wouldn't call her a bitch, even in an undertone, because that would get me in trouble. I still have some self-preservation instincts left, even after more than a dozen years. Besides all that, she was worried, but not necessarily a bitch. I took the reports of her calling out security and all the other crazy behavior with a grain of salt; a lot can happen when you're stressed.

My boss, who is a thoughtful, reasonable woman, heard the news with a mild snurk and let it go on past. My explanation to her was "I got no defense; I can't help you on this one," and she took it as read and filed the complaint in the round-file.

But still. Why on earth would you say that about somebody who's wiping your father's butt, not to put too fine a point on it? Why would you try to turn all the other nurses against one nurse with an alleged (admitted) foul mouth? Are you truly that mentally ill, that you need to have an adversary in every single interaction you have with the outside world?

If people ask me what my least favorite aspect of my job is, I tell them this: it's folks who have a habit of conflict making up conflict where it doesn't exist. It bothers me, not on a personal level--because my conscience is clear--but on an existential level. What makes some people nuts? I don't get it.

I seriously don't get it.

But I'm not going to call you a bitch just 'cause I don't understand you.

Friday, October 09, 2015

Today, Raji came to me. Raji's about as Indian as Indian can be.

Perfect vase-shaped figure, long black braid, gorgeous gold earrings, and a bindi. Raji is recognizably Indian. And she came to me with the revelation that my confused patient had called her "Senorita."

I explained that he'd probably seen the long black hair and the honey-colored skin and thought that she was Hispanic. She laughed and laughed and laughed.

Later, when I'd had a minor disagreement with an attending (more on that in the days to come), she exclaimed, when I mentioned his recognizably-Indian name, "Oh! I thought he was Hispanic!"

"Hello, Senorita!" I responded. "How are we supposed to have world peace when y'all can't recognize each other from across the room?"

This is what passes for humor on my unit on a hard day.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

"Why don't we ask the patient?"

Marcie and I had One Of Those Days a couple of weeks ago. Dr. Vizzini had to go do something neurological halfway through the day, so The Golden Boy took over for him in the afternoon. He gathered his residents like ducklings and re-rounded on all of the patients in the unit.

Marcie had a guy getting ready to go home. He'd had a very minor stroke in a very minor place, and was essentially without any aftereffects. He also had Stage IV cancer of the something-or-other--I don't remember what; I was busy myself--and was on so many anticoagulants it was ridiculous. (Cancer can make a person more prone to blood clots.) The fact that he'd stroked while on an injectable anticoagulant and a couple of oral ones was weird, but not unheard of.

So Mister Man was getting ready to blow that popsicle stand when The Golden Boy decided that he needed umpteen more blood tests, a couple of fairly-invasive scans, another MRI, and some other tests run. To see, you understand, what exactly could be causing him to clot. The answer to which conundrum was "metastatic cancer, DUH," but TGB wanted an exact answer. Like, down to the molecular derangement level.

And Marcie, being the sensible person she is, argued. She pointed out that we had at least a general idea of what the problem was (metastatic cancer, DUH), the patient had a limited amount of time to be futzing around with, and nothing we did at this point was going to make a damn bit of difference. There was, after all, no change we could make to his already-maxed-out medications to lower his risk of stroking again. More tests would mean at least two more days in the hospital, more discomfort, possible complications, and added cost.

Golden Boy argued back that it was incumbent upon him as a doctor to get to the bottom of the problem, and that doing less than that wasn't ethical. He had a couple of other arguments, but by that time, both my hair and my pants were on fire and I wasn't really listening.

Marcie and TGB argued politely back and forth for a few minutes, and then Marcie said something that you never, ever, ever hear somebody in a hospital say:

"Why don't we ask this guy what he wants to do?"

The Golden Boy was taken aback, but he did it. Our patient decided to head home and follow up with his oncologist as an outpatient. And just like that, problem solved.

It's interesting that a doctor would be shocked by another member of the care team wanting a patient's input into what happens to the patient. I mean, we do it all the time for big decisions like end-of-life care, but not as often when we're doing normal everyday stuff. Why not, I wonder? I mean, it's not like being in the hospital automatically robs you of the ability to make good decisions about your own health. It's more like being in the hospital sends you back in time to a more paternalistic day, when Doctor Knew Best (except for when you have a medical directive, and sometimes even then).

It's so simple, really. Ask the patient what they want to do. Just ask.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

People who love my hair and people who do not.

I just ran the clippers through my hair. It's my every-two-week routine: pass a pair of clippers with a #3 guard over my head, then fade out the sides and back with a #2. Then, carefully, measure out an ounce each of color and developer and apply it to the stubble on my head and let it rest for twenty-five minutes. When I remember, I dye my eyebrows as well. My eyebrows have gone white, as has the hair at my temples and the nape of my neck, and it's nice to have at least an outline to pencil in in the mornings.

Here are the people who love my hair:

1. Black women of any age. "Rockin' that 'fro, Boo" is what I hear from Friend Lisa at work, and I hear its equivalent from other Black women of varying ages, all day long.

2. Black men in their 60's. On Sundays when everybody comes to visit their fellow parishioners in the hospital, Black men Of A Certain Age are complimentary of my buzzcut.

3. World War 2 veterans of any ethnicity. It's surprising how many centenarians and men in their 90's comment favorably on a woman with really, really short hair.

4. Punks, people with excessive numbers of tattoos, and people with piercings in places you wouldn't necessarily want piercings. The fact that I have no hair breaks down barriers.

5. White women who've had cancer and who miss the ease of a buzz, but who hate the psychological implications of no hair. I can totally understand that. After my surgery, I grew out my hair to prove to myself I could, then cut it off on my 43rd birthday because I hated having to keep up with it.

And here is a comprehensive list of those people who hate my hair:

1. My dad. Bless his heart, I don't think he'll ever imagine me with anything but the curly, wild, shoulder-length red hair that I had in my early 20's. I feel bad for him. Not only is curly, wild, red hair a distraction and a pain in the ass to take care of, it's just. Not. Me.

Sometimes I wish I could go back to the days when Beloved Sister took a picture of me, all hair blown by the wind, on the beach near San Francisco. What that picture doesn't show, though, is the stress and horror of being in California when I didn't want to be, the stink that came from my hair not reacting well to California water, and the exhaustion of trying to keep together a marriage that was coming apart.

Mom is undecided. I think she thinks something chin-length with waves might be more flattering, but she understands the discipline of long hair and why I can't deal with it.