Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Every once in a while

I don't talk much about work here.  Heck, I don't talk much about work anywhere but at work usually because people just don't understand.  There are things you see and do working in an emergency room that just don't translate well to 'normal' people.  Or, well... anyone else really.  Don't get me started.

I know this blog space is usually filled with long exposure pictures of waterfalls, kids, passing street signs and other things not appropriate for long exposure photography, but it is a blog about a travel nurse and family.  Every once in a while nursing will creep in.

We in the ER do some pretty heinous stuff on a regular basis.  I have scraped archeological  layers of feces of people that haven't unbuttoned their pants in a month. Think about that for a second.  I have been yelled at, spit on, cursed at (OK, that one can get amusing at times).  I have seen more blood, guts, death and sorrow than I care to recall to anyone who can't share the experience.  Honestly, most shifts I am happy if nobody died and I didn't get fired.  I don't always meet my goals. 

Every once in a while though, circumstances coalesce into an opportunity to personally help someone.  I help people all the time as part of a team.  I do my part and start IV's, assess and monitor patients, give medications and so on.  I help people often that way.  But to do so personally, that isn't so frequent. 

This time it happened.  It was a pretty routine situation.  The person, and their family who accompanies them, comes in and tells of a chronic problem that is worsening.  They have been dealing with it for a long time and no one has been able to explain to them why this thing is happening.  It is somewhat obvious to me what is likely going on, but some problems are sensitive.  Some problems carry with them a stigma and a judgement from the patient and the public that prevents you from just walking in and going, "Yeah, you probably have X, but it isn't an emergency." I could tell from the history and what they reported their doctor telling them that even the primary doctor was tiptoeing around the diagnosis. 

Normally I am so busy that all I can do is rush in, draw the blood, administer the medication and do my normal routine stuff and get out.  I would love to sit down and talk to you long enough to figure out how you communicate so I can try to figure out the best way to convince you of what you are dealing with and what you need to do, but that would take 30 minutes and I barely have 5 because I have three other patients, one kid who can't breathe, one who has a kidney stone and a 90 year old who has been throwing up all day and is losing their blood pressure. Normally.

This time it was slow.  I had some time.  Instead of sitting on my butt at the nursing station or getting a bite to eat or any of the other things I could have done, I decided to go into the room and talk.  It took a while, but I think I explained something important.  Something about how a small decision made in reaction to something that happened long ago can snowball into something later.  How even dysfunction can become normal when you do it long enough.  There is no judgement.  There is only a lack of understanding.  I feel, whether it is true or not I will never know, but I feel like I explained something to this patient and their family that will make a real positive difference in their lives. 

That feels good. 

I don't know if I would say it makes up for the crap, abuse and sadness that often accompanies this job, but it helps. 


  1. The diamond in the rough of an otherwise thankless, volatile, stressful, and rather annoying career. I'm looking forward to the day I can step away from it, and it's one of the primary reasons I'm living in an RV. 17 years is about my limit, maybe four more to go.

  2. That said, it has allowed me to do some pretty awesome things, like persistently be flaky and non-committal about employment=travel nursing.

  3. There is an upside. I don't know if I have 17 years in me.

  4. Pay off house, find a job driving heavy equipment.