Most Memorable Emergency Department Moments Part 5/5…The Christmas Party

I think there’s a thing about nurses, specifically acute care nurses, that we see so much shit that other people cannot even begin to imagine. There’s sometimes no way to process it; no way to sit with it. So we party. Hard. We dance. We drink. We sing. We sometimes get into bar fights (kinda more often than you might think). We get kicked out of bars. And a lot of nurses are kinky. A LOT of them. In fact the only in home sex toy parties I’ve gone to have been with nurses. That’s an aside though.

I have some memorable escapades with my ED buddies. The Christmas party my last year there was one of the best. Lots of people attended, there was a lot of hot gossip going on at the time so it was interesting to see who arrived with who and who flirted with who (spouses are NOT invited to ED parties….for…reasons) and considering we all spent a minimum of forty hours a week with each other it’s always a big deal when we pay to see each other outside of work. But pay we did for the open bar and food.

I drank a lot. Two residents came who didn’t pay. Myself and the nurse who organized the party confronted them. We take money very seriously as nurses. We are generally cheap and as I said- it’s a big deal for us to pay to spend time together. So pay up.

I laid into them hardcore about being entitled asshats until they coughed up the 30$ each. The nurse who organized it thought I was awesome and we took horrific selfies in the bathroom together.

One resident who I made pay then hit on me, and when I told him I was married to a woman he said, and I quote, “I like ’em feisty,” and smiled at me like he thought that was a great pick-up line. I mean really Grey’s Anatomy isn’t too far off reality. I picked up a pool stick within reach and casually leaned against it, and told him if he came within six inches of me I’d show him what it means to be feisty and there were about fifty people here who would all pretend they didn’t see shit because they had my back. So back off.

That was the end of that.

The end of the night my friend drove me home, dumped me on my lawn, screamed at me for losing my purse as I was screaming at her that I lost my purse, my wife came outside and screamed at us both to shut up because it was 2 AM then my purse was catapulted into my face and my friend drove away. It apparently was on my seat. My bad.

So why was this the most memorable night for me. Couple things.

That year had been particularly gruesome with cases that left us all scarred. There were more deaths than usual, all around the holidays, and there were at least three times in the last two months I personally had done CPR- as in the actual chest compressions. And I knew that was only three out of eight cases. We were all beat up emotionally that holiday season because the deaths were just more and more painful.

There was an abuse case where a child died. Where the parents were in our ED and where the parents were the perpetrators. We had to stand there in the room and watch a child die standing shoulder to shoulder with their murderers.

I mean if you sit back and think about that. It’s fucked up on many levels.

A few of our own were going through ugly divorces, we were starting to see a huge turnover in nursing staff that would only get worse in the coming year, and as always management was up our ass for things out of our control and never appreciative for the lives we saved that were within our control.

We needed that night. We needed that night to remember that we were all just human beings. That we can laugh, cry, blush, play pool, joke, and do all those things that normal human beings do. It was a huge catharsis and relief in a sea of chaos.

I also realized right there with the pool stick in my hand that I wasn’t lying. All of those people would have my back in a hot second. Because that’s what we did for each other.

There is nothing that can quite describe the bond that develops in acute care, the closest I can come to describing it is that moment. Knowing I could pound this asshat with a pool stick if he tried anything with me and that not only would every one in that room defend me in every way, they would all have stood in front of me before I even needed to use it. That’s some serious loyalty right there because I know for a fact not everyone in that room liked me and the feeling was very mutual. But we were family. You don’t mess with our family.

A few years after I left, a nurse I hadn’t talked to in awhile messaged me on FB. She was going through some bad stuff. She poured her heart out to me, and I called her, and we cried together because it just killed me to know she was suffering. We hadn’t talked since I left the ED. Three years earlier. But that’s how it is with the people I worked with there. They reach out to me sporadically now, and when they do it’s like we know we are there for one another. Nothing has really changed. I could be in a bar twenty years from now with a pool stick in my hand, and if one of them was there I know in my heart they would be next to me in an instant no questions asked.

That’s what I gave up leaving the ED. The family and connectedness. That’s what I miss most. It’s just all the other shit that takes over your brain when your in the thick of it. The safety, management, violence, safety of my license practicing with a shortage of nurses, and the patients. The patients who touch you in ways that fade over time but are never truly forgotten.

People always ask me if I miss the ED. I don’t miss the violence. I don’t miss the fatigue emotional and physical. I don’t miss looking murderers in the eye. I don’t miss the ego’s and the pissing matches between specialists and medicine. I don’t miss watching patient care be put to the back burner while politics of a hospital plays out.

But I miss the people. I miss the family. I miss knowing I could yell out “suction” and it would be in my hand. I miss having an Attending look relieved when I come in the room to start an IV or draw up a medication because they had confidence in my skills and knew I could manage things when shit went down. But most of all I miss the cases that didn’t break my heart. The cases that gave me hope that humanity still existed with kindness and compassion.

I miss knowing that the people beside me were part of an epic team of which I was a member- our mission- to literally save lives.

The better question is not do I miss it, but knowing that I would see the worst sides to humanity, knowing about the blood that would stain my clothes, the tears I would shed, the bodies we would try and pound life back into, the violence I was victim of and witness to…knowing all of that would I do it all over?

Hell yeah.

That night. The Christmas party. I knew my time in the ED was coming to an end. But I also knew I wouldn’t trade it for anything. And anytime I see any of you waving a pool stick around in a bar, I got you.

 

 

*** The picture was taken just about four years ago when my friend the nurse who drove me home and dumped me in my lawn, and I, took a vacation together. Considering I irritate her in many ways we travel very well together!

 

Violence Against Nurses

So I’ve been MIA for a little bit. I’ve been dealing with a lot personally and professionally. Professionally it’s brought up a lot of memories from when I worked in the emergency department as a staff nurse. Warning- this blog post has nothing to do with me being a lesbian mom- it’s a memory and commentary on violence toward women and the state of our health care system. Seeing our current administration downplay and ignore the #Metoo movement pisses me off. Feeling scared and vulnerable also pisses me off. So I’m going to tell a story as to why we need to have discussions around violence.

I had been working at the ED for over six years, almost seven. It was a crazy night, I was in triage. We had a lot of psychiatric patients in the ED, which is NOT the place for them, but there is no place for them, so there you go.

We had a lot of medical emergencies, and then they panic alarm went off. We use that to alert security and staff that we need bodies with the psychiatric patients because some one is escalating. There always has to be a nurse in triage. So my partner went to the back to check it out, security guards ran by, the rest of the nurses were in a medical emergency. I was in the middle of a triage assessment when I heard screaming. Not patient’s, but staff. Lots of screaming.

I followed the screams and rounded the corner and saw a pretty gruesome scene. Two nurses had been physically and violently assaulted by a patient. There was blood, clumps of hair, and what would turn out to be permanent injuries. There were about six security guards holding the patient who was still fighting. There was blood running down the faces of at least three of guards. The nurses who were attacked were screaming and crying, and in shock and I dragged them into a closet because all the patients in the ED could see them. It’s all very open. There was a doctor with them who also went into the closet. It was a big closet. I remember I grabbed gauze and held it over the blood on the guard’s faces because it was pouring into their eyes.

This was as bad as it sounds. No charges were pressed against the patient even though both nurses tried, because of a variety of reasons the police would not do it. It was quite possibly the worst part about the whole experience. They had permanent injuries and they would never obtain justice. It’s also sad because who wants to press charges against a psychiatric patient? No one. But in that moment, when I had known all of those staff members for over six years, and we were friends and we had each other’s back, to see them hurt was fucking awful. It was painful, and made us all feel pissed and vulnerable and scared.

I had to go back to work the next day. I don’t know how I did it, but I did. And when I got to the doors two nurses were standing there. They had been there the night before too. They couldn’t go in. None of us wanted to. We all wanted to walk away, erase that memory. Erase the fear. We all didn’t even say anything, at some point though one of us badged open the doors and we all silently filed in for our shift. We didn’t need to speak.

The part about going back after seeing something horrific is that today it could be us.

The week of my wedding, a couple years earlier, I got kicked in the ribs by a patient. I was bending over to pick up something on the floor and they just kicked me. I had a bruise on my ribs about 4 inches in diameter while my family tied me into my corseted dress.

I was no stranger to the violence of working in the ED, and it’s something that when you are there you have to kind of put out of your head otherwise it would just break you.

I don’t know what the solution to this problem is. But I know it’s a problem. I also know hospitals don’t like to talk about it, and they don’t like to take responsibility for it, and management likes to minimize it and it falls to the RNs on the front lines walking in every day not knowing if they are going to leave with a black eye or worse.

If you know a nurse thank them. Because you cannot possibly imagine the shit they see and face on a daily basis.

If you are a nurse. Keep fighting. We need rights, we need protection, and we will get none of it if we let these things keep happening with no recourse.

Thank-you to the state of CT who passed legislation making it a felony to assault a healthcare worker in the line of duty. Don’t be scared to utilize it.