The Intern Survival Guide
I worked as a neurosurgical nurse many years ago at a teaching hospital in the Midwest, and twice a year a new crop of interns descended upon our unit. It was the best show in town. The spectacle began with the chief of neurosurgery, Dr. Holier Than Thou, strutting on to the unit with his entourage marching behind him. He stood before the crowd in his impeccable white lab coat, telling everyone within earshot of his importance, and how he held the power of life and death in his hands. I would sit at the nurses station and snicker at the biannual parade, and remembered my first day in the hospital as a nursing student. Two interns had asked me to go into a patient’s room to get a set vitals signs. They didn’t tell me that the patient was cold, stone dead. I walked into the patient’s room, saw the dearly departed, and calmly walked back to the nurses station to find the interns laughing their fannies off. I told them they were going to make damn good doctors one day, but first they had to learn what rigor mortis looked like. Nonetheless, because every new group of interns looked like lambs being lead to slaughter, I pitied them, and I gave them information to use as a survival guide. These are the rules I taught them about working with nurses.
1) Nurses deserve respect. We are with the patients twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, while doctors are only able to see patients a few minutes a day. Smart interns forge alliances with the nursing staff, and understand that nurses can save their butts when something goes wrong with one of their patients.
2) Don’t take the last piece of pizza in the nurses lounge unless you are invited to do so. Nurses are territorial about food.
3) Nurses do not tolerate interns with a budding God complex. Nurses have no problem calling arrogant interns every hour on the hour for Tylenol orders, especially at night. Arrogance breeds contempt.
4) Don’t be stupid. If you want to complain about nursing care, be careful when you approach a nurse who is working the last half of a double shift. Refer to rule #3.
5) Nurses are your friends. We want to see you succeed, and if we like you, we will make sure that Dr. Holier Than Thou doesn’t find out that you order Demerol 1000 mg, instead of 100 mg, IM q 4 hours PRN because you were dead on your feet after being on call for three days in a row.