Category Archives: verbally abusive

Get out of my OR …

were the words he said.  Actually, he didn’t say them as much as angrily and red-faced screamed them, and this, might I add, is the severely cleaned up  version of his tirade.  There were many other quite colorful words he said as he pointed his scalpel at me.  A scalpel, I must say, that he hadn’t had the chance to use yet.

I was a very young, very green, very squeamish nursing student.  It wasn’t a hundred years ago, but looking back, it seems so.  I had already told my instructor that I was a bit apprehensive about rotating through the surgery suite, but she, having more faith in me than she should have, encouraged me to “give it a whirl”.  I gave it a whirl alright; right to the ground.  I had one of my biggest pump-knots ever from that experience, not to mention my wounded pride.

The victim, aka patient, was draped and swathed over their entire abdomen, with betadine.  The first incision hadn’t been made and yet, just seeing that poor soul lying there like a corpse, covered in the magenta colored antiseptic, made my head spin.  I sang in my mind, as I often did when I was nervous, Bee-Gees songs.  Something about that beautiful Barry’s falsetto  just calmed me right down.  In this particular case, however, it was ineffective.  The head Operating Room nurse (who was a very formidable character) had placed me nearby, but not close enough to get in the way.  At least that was what she thought.  Every time she looked at me with those sharp, intelligent, hard eyes, I felt like I was five years old and about to get a spanking.  I stood in the exact spot she put me and didn’t move an inch; not one single inch.  Up until , that is, the point that I passed out.

The Surgeon, one who was known for his quick temper and blatant intolerance, didn’t even glance in my direction.  I was, as far as he was concerned, little more than a gnat to be swatted away.  He was in his element an he knew it;  reveled in it … a god in his own heaven.  The fact that there was a young nursing student watching his every move just enhanced his already inflated ego and even so,  he still didn’t acknowledge my presence.  I was glad of that because I was, without a doubt, terrified.

I looked at the poor soul that was about to be cut on, saw the red hue of the betadine and felt myself getting warm.  I had never passed out before, so I didn’t recognize the warning signs.  I had no idea how much damage simply collapsing in a heap could cause.

If I had only passed out and fell without incident, I suppose he would have just left me there until he was finished; caring not if I were alive or dead and happy in his existence, either way…  but that isn’t what happened.  At the moment I realized that I was going down, I reached out.  (after all, isn’t that what people do when they realize they are falling?  reach out for something to brace themselves with?)  In this particular case, the thing I caught hold of was THE  sterile tray of items needed for the surgery at hand.  I pulled gauze, instruments and towels to the floor, thus compromising the sterility of everything that would be needed f0r the surgery.  One of the towels landed across part of my face; the instruments and gauze strewn about me.  The spell lasted only, as fainting spells often do, a few seconds.  But my, oh my, the havoc that a few seconds can have  on an already tense situation.

When I woke up (again, after only a few seconds), the surgeon was standing over me, scalpel pointed at the part of my face (namely my eyes) that weren’t covered by the previously sterile towel, screaming at me to get the #$&% out of his OR and ensuring me that if I ever came back to his operating suite, he would strangle me with his own hands and laugh while I was being buried.  Being young, green and very impressionable, I did the only thing I could think of to do; I started crying.  That pissed him off even more and I learned a whole slew of new words.  Some of them, nearly thirty years later, I still don’t know the meaning of.

Needless to say, I was banned, for all eternity, from the OR and had to spend an extra three weeks (I’m now convinced it was solely as punishment) in Pediatrics just to get enough clinical hours to get me through Nursing School.  By some miracle, I graduated, passed my boards and ended up actually making a living as a nurse.

I became less squeamish as years passed and tasks that had to be don were less daunting. Other than watching someone be hacked on, I found could tolerate many gruesome things.  As I get older, though, and I am older for that experience happened more than 25 years ago, I find myself becoming  squeamish again.  More often than not these days,  I find it’s hard not to gag at the myriad of things that people bring to “show the nurse”.  There are things I don’t need to see, things I don’t need to hear and things I wish I never knew existed.  These days, my least favorite phrase is “ears!” for God knows that the things that grow in people’s ears is as close to Hell as one can come without actually getting burned.

I am not thwarted, though, because unless I am discovered as a writer or photographer, I can retire in  another 100 years.  Wait, I’ll be dead by then and I won’t have to worry about it anymore and the fear of humiliation will be noting more than a bad memory.

We learn things as we go through life.  Things that make us stronger, more secure or simply cut us off at the knees and then kick us while we are bleeding out in front of the spectators.  I still sing Bee-Gees songs when I get nervous about something and I still wonder, at times, if this will be the moment when I hit the floor.  It is, if nothing else, an adventure in itself, but I’m finding the adventure to be less adventurous and more arduous as time passes.  But, like I said, in 100 years, I can retire.  I am counting the minutes.

Soaring

Dear God, make me a bird so I can fly far; far, far away from here ~ Jenny in Forrest Gump

When you curse at your nurse …

be prepared for the consequences. This isn’t about photography or trail shoots, but about life and the small world of medicine that we live and work in.  It’s no secret who has the doc’s ear, who is able to plead the case of patients and try to maneuver things so that everybody wins.  It’s no secret who holds the keys to the daily schedule and can give the ok for an emergency overbooking or manipulation of said schedule to accommodate someone with a need.  It is also no secret that the doc will, most times, back up their nurse and take their side in the event of conflict.  That being said, there are few things that people should know:

The nurse sees you before the doctor so whatever you tell us, we will relay.  It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, the nurse is the go-between.  When someone calls into the office to speak directly with doctor, it is the nurse who talks to them and relays the information and works to see that all needs are met.  The nurses are the ones who work diligently to see that medications are approved by insurance, that specialist visits are scheduled, that vaccines are given and medications are refilled to the pharmacy.  It is the nurse who will call after a couple of days to make sure the problem is resolving and that no further action is required.  The nurse, again, who will help put folks at ease during procedures or counsel them on things that may otherwise be confusing or daunting.  (sometimes physicians speak a language that sounds very little like English and quite a bit  like Klingon)

The nurse will ensure that you get what you need from your visit and smile and make you feel as though you are the only patient on their agenda that day (at least a good nurse will).  They will go above and beyond to meet the needs of their patients and are willing to go an extra mile to make the patient feel as though their particular needs are important.  They give out stickers, suckers, school excuses, work excuses and a wide variety of things that are needed but things the physician knows nothing about because their job is to treat.  A nurses’ job is to nurture and show compassion, empathy, sympathy and love, to be a listening ear and a caring heart when one is needed.

Now that all of this information has been processed, there is one additional thing that needs to be taken into consideration.  If a patient mistreats by cursing, attempting to strike or being otherwise verbally abusive to their nurse, there is only one thing they need to remember; without the nurse to run interference, they are on their own.  If the nurse isn’t on their side, they don’t have a prayer because as the first paragraph of this blog says, the nurse has the doctor’s ear.  Might be good to remember that.   When someone is mean, hateful and abusive to their nurse to the point that the nurse cries, that someone is screwed.  So whatever it is that an abusive patient wants or needs,  they need not bother asking the nurse but instead, take it up with the doc and see, at that point, just how far they get.

I dedicate this post to nurses everywhere. Stay strong, keep your cool and be encouraged.  Don’t let the bad apples ruin your day because bad apples are as much a part of medicine as flu shots.  Today, for me, was full of bad apples but tomorrow is a brand new day and I plan on taking my apple corer with me in the future.