A recent post on Steph’s Mystickal incense and More – Rant Day – People Who Don’t Tip Suck! Caught my eye:
A portion of her post states:
“Waiters and Waitresses are probably the most stepped on, bullied, and abused workers in America. They have to be perfectly polite, treat even the most rude customers with respect, and essentially do everything they can to make a customer happy regardless of whether they have had a bad day, feel ill, or the customer is rude or obnoxious.”
This portion of the article made me laugh a little. Not because I don’t agree that waiters and waitresses and food delivery people are often mistreated, under-paid, under tipped, and taken for granted. No, it made me laugh because I thought to myself, if you substitute the word nurse where waitress, or waiter is listed you have a wonderful description of the field of nursing.
I love my job, don’t get me wrong, but I work in one of the busiest emergency departments in Canada. I am often mistreated, glared at, verbally and physically abused – threatened, kicked, punched, and oh yes, fondled!
On the lighter, but much, much more gross side, I am also shit on (literally!); vomited on; coughed on (the wet sticky sputum ones are really great); bled on; pussed on (really really gross); pee’d on … you name it- it’s got me at some point.
I am also assaulted by a wide variety of the most nauseating smells that you can imagine.
1. Blood in large quantities has a nasty coppery smell that stays with you for hours;
2. The smell of decaying flesh and infection from a gangrenous foot or leg is one that stays with you for days;
3. Everyone knows what stool smells like- but bloody stool is the worst kind;
4. Infected urine!
5. You also might know what stinky feet smell like or might be able to imagine the smell of a street person who hasn’t bathed in several months but put them in a closed room and the smell intensifies greatly, and they always have stinky ol’ nasty socks on! Now that is stinky feet to the extreme.
I may be sounding rather negative right now, but I’m just pointing out what I deal with on a daily basis. I do not judge- ever! But I do smell scents, I feel, I touch, I see, rarely if ever taste (thank god!), and what my 5 senses experience isn’t always pleasant I’ll tell ‘ya.
My work takes both a physical and mental toll on me. I give it my all. I’m on my feet my whole 12 hour shift. Hey- I work 3 different 12 hour shifts in 4 days- what other professional does that? I catch people when they fall, I soften the blow when they actually land on me! I lift, I push, I run, it never ends. I always smile and talk nicely with my patients and their family or friends, even when they are being downright nasty. Sometimes people are nasty when they are in pain or very ill, sometimes they don’t know what they are doing and strike out in confusion or fear. I understand this, and that’s ok- especially if when they are feeling better they realize what they did and say sorry.
Sometimes there isn’t much that I can do for a patient except try to make them comfortable by giving them medication- be it antibiotics, anti-nauseants, or pain meds, dress their wounds, or clean them. If I can make them smile or at least realize that I do care how they feel then I’ve done a big portion of my job, one that I consider very important.
I’m the nice nurse. I rub your back, I hold your hand. I talk with you about the tests and surgeries that you might be undergoing and try to calm your fears. I bring extra food to your loved one when they’ve sat with you all night. I give your loved one- spouse, sibling, parent – a hug and my time when you are dying and I can’t do much more for you- the least I can do is take care of your loved ones in their time of sorrow.
I also take risks in my job as a nurse.
There have been many a time when I’ve had to give a needle to a violent struggling patient or worse attempt to start an intravenous line. So far I’ve been lucky in the ER and haven’t had a needle stick, but I had 7 needle stick injuries in my previous job!(due to poor placement of butterfly needles by the anesthetists!) That was scary because those patients were all Hep C positive and some also had HIV. luckily I did not get infected.
Working in the emergency department, we never know what is going to walk in the door. The media is going on about how the bird flu might be the next possible pandemic, and knowing how SARS walked in our doors in Toronto – it’s a frightening thought.
I lived through SARS. I worked through SARS. The thought of something like that- or worse hitting the streets and hospitals makes me tremor with fear. The thought that I could be exposed to something that could kill me, and possibly my family if I ended up exposing them to it, before it’s understood what kind of evil infection has come upon us, scares the hell out of me. It’s a thought that, since SARS, is with me every time I walk into the department. But do I let that fear stop me from doing my job? Not on your life. I’m on the front line. I’d do it again if I had to- but I never never want to. That fear might even make me a better nurse because I’m even more aware now how devastating it would be to experience an outbreak like that again.
I certainly hope that the majority of you don’t need the services of a nurse as often as you might use the services of a waiter, waitress or food delivery person (although nurses are sometimes treated and thought of as just that on occasion as well! I’ll save that for another rant though!). When you do encounter a nurse please remember that we are people too. We aren’t always healthy or at our best when we come to work- we have chronic illnesses, family worries and stress, aches and pains too. We work hard. We sometimes risk or lives trying to help you. Sometimes we even save lives.
On your next close encounter with a nurse please try to be patient with us.
Waiting times in the emergency departments have increase dramatically over the last few years thanks to hospital closures, nursing and doctor shortages, and local government policies. It’s not uncommon to wait 8 to 16 hours in our ER for a non-life threatening ailment. 🙁 It’s not MY fault. Complain to the provincial government. Please!
Try not to be too rude if at all possible, and ask your family and friends to treat us with respect as well. That’s all we want- just a little R E S P E C T. We are over-worked and stressed, and we are trying our best. Circumstances are often beyond our control.
Oh, if you live in Ontario, you need to read this: STOP LHINs. Our lovely provincial government is about to do something that will make health care for all even worse than it is now. Please visit the web site and take action before it’s too late.
Trish gently steps off her soapbox now and returns to the very pleasant nurse who really cares about her patients …. shhhhhhhhhh the ranting one is gone ….