But did you die?Unknown
To fund my travel, I work as an emergency department nurse, a job which comes with endless stories of its own. I often hesitate to tell people what I do, or what department I work in because the inevitable questions arise. “What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen? You must see a lot of gross or crazy stuff, right? What is the strangest thing you’ve ever seen someone have in their butt? Is it like Grey’s Anatomy? Do you pee on the jellyfish stings?” I could go on and on with the questions, and could go on even longer with funny stories. But let’s talk about the bulk of what actually happens in an American emergency department.
Contrary to popular television shows, rarely do you work with a bunch of McSteamy or McDreamy doctors. Rarely are nurses or residents going rogue and doing crazy procedures. Mostly we take care of things that don’t need to be seen in the emergency department. Mostly we are wait staff and abuse victims for entitled assholes. We don’t love people or want to save the world. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love what I do, and I think that shows in my nursing care. But I fucking hate people. There are kind, grateful, and truly sick patients that need to be there, but as a rule, stupidity keeps me employed.
Here is a little tip of the iceberg list of ways people irritate the shit out of ED nurses every damn night (or day, it happens during the day too, but when you’re stupid at three in the morning, you are a special kind of stupid because you actually got out of bed in the middle of the night to be stupid). This list is in no particular order, because the level of annoyance is dependent upon the shift…and sometimes the way you smell.
***Warning: this post will be very sweary and judgemental because these are topics that get ED staff heated, and you deserve our swearing and judgement if you do these things.***
1. You didn’t medicate yourself. The idea of not medicating so we “can see how much pain I’m in” is the dumbest fucking thing I have ever heard. I don’t have a tool to measure your pain, so it is subjective anyway. And why are you fucking seeking treatment for something you haven’t even tried to treat yourself. Make every ED nurse and doctor everywhere feel better about caring for you, and at least take a damn tylenol!!!
2. You didn’t medicate your child for their fever. Seriously…not medicating your child so we “can see how high her fever gets”? If your child doesn’t have a 103 degree fever when they come to see us because you have them motrin 1.5 hours ago, I know it is because you medicated them, not because they didn’t have a fever. Quit making your child suffer, you asshole.
3. You didn’t medicate your child because he/she “won’t take medicine”. Do you think we have a magic fever wand to take the fever away? Seriously, what exactly do you think we are going to do? We are going to medicate your little monster. As a parent (years ago of an extremely strong willed, demon spawn toddler who hated taking medication) and as a nurse, I can tell you that I have never lost this battle. Be a damn parent and medicate your crotch goblins.
4. You use the words, “I usually have a really high tolerance for pain.” Please just stop right there. No, no you don’t. If you are using that phrase, you really don’t. Just stop.
5. You scream, yell and moan loudly. Is that noise making the pain go away? No, it’s not, so shut the hell up. It isn’t making the pain better, and it is disruptive to the actual sick people that can hear you three rooms away. If you think your loud noises are going to make us move any faster or go beg the doctor for yet another dose of pain meds, you are sadly mistaken.
6. You ask us to use a butterfly IV. I know this is going to come as a giant surprise to most, but the “butterfly” IV you are referring to is made for a straight stick (a blood draw), not an IV that has to stay in place. Butterfly IVs do exist, but they are more expensive so very few hospitals have them, and using them is about the experience and comfort level of the nurse using them. Furthermore, they make butterfly IVs in 18g (big) and 24g (small), just like traditional IVs. A butterfly has nothing to do with the size, or what we need to accomplish, so quit asking.
7. You start your story in triage with, “four years ago I had…” You can stop right there, and let’s try this again. We don’t care how relevant you think your extended medical history is, when we are triaging you, we ask about what is going on right now that brought you to the ED. When we ask you to stick to right now, if you want us to be super annoyed, be sure to say, “but I need to give you the full history so you understand.” If we feel we need information about your hernia operation in 1967, we will ask. Otherwise tell us what symptoms you have right now and save your too long story for the doctor (who also probably doesn’t want to know, but doesn’t have 14 more patients waiting to be triaged. Besides, it’s funny when you do this to the doctor and they then understand what took us so long in triage).
8. You come in with vomiting and ask us for something to eat/drink. Hey genius, you just told me you haven’t kept down “anything” in three days (by the way, your labs have determined that was a lie), so how about we treat that before you eat that burger, fries and soda that you made your family member stop for on the way. If you can even think about a burger, you aren’t sick enough to be in the ED.
9. You say “I haven’t had anything to eat or drink all day.” It is one in the morning. What the fuck do you people do all day that you can’t take a sip of water or a bite of toast?!?! And why is this suddenly my problem? Do you realize that the person next door has a blood pressure that is about to be non-existent? I don’t care if you are hungry. No, really, I don’t care one bit.
10. You act irritated when I interrupt your phone call to provide care for you. Oh, I’m sorry, were you here to make a $5,000 phone call, or for me to fix your suuuuper serious medical issue that required an ambulance ride to the ED at 3 a.m.? And definitely tell me that your pain is 10/10 whilst posting selfies on your Instagram of you in a hospital gown. Newsflash: if you feel good enough to take a selfie, your pain is NOT 10/10. I will also recommend to the doctor that we change your order for pain meds to something that won’t make you sleepy so that you can continue your social media coverage of your visit.
I could seriously make this post pages and pages long, but we will start with just that. If you are an ED nurse, I invite you to add your favorite anger issues below in the comments. Sign up below to follow my blog and be notified when I post, as I am sure there will be plenty of ED “fun” in the future.