Nursing Voices

Friday, June 30, 2006

Love Nurse

"Love Nurse" Painting by Jena Cardwell

Josephine had it all. She was young and beautiful, and all the men wanted to be with her. So, she put her attributes to good use. Josephine worked her way through nursing school as a call girl.

I heard about Jo’s checkered past my first day on the unit. The other nurses said she was a tramp, but Jo didn’t see it that way. She viewed herself as a venture capitalist. During our dinner break together, Jo wasn’t shy about setting the record straight. She said she wasn’t a whore. She was a class act. No pimp for her, she had worked for a madam. Her past clients included physicians, judges, and politicians. There were rumors around the hospital about some of the famous men she had been with. Someone said one of her clients had been a U.S. senator. She never divulged her client list, but said I would recognize many names. I surmised she had been good at her trade. She graduated from an elite university, and bought a townhouse in an exclusive neighborhood.

During shifts from hell, I’d wonder why Jo left “the life” to become a nurse. After listening to Jo’s stories, I thought call girls lead glamorous lives. She traveled to exotic place and was lavished with expensive gifts. She ate in fine restaurants and drove an expensive car given to her by a client. Finally, one night after a paranoid patient attacked us leaving us battered and bruised, I asked her why she chose to work as a nurse.

Jo laughed and said there is a downside to every job. She asked, “Do you know why I was called a call girl? It’s because I was on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. At least as a nurse I can ask for a set schedule and a few holidays off.” As her laughter subsided, she reminded me that beauty fades. Jo said she gave up the life because she was tired of men thinking she was a possession. After paying for her time, many thought they owned her mind, body, and soul. She wanted to get married. “A man is proud to introduce a nurse to his family,” she said. “When I worked as a call girl, no one took me home to meet Mother.”

A few years later, Jo met a nice young man. He didn't care about her past, just about their future together. She had it all. She finally got to meet someone's mother.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Age of Aquarius

Democratic Party Leader, Howard Dean, told a meeting of religious leaders last night “we’re about to enter the ‘60s again.”

Welcome to my world. I’ve never left the ’60s. That was the decade of free love, Peter Max, Woodstock, Haight-Ashbury, and the rise of the Volkswagen Beetle. I loved my miniskirts and tight hip hugger bellbottoms. In the ‘60s, I had a great body too, and I looked hot in those miniskirts and hip huggers. I drove my parents crazy. I played antiwar songs by Country Joe and the Fish on my 8 track tape player, and my parents never understood Bob Dylan’s song about changing times. My father said, “Times are changing? To what? All that boy needs is a job and a haircut!”

I embarrass my kids. “Oh my God, Mother. Must you play your Mamas and Papas CD every time we’re in the car with our friends?” They really hate the green paisleys jeans I wear every time we’re out running errands. No, they aren’t hip huggers. I gave those up after childbirth. The only time my children acknowledged me in public is when they want money to go to the mall.

I wonder what it was like being a nurse in the ‘60s. Check out the tight white nursing uniforms. There was hardly enough wiggle room in them to bend over while making a bed. I remember hearing stories about nurses following doctors as they made rounds. A nurse carried a stack of heavy charts as she scampered behind the doctor. And to add insult to injury, nurses were expected to surrender their seat at the nurses station when a doctor entered the room. I would have been fired on the spot. “Hey, my feet hurt after running behind you all day. Get your own damn chair! And while you’re at it, make your own coffee.”

Governor Dean, I await your reentry into the ‘60s. Just don’t ask me to work at a hospital.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Confessions of a Closet Trekkie

Boldly Going Where No Man—or Nurse—Has Gone Before

Spock had pointed ears, Kirk was a ladies man (he also liked hot alien chicks), and McCoy was a kindly country doctor. Then there was Nurse Chapel. Like nurses around the galaxy, Nurse Chapel could do anything. Every week the crew of the USS Enterprise found themselves in danger, but no matter what happened, Nurse Chapel always delivered superb patient care.

Nurse Chapel is my Starfleet role model. She was a loyal coworker, so I’m sure she didn’t engage in lateral violence against other nurses on the Enterprise. That’s one of my pet peeves. Nurses aren’t going to get ahead as a profession until we stop beating each other up. And because she was so dedicated to the welfare of her patients, she obviously worked promoting galactic legislation that improved access to health care for all life forms. Too bad Spock, a Vulcan who squelched his emotions, couldn’t appreciate Nurse Chapel’s attributes. Poor Nurse Chapel. She really loved Spock, but a relationship with the guy just wasn’t in the cards.

One day I hope to be a super nurse just like Nurse Chapel. In preparation for becoming the perfect nurse, I am watching all six Star Trek televisions series, containing a total of 726 episodes, and all ten Star Trek movies. I am also reading hundreds of Star Trek novels, and learning how to play Star Trek video and computer games. Oh yes, there’s one more thing. I wonder how I would look as a blond.

Beam me up Scotty. I’ve got a lot of work to do.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Looking for Mr. Right, MD

My mother was thrilled when I told her I wanted to be nurse. I was 5 years old. To her, going to nursing school was the fastest way of finding a doctor and getting him to the alter. Yes, in 1959 being Mrs. M.D. was the American Dream. Many years later, I broke her heart when I married a furniture salesman.

After my divorce, I said I would never date a doctor. Why would I? After working all day in a hospital, I wanted to go out with someone who wasn’t in health care. But then I met an Aussie emergency room physician, Dr. Hot Stuff. He was dreamy. The blond hair, the blue eyes, his sharp wit, he was everything I was looking for in a man. And I always was a sucker for an Australian accent. My mother loved the guy. She started planning our wedding.

The nurses I worked with adored my suitor. When they called him for orders, they would ask him to repeat himself two or three times. He asked me if people couldn’t understand him because of his accent. I told him the nurses understood him; they just wanted to hear his sexy voice.

Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. I dumped him when I found out about his wife and six kids back in Australia. Yeah, he said they slipped his mind.

Nurses, have you ever dated a physician? Tell me your story.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Mother Jones- RN

Painting of Mother Jones
by Rupert Garcia

What Would Mother Jones Do?

When I became a psychiatric nurse 20 years ago, many of my healthcare colleagues could only think about the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They envisioned my unit full of ranting lunatics and joked about my working with Nurse Ratched. Unfortunately, attitudes about the mentally ill haven’t changed much over time. What has changed is the health care system. Patients are loosing access to care.

Several years ago, a patient came to my psychiatric unit from the emergency room. In report, the emergency room nurse told me he was a “frequent flyer.” She said the patient apparently complained about pain and fatigue for months, but because he didn’t have insurance, no one really took the time to figure out what his problem was and he would be discharged ASAP. Now, because the pain was stirring up the voices in his head, he was being admitted to psych. The emergency room nurse said, “Please, see what you can do for him. He looks really bad.”
When I walked into his room, my patient was in bed, curled in the fetal position, clutching his abdomen and crying out in pain. His dry skin was jaundice. His dark eyes were sunken and he was emaciated. His body was withering away. He grabbed my hand and begged me to listen. “Yes, I have schizophrenia. Yes, I hear voices. But that isn’t why I came to the hospital. I told the doctor I’m in pain, but I heard him tell the nurse ‘he’s crazy’ and to have me admitted to the psychiatric unit. Please help me.” I called our unit’s psychiatrist STAT. The patient was transferred to a medical unit, but it was to no avail. My patient died two weeks later of pancreatic cancer.

Nurses are viewed as “Angels of Mercy.” Mother Jones was viewed by her admirers as an angel and as an impious Joan of Arc. Others said she was “the most dangerous woman in America.” Mary Harris Jones (1837-November 30, 1930) worked to rid the country of child labor, and taught the downtrodden about collective power. While I know what Mother Jones would think about today’s health care system—she would despise it—I wonder what she would do about it if she were working today as a nurse. I’m sure whatever she would do, it would involve a good fight, and that she’d go down in nursing history along with Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale.

Patients need champions. What would Mother Jones do? The same thing nurses around the world do everyday. Nurses advocate and care for their patients. I dedicate Nurse Ratched's Place to Mother Jones. I think she would have made a great psychiatric nurse.

“I am not a humanitarian. I am a hell raiser.” Mother Jones