Thoughts of an ER nurse

I went back to work as a real nurse on Thursday after taking three months off of work because of my thumb injury. Despite working a total of 28 hours between Thursday and Saturday, I had it easy. And then Monday hit.

I was on our A hall, which is one of the more critical hallways. Keep in mind, I had barely worked in three months. I had a critical patient for the first seven hours and spent a good three hours hoping I’d eat before 5pm. Once I made it to lunch, I updated my facebook status, “I forgot what it’s like to spend three hours hoping you get to eat lunch sometime before 5pm. I’ll just take this time to welcome myself back to being a nurse.

Somebody replied, “Or a mom…

Now, being a nurse is probably not the hardest job out there. And I’m not a mom, thankfully. However, I was slightly offended by the comment. Instead of dealing with one child, I’m dealing with three people. And not just even three people, but three lives. I was in the room with a sick patient for seven hours and I hardly got a break. Luckily, I had other nurses around me willing to help. But I was infusing fresh frozen plasma, titrating a dopamine drip, medicating my patient for vomiting, and I received an ambulance that I had to triage, draw blood on (and luckily he was set), and then I got an elderly lady who was extremely needy and I had a million labs on her. And I was working with the doctor who wants everything done yesterday (like, how dare I not know if x-ray came when I was in the room with another patient for the last 20 minutes and you can just go look in the system to see if they took it). I had to pee for a good few hours before I finally made it, and I didn’t get a chance to even take a sip of water for probably three. And if my man with a pressure of 70/40 didn’t have a nurse taking care of him, he’d have been in much worse shape… Not only do I have to coordinate my three patients with my lunch, but I have to coordinate it with the other nurses on my hallway and their patients. I did, over that seven hours, manage to shove my face with six crackers that I stole out of the front desk since I never even got a chance to go to the breakroom for my yogurt.

So when somebody says that’s “like a mom,” quite frankly, I’d rather be at home and hungry. Yup, maybe your baby doesn’t stop crying. Can you at least grab a snack? Something other than peanut butter crackers (when you try not to eat processed food)? Maybe you’re juggling five. If they have to eat, can you grab a bite of whatever you make them? I’d be okay standing up while I eat. I think being a mother has an entirely different type of hardships though, and really, they’re not comparable at all. I guess it just goes to show that people who aren’t nurses really have no idea what it’s like to be a nurse…

On a somewhat related note, the other day, I had a little chat with one of our new pediatric doctors. I was telling him that I don’t want to do patient care long term. My biggest reason is because I have a hard time feeling any sort of empathy when I’m caring for a patient when it’s their fault that they’re in those shoes. My second reason is management, doctors, Press Ganey, and all the other stuff you have to deal with as a nurse. The doctor was telling me that in order to touch the lives of the few that need it, that you have to deal with a lot of nonsense. And it’s true.

I have never been described as the most compassionate person ever. I’m more of the “tough love” kind of friend. I’m there for my friends, but I’m not a rainbows and butterflies type of girl. But I do like taking care of people. It still softens my little heart whenever I think of the old man with horrible contractures who could barely speak. When I took him to his room on the floor, he said, “Don’t leave.” I had spent tons of time with him trying to make him comfortable, which he probably didn’t get at a nursing home. I love that. I love that I can make another person feel better when they’re sick. But you mix in the management and their rules and the doctors and them rushing you and Press Ganey surveys that say you don’t listen to your patients, and you kind of what to shove it up their asses. I became a nurse to care for people. I didn’t become a nurse so I could ask people to fill out surveys. I also didn’t become a nurse to care for the attitudes of family, but I still have to be respectful to them when they yell at me because the hospital needs good reviews.

I think I need to find a place where I fit. I loved ER in the military. I don’t love ER on the civilian side. I don’t love 12 hour shifts. I don’t love not eating lunch. But then, some days I leave work and I’m just grateful that I do what I do. So I’m not quite ready to give it up yet. And when I do give up the ER, I’m not sure what I’ll even go to.

I’ll just apologize if this doesn’t make sense. I came off a crazy 12 hour shift at work, cleaned up the kitchen, and then did 2 1/2 hours of homework. Once Jon gets home from his softball game, I’m think it’s bed time! Tomorrow is a full day from 6am till I get out of class at 6:45pm, and then I have more homework to do…


3 thoughts on “Thoughts of an ER nurse

  1. I wouldn’t like that comment either. I know having kids and being a mom is hard- heck, not being able to find time to eat is tough regardless of whatever the reason is. But it’s almost like the people who make those comments (along with “Well, just wait until you have kids…”, etc) have some sort of complex that makes them feel like they are special because they’ve had kids and that our childless lives are just awesome and carefree because we don’t have them.

    It stinks not to love your job, but I believe everything you said in here 100%. Nurses do make a huge difference- there’s no doubt in my mind that you made a big difference for that man you sat with. But, with the forms, non compliant patients, patients who put themselves in bad situations, etc… you definitely put up with a lot of BS to make that difference. I’m sure that’s why so many nurses have actually stopped doing bedside nurses and gone into more administrative roles, etc.

    • I think it definitely is. Administration and management type roles are what I’m looking into, and public health since I live near the CDC and think that could be awesome.

      Our lives are definitely NOT childless and carefree! I have no doubts in my mind that staying home with kids is busy, but mine is just as busy! I think they really can’t be compared though. It’s really two completely different lives, in my mind.

  2. Omg that comment annoyed the shit out of me, and it wasn’t even directed at me!

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