Friday, June 18, 2010

What have I become?

So the other morning, I was drinking some beers after a long terrible shift with some of my work buddies, and we're talking about this guy that comes in all the time acting like a total jackass. That night he had immediately started cussing at the staff and had to be hauled off by the cops after telling one of the nicest doctors we have that he was going to kick his ass. I made some comment to the effect of "Dude, it would have been totally awesome if the cops had tazed his ass." I listened to myself and kind of had this epiphany like, wow. That was actually pretty effed up. Especially because at times, I mean it. I say shit like this sometimes, and I look back and try to think about what the nursing school me would have thought about some of the things I say and do.
I was never prepared for some of the feelings I have towards these people. Not even a little bit. I was never prepared for the kind of power these people would have on my emotions. I knew patients and their families could break my heart. They still do sometimes. But I never thought that they could make me feel disappointed, or enraged, or guilty, or completely disillusioned with life in general.
I never in a million years thought that I would be in a situation with a patients family member where they were literally pissing me off so bad that I would be looking her thinking, "I totally want to punch this bitch in the face right now."
I never could have imagined people could be cruel and abusive enough about wanting drugs that I could look at another human being and think "I really wish that I could just send your horrible ass home with a trash bag full of Dilaudid and syringes so you could go ahead and OD and end your miserable existence."
And when I rationalize this crap, this isn't actually how I feel about these people. I don't hate anybody. But I hate the shit that they do. So much. And I hate the things it does to me. I was thinking just the other day about how much time I spend on a daily basis dealing with people trying to get something out of me. People playing games. People trying to hustle me out of food and cab vouchers and other shit they can buy for themselves but just don't want to. People trying to trick me into giving them drugs. People trying to get out of work or sue somebody. People trying to play games with their families by being intentionally obtuse or dramatic. People trying to demand to be seen sooner by yelling and literally throwing cell phones or cups of their own piss at the staff here. I feel like every day is a con.
Thinking about that shit makes me so angry. But what makes me angrier is how many people I doubt and don't treat with the kindness I should because of the cynicism that has become my existence. How awful I feel when I see someone come in and I think to myself that they're full of it, and then find out later that no, they're actually really sick.
But really, who can I be angry with about this? It's my fault that I let this get to me. It's my own shortcomings as a person that lets this place change me. I don't know why I can't just walk away from it. Why I have to respond to all the bullshit. Like last night. I was in triage. The fast track bullshit patients were all waiting, and the first look medic and I were talking. A lady walks in the door literally about to keel over dead- unable to talk because she couldn't breathe, white as a sheet and sweaty- we had run out of wheelchairs and rushed her back to a trauma room in my wheely triage chair. I start her IV and we get her on BIPAP, we run back up to triage to make sure no one else has checked in.
This asshole walks up to the nurses station and tears into us about how we were liars because we got a room for that lady and not for him, and he was just here for something simple. He threatened to report us to our HR director. Instead, I stupidly tried to explain to him the ER process. Dude. If you aren't dying, you get to wait. Probably in a sassier tone, I'd say. And he mocked me. Like a 5 year old. And he told me to shut my mouth, that he wasn't even talking to me. And it got ugly from there. I yelled at the asshole. We ended up calling the cops. I could feel my face flushing and my heart racing. He shut up. He stayed and waited until the day shift got there.
This shit still upsets me. Partly because I feel like I was really disrespected with no consequences at all. But mostly because I let him get the best of me. I should have smiled and written my managers number down on a piece of paper for him. I should have kept my cool. But I didn't. I let him make me angry, and I showed my weakness.

Sometimes I think that if I went somewhere else- somewhere where people acted right, where management gave a shit, that I'd be happier. But the more I look in on the problems I have at this place, the more I see myself. My patients can't make me feel this way. They don't make me sluggish and cranky at home. They don't put the thoughts in my head when I think sometimes that I'd like to kick their asses of the clock. That's me. That's my own issues and shortcomings. And there's not a hospital in this world that I can go to escape that.


  1. You know, all of us have those feelings. Those who say they don't are lying or else they are Mother Theresa or Jesus. Thing is, we are only human. If we weren't we wouldn't feel so much the way we do. Best we can do is just realize that we have buttons that people can push and we try and do better next time. I feel for you. Your hospital doesn't sound like a very pleasant place to work, and you are correct - having worked in 12 or so different hospitals, there will always people that will test our patience in the worst way possible - don't let them corrode your soul. It just isn't worth it. :)

  2. I think that you are being incredibly hard on yourself here. I know that dealing with the drug seekers in the ER sucks, but you get to literally save lives. You saved that lady that walked into your triage. You made a great nursing assessment and you saved her.

    I think that you are just possibly loosing some of the niavete that you had. Seeing the world without those rose colored glasses is tough and sad, but it will make you a better person in the end. I really believe that. Seeing a person- warts and all- and still providing care will make you a better nurse. I believe that as well.

  3. There is nothing wrong with you at all. You are human, working in an environment that is extremely stressful. Don't be so hard on yourself, friend. Don't let the Douches get you down! I've worked in a lot of areas of the hospital and have found the ED to be one of the most stressful due to the fact that we have to keep smiling at these worthless pieces of shit who suck the soul out of you.

    We don't have a debriefing for nurses. That is why we have to blog about it. It's great therapy.

  4. Wow, that was a heartfelt post, and it almost describes my own feelings to a "T". You're right, it's not a good feeling to be so cynical, especially so early in your career. I understand how you feel and I feel bad for you. I wish I had a solution for you, but I haven't found one in 14 years of being a pharmacist. I'm still working on it myself.

    I also wouldn't be overly concerned about what your nursing school thinks of you. They won't share their true opinions with students, but they already know how it is. They've left the floors and are teaching because they don't want to (or can't) deal with it either. That's their own way of escaping while being able to earn a living.

    If I may say, based on my own experiences, you're correct in writing that there isn't a hospital in this world that you can escape to. I've worked in many and they're basically all the same, and you might find even worse management. Absolutely nothing will make you even more cynical than getting it from both ends. The worst part is that it'll be one of your own kind in management who's abusing you.

    Don't be hard on yourself. There's no shortcoming in being human and feeling the way you do. You'd be surprised at how many nurses and other healthcare professionals feel the same way, but don't share their thoughts.

    If I can offer the slightest of suggestions, it would be to live your life way below your means, save your money, and to avoid becoming financially-strapped. Having cash on hand and no/little debt will allow you to more more-easily change your career path if you so desire.

  5. Sorry you're feeling this way. I think the job can definitely make you feel the way you do. One can only take so much disrespect & negative attitudes until you have to adjust in order to survive. That being said...I think you could use a vacation....a break....seriously.

  6. Thanks blog friends. Some of your responses really made me tear up a little. I've really been better, just a crappy weekend. Good news is I get a short break soon. Woot.

  7. Sometimes it happens. Remember some of these people are just really good for nothing whereas you have something to go home to and things to look forward to. Just be cool. When someone yells at you, just shake your head. It's not your fault their mother was a man!


  9. Sounds like the same assholes i run into...i wish i would have had the balls to say that myself...check out mine

  10. Thanks for your honesty. Nursing IS emotionally draining. I also am a new grad so I can really relate to alot of this stuff you are sharing. I work in acute medicine and I can really only imagine what the ED is like. I think blogging and, I hate to admit this but, self care (remember year 1 of nursing school) are going to save your ass from going mad. Keep talking about the crazy thoughts and they wont eat you alive and keep reflecting on your own attitudes and behaviours. It is a difficult transition from the "perfect idealistict health care world" that nursing school assumes still exists and the actual reality of nursing!!!!

  11. i got your link from yo cuzin...i'm starting my first semester of nursing school, in about six weeks. glad to have found your blog, you know, so i can toughen up a bit, or, at the very least BRACE MYSELF!!!!

  12. Good luck to you Nikki! I hope all this doesn't scare you off. Despite the complaining, it's all worth it. And not every job is as ridiculous as mine. At least I don't think.

  13. thanks! nah, wont' scare me off. i've been at home raising kids for the past 12 years, i'm ready for something different. even if different is dudes j'in to the disney channel, fake syncope, and drug seekers!