Friday, April 12, 2013


I feel like a broken record apologizing for being gone so much.  I'm just having a hard time lately.  Work has been shenanigans heavy.  It's frustrating, because on one level it's funny stuff and good blog material, if I was somewhere else in my head.  My eyes are just wide open these days, to the debauchery and the awfulness and the misery of what I do.  Of the sadness of laughing at things that aren't really funny.  I can put on a brave face at work, but at home I stew over what the hell I'm actually doing here.  Most of my coworkers, even the nice ones, have given up on people a long time ago.  I somehow still haven't, and I almost think it makes it harder for me sometimes.  I pray, I push myself to be kind and open-minded, even when my brain and gut are sending me all these signals that I should just put my guard up and shut down.  I'm still getting burned after all this time, but I still don't want to change. In fact, I'm beating myself up about not being better.  About having to think about being nice. Making myself sick over the times that I'm not perfect.  
It's basically the same old struggle that I find myself more or less aware of from day to day.  I've always had insanely high standards for everyone around me and even higher standards for myself to the point that I'm usually at least a little bit disappointed. Usually it just means I try incredibly hard and take pleasure in little accomplishments while constantly pushing to do more.  Usually I can see the the good through the ugliness in the world and accept it for what it is.  But occasionally I just get so overwhelmed by it all that it just seems pointless.  How can I be more than a drop in the bucket when everything is already so wrong? I alternate between feeling like part of the problem and feeling so alienated from everyone and everything that I question whether there is anything I can do to help. 
I grapple with this every few months at least- teetering between maintaining my borderline unsustainably idealistic worldview and going completely over the edge into frustration and hopelessness.  Taking an honest inventory of myself and questioning whether I really have what it takes to make anything better.  So far adulthood has meant that I don't allow myself to constantly get overwhelmed and saddened by the challenge at hand like I did when I was younger, but the expectations stay the same. With age I've gotten tough enough deal with it, to push the critical narrative out of my head long enough to get things done, but it's still easy to get stuck inside my own head sometimes.   
Anyway.  I think and I hope that I will push through the other side of this soon.  I have in the past.  I just wonder now if this is something that I'll always be dealing with, or if at some point I'll start seeing things like everyone else seems to.  I'm really not sure which one I want. 


  1. I really enjoy your blog. So sorry to hear about your pain. I really think that the ER is the hardest place to work since you are meeting people, new ones every minute, and have no time to build a real relationship with them. I can't imagine all of the craziness and the hopelessness and of course the seekers that you see every day. You really might be happier in a different enviroment. I think that it's important that you can keep your optimism and positiveness. (but hard to chose something else maybe when you like the fast pace, doing lots of technical things, with lots of variety ). I'm a school nurse and there is a lot of time to do positive things and build relationships, but it's not very fast paced.) I hope that you find a job site with a good fit. (maybe just a more rural ER?) Nancy.

  2. I am so sorry that you're feeling this way... I know I've felt it and I wish that because of that I had something I could say to help, but I don't. (If you figure it out, lemme know??) Whenever I get in this kind of rut/mood/whatever you want to call it, I try to concentrate on the little victories. Like for me, for some reason, what really gets me into this place is animal cruelty. I try to think that even though the world is a supremely shitty place, I've helped one dog, one person, one kid- whatever- and isn't that enough to be worth my efforts? Lots of days, it doesn't feel that way, but then something good happens and I realize that it actually is. <----I just re-read this and I think it borderline doesn't make any sense, but I hope it makes you feel a little better and a little less alone. I hope it gets better and if not, there's always therapy and booze right?? :P

  3. I'm with Alyssa on this. You can't control others, only yourself. Back in the day when I got dem ol' cosmic blues I could listen to the Allman Brothers for a while and feel better. Or, again with Alyssa, therapy and booze or whatever. You can only change your tiny corner of the world.Be happy about that.

  4. From The Teachings of Don Juan by Carlos Casteneda:

    "Anything is one of a million paths. Therefore you must always keep in mind that a path is only a path; if you feel you should not follow it, you must not stay with it under any conditions. To have such clarity you must lead a disciplined life. Only then will you know that any path is only a path and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you to do. But your decision to keep on the path or to leave it must be free of fear or ambition. I warn you. Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary.

    This question is one that only a very old man asks. Does this path have a heart? All paths are the same: they lead nowhere. They are paths going through the bush, or into the bush. In my own life I could say I have traversed long long paths, but I am not anywhere. Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use. Both paths lead nowhere; but one has a heart, the other doesn't. One makes for a joyful journey; as long as you follow it, you are one with it. The other will make you curse your life. One makes you strong; the other weakens you.

    Before you embark on any path ask the question: Does this path have a heart? If the answer is no, you will know it, and then you must choose another path. The trouble is nobody asks the question; and when a man finally realizes that he has taken a path without a heart, the path is ready to kill him. At that point very few men can stop to deliberate, and leave the path. A path without a heart is never enjoyable. You have to work hard even to take it. On the other hand, a path with heart is easy; it does not make you work at liking it."

    I have never written before, but I have followed your blog for some time. This quote has meaning for me, and your post made me remember it. And all I can think about when I read these posts is when you mentioned becoming a hospice nurse. Both paths lead nowhere -- but which has a heart?

    -Heather Smith

  5. Pick up a starfish. Throw it back in the ocean. Take a step.
    Pick up a starfish. Throw it back in the ocean. Take a step.
    Pick up a starfish. Throw it back in the ocean. Take a step.

    Working in Emergency, you have to have a small amount of sadist, because we earn a living off those who find new ways to mangle themselves, plus all the ones we'd thought of already.
    And you have to be a little bit of being a masochist, because every day it hurts a little inside us, too.
    The trap is letting either of those little pieces grow and take root, because they'll either destroy you, or destroy what you have to be to do what you do well.

    The only cure is making sure your time in the pit each week is only part of your existence, so that you can step out of it, enjoy family, friends, music, sunshine, movies, a day at the park, or whatever you need to recharge.

    If you ever have six months in a row where the urge to go back is overwhelmed by the urge to run away, and you don't think you're making a difference in anyone's life, it's probably time to explore another specialty. But it's never going to be all, or even mostly, sunshine and roses, and you knew that. Take a moment and remember the nurse your patients are going to get if you leave, or if you become one of the nurses you've seen and loathe. You've got what it takes to do this, as long as you want to. Focus on why you want to, and feed that part of your soul. As long as you aren't damaging yourself, we need you in the game. Hang in there a little longer.

  6. I think you need to leave the ER - you know you want to, but you don't want to want to. Probably because you are AWESOME at it (we blog readers can tell these things). But, when it's hard, sometimes that really is because its not right.

    Remember "its ok to run away from something when what you are running toward is better"

  7. Oh man. . .yeah, life can really hurt sometimes. Especially in the Errr. . .where you see people at their smelliest, meanest, saddest, most desperate, most ridiculous, most needy, drunkest, etc etc etc. I can see where it would be hard to see a point.

    As a CNA in an ICU in a not-Hood area, I don't even see the half of it, although there is plenty. It can be really hard to see the patients that keep coming in, a little closer to dying, fine one minute (but not) then coding the next. It's just too much, sometimes.

    May I humbly thank you and your kind for being there when you're needed by folks with a genuine emergency? Without going into extensive details, I'll just say a close loved one has had to visit the Errrrr. . . in the hospital where I work a couple times the last few months, and has been treated with compassion, competence and a caring touch. Of course, he's the sort of patient that will gratefully sit for hours in a hall bed, with an SPO2 of 98% on room air, happy he's not dying at the moment, so maybe that has something to do with his perspective. . .

    Maybe there's someone you can talk to? A counselor who's not too horribly crazy? I don't know. . .I'm just sorry you hurt. :/

  8. There's nothing I can add to what your loving and loyal commenters have said; they are right. It's hard and seems hopeless and so many in the field are jaded and if you quit it will be a Huge Loss to the community of ER nurses. Maybe hospice for a few years...

    Thank you for the times I have needed you and your ilk. For the times my loved ones have needed you. I humbly thank you. Namaste.

  9. @ Heather Smith, Thank you for writing what you have written to hoodnurse here on this blog. I have come back to this post and reread what you have written to her a few times in the past few days and your words have spoken to me in a way that few things have. I had to tell you that. Thank you. Hoodnurse, I hope you find your way in the world. Your blog has shown me that good people can make it in a tough situation. Good people can get pusehed down but still come back fighting strong. Believe in yourself. You know the answers, in your heart.

  10. As a fellow ER RN, may I just say that reading this induced head nodding and tears. We are members of a special tribe, and as such it leads to constant introspection of this nature. That you are asking these questions, leading yourself down these paths of reflection, is in my opinion a good thing. Working in the ER is the best and the worst thing all at the same time. The sheer mass of humanity, the overwhelming non-stop needs of this same mass of humanity: in the dark times of my soul I know that really, it's a gift to be on the frontline. Please never cease in your struggle to maintain standards. Doing the right thing even when no one will ever know but you is always the noble thing and what makes nursing an art. Keep on keepin' on, girl.