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My Life As A Male Nurse. Fighting Prejudices with Laughter.
Laughter is the best medicine
My Life As A Nurse - In Retrospect - Part 3
Nursing as a profession for males. Have things really improved? The medical profession needs to grow with dignity and pride. And always keep in mind that Laughter is the best medicine.
Certainly my nursing career was not all crisis, or a negative experience for me, as my first 2 parts might suggest. There were many good years, filled with caring, learning and laughter. I have always tried to find humor in everything around me. I never 'ridiculed' anyone, but there is always humor to be found in any situation.
In the years i worked as a staff nurse, i always found it easy to make my patients feel at ease. Laughter has always been cathartic for me, and i used it often for relieving stress and tension, and helping my patients to relax, gain comfort and trust, and to show a sense of caring toward them.
I remember one young white man who made no bones about the fact that he did not like, or trust, the black staff that took care of his needs. All my attempts at re-assuring him didn't seem to make much of an impression on him, or his attitude towards them. I suspect he had had some negative encounters in his younger years that involved a black person, or persons. Or he was brainwashed by bigoted parents, or other family member, or insensitive religious teachers. But he did have a sense of humor and could laugh in the face of his adversities.
He required blood transfusions post-operatively, so i explained the procedure to him and started the transfusion with instructions to ring his buzzer (nurse call button) if he had any pain at, or around, the site of the needle, or he noticed that it had stopped dripping, etc..
I checked on him every few minutes in between caring for my other patients. After about 45 minutes when I walked into the room for one of my check ups, i looked at him and gasped like i was shocked about something. He starting getting nervous and asked me what was wrong? I asked him if he felt OK - he said "yes, why?" anticipating some bad news. I very calmly told him that nothing was wrong, but that i had specifically told the blood bank to use a white person's blood; but his skin was turning brown, so i think they used a black person's blood by mistake. But not to worry, he was only turning a light shade of brown, not unlike a good suntan. He said: "you'd better be joking!!". I said, "no, i will get you a mirror so you can see you are not too dark. No-one should even notice".
I left the room abruptly and returned with a small hand mirror so he could see his new color. He grabbed the mirror and took a look at himself. Of course there was no change. He snorted, then started laughing and said "man, you really are an asshole. I really believed you there for a minute". Then i told him you can not catch skin color like you can a cold. But not to worry if you did. Color is only skin deep. Underneath the skin we are all exactly alike - like it or not.
He told all of his family and visitors what i said and they all got a big laugh out of it. They kidded him for being so stupid as to believe me, in the first place. I don't think he will ever live that one down.
My other favorite prank was to josh them when they asked for a pain shot after surgery. I would draw up the medication in a normal syringe and needle and hold it behind my back when i approached their bed saying: "are you ready?". In my other hand i was holding up an enormous syringe (used for flushing tubes or irrigating wounds) filled with water and the largest needle i could find, attached to the end of it. Before the laugh came I got such comments as: "what the hell is that?"; "you've got to be kidding?"; "get the hell away from me with that thing!"; or simply "can i get a pill instead?". This one always got a laugh in the end. My day was complete. It is very heart warming to see someone laugh even when they are in such pain. They always asked where i was on my days off.
We were the closest surgical facility to the prison, so we got all the surgical and medical patients from there. Those were my favorites to care for. They were the most vulnerable, and the most grateful of patients; to have a nurse that was not afraid of them, who did not look my nose down on them because they were incarcerated, and always treated them with dignity, respect and humor.
The surgeon soon commented that his post-op patients always seem to do better if i take care of them - so they became "my" patients. They were always grateful and thankful for being treated like human beings instead of just a criminal, or someone who is just a number. The other nurses (female) were also grateful and thankful that they did not have to deal with them at all. They were mostly afraid of them, and spent as little time as possible ministering to their needs.
After I became the charge nurse on the unit, and ultimately the nursing supervisor, i frequently reminded the staff that we are caregivers first - not guards, judges or part of their punishment.
The biggest negative, about my promotions, was being farther away from patient contact and providing comfort to the individual. I sort of miss that aspect of my career, even today, and can only hope that i did manage to brighten the days, and ease the suffering, of those that i cared for, for so many year.
The nursing profession is one of the most noble that one can enter. Nurses are so under appreciated and un-noticed by society in general. Or at least until one has a need for their TLC. (tender loving care).
The old saying that: "if you truly enjoy your job, it is not really 'work' at all" , is true. I never regretted my career choice, even for a minute.
by: d.william 02/05/11
The night nurse:
A very tired nurse walks into a bank after finishing a grueling 16 hour shift.
Preparing to write a check, he pulls a rectal thermometer out of his pocket and tries to write with it.
When he realizes his mistake, he looks at the flabbergasted teller, and without missing a beat, he says:
"Well, that's great.....that's just great..........some asshole's got my pen!''
- My Life As a Male Nurse. Part 1. Encountering staff bigotry.
I graduated from nursing school in 1975, when attitudes werenot so much different than they are today. But let me clarify that comment. In those days men who chose to enter the nursing field did so at their...
- My Life As A Male Nurse. Part 2. Turning down a Promotion.
As i stated in Part 1, back in my beginning days, male nurses were not liked very much; especially by their female counterparts. As a Nursing Supervisor, with much less years of experience than most of the...
- My Life As A Nurse - Part 4
After i graduated from nursing school, i stepped right into a staff nurse position on the surgical unit where i had been working for the previous five years as a nursing assistant. In those days we were...
- My Life As A Nurse - Part 5
When the hospital administration decided to close the operating room due to the need to cut back on expenses, it was quite devastating to me. I really enjoyed the surgical patients. They were people who...
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© 2011 d.william