Nursing Voices

Monday, July 23, 2007

What the Shadow Knows

If you’re old as the hills like I am, you might remember hearing about an old radio show called The Shadow. According to Wikipedia, Walter B. Gibson created The Shadow in 1931, and the character skyrocketed to super stardom thanks to Orson Welles. He was the original actor who played the character in the popular radio series. Each show would begin with the phrase, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.” Here's a new twist on the old trademark phase. It goes like this: "Who knows what goes on behind the scenes on a psychiatric unit at a major East Coast hospital center? The Shadow Nurse knows!"

A couple of weeks ago I started looking for a PRN position at local hospitals in an effort to subsidize the meager paycheck that I earn at Hospital X. The hospital where I was interviewing has a stellar reputation in the community, and I was looking forward to checking it out. During my initial job interview, the unit manager, who incidentally is not a nurse (this is NOT a good sign), looked at me and said, “I bet you could really give me a tough time if you really wanted to make my life rough.” I couldn’t understand what he was talking about. Yes, I’m seasoned, intelligent, assertive, and a patient advocate, but I’m not impossible to work with. I had no idea why he was being so defensive. All I did was say hello when I handed the guy my resume. He just stared at me for a few seconds, and then we chatted about why I wanted to work on his unit. After about a thirty-minute interview, he said he wasn’t sure if I was a good fit for the unit, and he said he wanted me to come back one evening so I could shadow his nursing staff. That way I could see what it was like to work on the unit, and the staff could decide if they wanted me onboard.

Two weeks later I walked onto a unit that was in total chaos. JCAHO was inspecting the unit, and one of the day nurses had been a no-call-no-show for her shift again. Things became more interesting when it became apparent that one of the evening shift nurses was also going to be a no-call-no-show for her shift, too. I offered to come back on a day that wasn’t in the crapper, but the charge nurse said that this was a typical shift and that I should stay to see what happens. I stayed on the unit for four hours. During that time, the nurses asked me their questions. Welcome to the Inquisition:

A nurse asked me if I had any restrictions on my nursing license. She explained that the last psych nurse that the hospital had hired couldn’t pass meds because of a history of drug abuse, and that they caught her shooting up Dilaudid in the med room after the Board of Nursing lifted the restriction off of her license. No, I do not have a restriction on my nursing license, thank you very much.

Another nurse asked me how I deal with patients who have personality disorders. I responded by saying that I am a disciple of Skinner, and that I use behavioral modification techniques when dealing with patients who are impulsive and self-destructive. I gave a few examples of how I have used behavioral modification techniques in the past. The nurse smiled and thanked me for the information. She said she was going to use my techniques the next time she saw her mother who suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. She continued to tell me things about her mother that I didn’t want to hear.

Then it was my turn to ask questions. I asked if there was a place in the hospital where I could sleepover just in case I had to come in early in order to beat bad weather that was moving into the area. I explained that I lived many miles from the hospital, and that I was worried about driving in icy weather during the winter. Everyone at the nurses station just glared at me. Finally the charge nurse said, “Look, we don’t want anyone working here that’s going to make us look bad. No one comes in early, and no one stays late. Got that?”

I don’t think they need anyone to help them look bad. I think they are doing a fine job on their own. I have no plans to work on their unit, and my quest to find PRN hours goes on.


Blogger Jean-Luc Picard said...

Only the Shadow Knows! A fine post about it.

3:15 PM  
Blogger Fireweed said...

I've worked in that place too - briefly! They suspended me...

4:21 PM  
Blogger may said...

i have to know the name of this hospital, i don't want to be admitted there if eventually end up losing my mind.

5:14 PM  
Blogger The Nurse said...

LoL. Finding PRN work is hard. I've found that I can just PRN in other depts of my own hospital... I've, and now they beg me to work, offerring me double time and such to come in and work on the grunt units.

Thanks for stopping by. I'll add you to my blogroll as well the next time I update it.

5:35 PM  
Blogger The Curmudgeon said...

The Shadow? Lamont Cranston. With the ability to "cloud men's minds."

Of course, after television became widely available this was no longer a distinctive ability.

Sounds like you made a wise decision on this part-time job.

6:01 PM  
Blogger MY OWN WOMAN said...

Not to put too much of a pun on things, but it sounds like "One Flew Over the Coo-Coo's Nest."

6:42 PM  
Blogger Ferver-ite RN Student said...

Sounds like the mental staff ran that ward. I wouldn't have thought twice about hitting the road. It sounds like any option is better than that one. Good Luck!

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked in a similar place years ago. Thank the Lord, no more!
I use to tell my husband "The place was a madhouse today. Everyone was running around, screaming and carrying on. The patients were almost as bad.

11:02 PM  
Anonymous Terry at Counting Sheep said...

I think your final image in this post sums it all up perfectly. Run away as fast as you can!

Good luck on your PRN quest.

11:56 AM  
Blogger rlbates said...

My husband is constantly saying that the work ethic in this country is for sh_t! Wish we had more like you.

2:28 PM  
Blogger mielikki said...

Eww. Yech and scary. It sounds like if it weren't for badges and uniforms, no one would be able to tell who is staff, and who is inpatient. . .

3:24 PM  
Blogger poody said...

scary but oh so true I am sure. I keep trying to tell you to do home health nursing. It is the way ot go One on one and you set your hours. I owuld kill (almost) to get a nurse like you or you for that matter on staff with us! Come on down girl, I got a place fo ryou to stay!!

3:52 PM  
Blogger kario said...

Sounds like a terrific way for you to weed out the places you'd be willing to work. Maybe after interviews from now on you ought to ask if you can shadow a shift before committing yourself to a job just so you can get the inside scoop.

Good luck with the job hunt!

3:55 PM  
Blogger Reserved Stipulation said...

Wow, there are no words. They want someone who won't make them look bad? I bet they'll bitch about the nurse who comes in and is lazy and doesn't help them out, too.

3:58 PM  
Blogger FetchingGal said...

OMG that is awful... but unfortunately it is common. :( Glad you didn't take the job there MJ!

4:48 PM  
Blogger Student Nurse Jack said...

Thank goodness for test drives. No obligation to buy.

Yikes - what a mess for you to endure, if only for just a day!

9:46 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

And people ask if I'd ever want to go back to hospital nursing....HA!

6:05 PM  
Blogger yorlor said...

mother jones,
it's been a while since i've been by. the world of blogging i've been introduced to through you has been a blessing for me. thank you.
saw this article today in the NY times:
thought of you.
hope all is well,
much love

6:24 PM  
Blogger Cyndy said...

Oh my, MJ... Glad you're not one of those....

8:16 AM  
Blogger TC said...

Be afraid. Be very,very afraid. Course, with a manager like that you can see why the inmates are running the asylum.

4:24 AM  
Blogger Babs RN said...

Have you considered per diem Agency work? You can check out other hospitals, get a variety there, stick with one you like if you find such a creature, have some control over when you work, and - most importantly - if you wind up in a nightmare of a place you can always refuse to go back - and it won't count against you on your employment history!

6:03 PM  
Blogger Some Random Girl said...

good thing you got out of there asap! bunch o' bitches...

9:29 PM  
Anonymous Kim said...

Oh my...this is almost unbelievable!
I'm speechless...and that don't happen often.

2:59 PM  
Blogger pixelrn said...

“I bet you could really give me a tough time if you really wanted to make my life rough.”

Ha ha, I'm convinced - Your Nurse Ratchedness has officially invaded your aura!

10:50 AM  

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