- I receive random pictures of skin rashes. At all times of day, night, and with NO trigger warnings. EVER. Then I give an educated guess and get the response, “Nah I think it’s…xyz…because that’s what google said.” (I’m usually right…not google for the record)
- I am told far more detailed information about people’s medical maladies than I ever care to know often at funerals, weddings, and any other inappropriate time where I’m trying my damndest to not be a nurse.
- I get calls asking for referrals. At least weekly some random person from my past or present life DM’s me or texts me or calls me asking for referral options (this only became a thing after I opened my private practice).
- I get asked for advice. Then I give it. Then I am told, “No I mean, like your real advice, like professional advice.” “So you want me to tell you what I’d say if I was your therapist or prescriber?” “Yes.” Then I sort of rub my chin and say, “Tell me how that made you feel.” Then they get mad that I won’t therapize my friend.
- People tell medical stories. Then they look at me for validation or something? Then I stare blankly back. Then they say, “Well what do you think?” And I say, “Dude you just told me a long ass story about your dad’s prostate. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you. I worked in pediatric emergency medicine then psychiatry! I don’t know ANYTHING about prostates.” (as an aside I know far more about prostates than I ever thought I would because I cannot tell you the number of men who seek psychiatric care before, during or after prostate cancer because of the emotional and physical sequelae…it’s a whole thing…but I don’t want to discuss any one’s prostate unless I’m getting paid to do so honestly.)
- On the off chance some one has an experience that I can actually have an opinion about…I usually want to keep it to myself. Like my friend called me hysterical on her way to the ED, and I said in my head ‘sounds like her appendix is rupturing.’ I said out loud, “Hope you feel better,” and then her appendix was removed. Do I want to be the one to tell a very good friend that her appendix needs to come out? Uh nope. I want to be the supportive friend. When my niece was born, we went and visited her in the NICU. I could see her labored breathing, and honestly she looked unwell. I looked at my wife at the time and whispered, “She’s gonna be intubated by midnight.” I hugged my sister and told them both Congratulations and we are here for you. She was tubed by 6 pm I think. It’s a curse sometimes. Knowing critical care. Knowing who’s hours away from intubation. It was scary. I knew she was incredibly ill, and could do nothing but wait.
- At parties if there are injuries people look for me. Expecting me to assess. I learned never to have more than a drink, max two at parties with kids. Because inevitably I will have a bleeding kid thrust in front of me. I know you think I’m exaggerating. But I’m not. Every party…bleeding kid. The worst was a dog bite.
- On airplanes I keep my mouth shut. Because it’s either a heart attack, stroke, or childbirth. I want nothing to do with any of those things. I also have warned people I’ve flown with to keep their mouths shut. When I’m on a plane I’m anxious as all hell and not in the mood to be a nurse. Especially for an adult or even worse for a birthing adult.
In some ways being a nurse is a blessing. People trust me and I’m ethical and smart so I’m not a bad person to trust. Those qualities help when, you know, I’m at work. It sucks when I know too much. When I know some one’s parent just received a death sentence but it hasn’t quite been spelled out for my friend. Or when I know what’s coming next for my close friends and family and can do nothing to stop it, and just live with the knowledge myself.
I’ve learned to keep my own counsel. I’ve learned to not be brutally honest when people ask me to be (my friends are shaking their head like no, she’s never not been brutally honest, but I swear I haven’t been around medical stuff). I’ve learned restraint. I’ve learned how to be somewhat solitary in moments when other people are leaning hard on me. When my dad was alive and struggling with multiple medical issues it was hard to balance being the nurse and being the daughter.
I remember crying on the shoulder of an LCSW who I worked with. But in that moment he was the social worker taking care of my demented and dying dad and I was just a grieving daughter. I knew every time my dad had surgeries in the last ten or so years of his life that he may not make it through them. I could read between the lines of what the surgeons were saying in ways my Mom and sister didn’t. It can be a lonely road with the knowledge.
My nurse friends and I joke about the rash texts we all receive. It’s not unique to me. Apparently if you are a nurse your friends just send you pics of their rashes. We don’t joke about holding the knowledge though. We never have joked about that. Because it’s not funny. It’s a burden.
So as my favorite man on television Monk would say, “It’s a blessing…and a curse.”