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Monday, January 05, 2015

how I became a bitch

Working in the ER changes you.

It is unlike any other place in the hospital. You are dealing with a constant stream of people who are having some kind of stressful event in their lives.  We may not think it is a crisis, but for them it is.

The ER never ends. It never closes. Its 24/7.  There is never a break. It can be quiet one minute and chaos the next. You can be dealing with a stubbed toe and in rushes someone with a gunshot wound or a cardiac arrest We live our life on the edge.

You are dealing with everyone from A to Z.  Many of the people who frequent ERs are living dysfunctional lives. They bring that dysfunction into the ER with them. They can be drunks, junkies, criminals, the homeless, the mentally ill, the neurotic.  We deal with violent drunks, drug seekers,  homeless people who haven't bathed for months, out of control psych patients, manipulative people who can turn on a dime if they don't get what they want.

We work in a chaotic environment of ringing alarms, yelling patients, ringing phones, overhead paging... When it ramps up its overwhelming.

You know all of the above going in, or at least you think you do.  When you choose to take a job in the ER, you are the kind of person who thrives on chaos and crisis.  Bring it on.

Here's the thing about the ER that people don't get: It is not like ER on TV.  We are not constantly dealing with a car accident, a shooting, a cardiac arrest.  We get critical patients. Often. That's actually the fun part of my job. Ninety nine percent of the time it is routine, dull even.

My job is the everyday world of the ER: the abdominal pains, back pains, chest pains, mental health, etc. etc. etc. that make up the daily operation of an ER.  Its boring really.  Its predictable.

Being an ER nurse, you see a lot of tragedy.  Tragedy in the form of suffering people with cancer who are dying, terrible chronic diseases or conditions, unwanted elderly people..  People die.  Families suffer.  It is sad.

Then you see people who are such ineffective copers that a cold sends them over the edge and into the ER.  They are the type of people who will never have their own doctor.  There lives are such chaos that the concept is foreign to them.

Every day you deal with drug seekers in their various forms.  They lie and manipulate to get what they want.  You learn to recognize them a mile away.

Then there are the just plain mean people. You learn just how many of them there are in the world. They yell at you, verbally abuse you, threaten you, may try to hit you and succeed. They are the out of control people down the hall yelling at the top of their lungs because they didn't get what they wanted.

All this changes you.  Hardens you.  Makes you cynical..  You develop a shell that protects you most of the time. It changes your view of people, the world.   It exposes you to things most people don't see. It gives you a perspective on your own life and how it ain't so bad.

Being an ER nurse is so very difficult.  You cannot understand how difficult unless you do it. The only things that saves you is the occasional thank you, the thought that you made someone feel better or participated in extending someones life at least enough to get them out of the ER.

Last but not least, you will work with people who are hilarious, smart, dedicated and some of the nicest people you will ever meet.  They keep you coming back.

4 comments:

Nurses Without Filters said...

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Anonymous said...

As someone who has just been accepted into the nursing program and absolutely loves the medical field I was actually appalled by what I read. I'm sorry I know it's hard in an ER, I have done clinical in one, and I know things can be chaotic and crazy and I know that there are people that come in pain seeking and the neurotic. The point is.. why did you become a nurse? To help people right, to make a difference. Not to be cynical and "hard" to patients no matter what they are there for. That is the biggest problem with one of the hospitals nearby where I did my clinicals, the nursing staff made fun of the patients, they called them frequent flyers and narcissists and more than I care to list. It made me sad for those nurses to have become so jaded and mean. My view is that if you cannot find the kindness and compassion as well as the desire to truly help people no matter what is wrong with them, think back to the time you became a nurse and how you felt then....reflect on that each time you get irritated with a patient who frequents the hospital you work for. I wanted to work in an ER when I complete my BSN...but the nurses I encountered changed my mind. I'd rather be elsewhere, where the nurses and doctors actually care about the guy who has a nosebleed and thinks it's a tumor, or the girl with bronchitis who is afraid it's pneumonia, the man with the chronic back pain from a herniated disc, to the guy with a bullet in his leg. or the competency to actually take the time to diagnose a patient correctly instead of giving an educated guess and rushing patients in and out not caring about all the reasons they became nurses in the first place. I for one intend to make a difference regardless of how many patients I deal with, whatever reasons brought them to me, I will show them the kindness, compassion and empathy they deserve.

girlvet said...

what can I say? I'm an evil bitch who hates the human race. So sue me.

Anonymous said...

Congrats anonymous! You did one clinical in the ER! Please, Tell all of us jaded ER folks how we should reprogram our thinking, since you have such vast experience in ER nursing.... It's a good thing u won't be in ER, you wouldn't last a week.

-fellow jaded ER nurse-