Good Nurse, Bad Nurse

Despite what it may sound like, this blog isn’t about a naughty bedroom game called “Good Nurse, Bad Nurse,” even though that sounds like something I’d definitely want to try out. (E-mail me) In actuality, it’s a revelation that I came upon during my latest PET scan and that epiphany is – having a good nurse in your corner is an extremely valuable thing, and when you get stuck with a bad nurse, it’s equally as bad.

"If you want to get it done – go ask a nurse"

Nurses. They play such a huge part in the care of people who visit doctors frequently, and for those who have cancer, oncology nurses are even more important than ever. Unfortunately, I feel like more often than not, nurses get overlooked like they were me and it’s time to pick teams for kickball. Look, bottom line, if you want to get it done – go ask a nurse. Nurses are the grease that keeps hospital machinery moving smoothly – as smoothly as possible, that is. It’s a hospital, after all, expecting things to go off without a hitch is like going over Niagara Falls in a barrel. Sure, it may go perfectly right and you’ll walk away without a scratch but odds are much more likely you’ll end up wet, angry, and bruised.

I think any of us who have stayed in the hospital at all have experienced both sides of nursing – the amazing, superhero-like nurses who anticipate your every need and do whatever they can to make your horrible ordeal just a little bit less awful, and the nurses who, um, don’t do any of that. I know, it’s probably insane of me to blaspheme the gods of healthcare as my journey on their rollercoaster of wellbeing is far from over, but the simple fact is that while a great nurse can make things light-years better, a bad one can make Hell feel just a little bit hotter.

To all the nurses reading this: please don’t hate me. I know people can have bad days and maybe you got a flat tire on the way to work and no one stopped to help you and then the tow truck driver was hitting on you the whole ride to the shop and you found out someone poured sugar into your gas tank because the grocery bagging person at Safeway thought you made fun of their haircut. I get it, we’ve all been there… ish. No one expects every person they meet to be on all day, every day, but there’s a difference between having a bad day and spending three days with a bad nurse. One is like having a pebble in your shoe, and the other is like having someone drop a boulder on your head, and then it rolls off your concussion and down the hill into a gas tank and burns down your house. I’ll let you figure out which is which.

Good nurse, bad nurse

You’re probably asking, “But Dan, what makes a good nurse, and what makes a bad nurse?” Well, I’m glad you asked, person reading this. It’s all about care – and that’s care as in caring, not as in health care. Well, actually it’s both I guess. You know what forget I said that last part It sounded cleverer in my head. Cleverer? Man, this paragraph is going to Hell in a handbasket – the point I was ham-fistedly trying to make was that when you have a nurse who actually cares about you and your treatment it makes all the difference. They come and see if you need anything periodically, they are always on time with the pain meds, and they familiarize themselves with your predicament, at least in a rudimentary fashion, so that they can get the right help should the need arise.

On the other hand, I’ve had nurses who are so obviously just going through the motions that it stands out more than a spider at a fly convention who claims he’s just there for the free manure. I’ve had nurses actually get annoyed at me for bothering them too often, I’ve had nurses who I’ve seen at the beginning and end of their shifts, and in between they disappear into... a wardrobe to the land of Narnia? A convention for Subway sandwich punch cardholders? A vegan butcher? Who knows.

Nurses are still people

Just to make sure you know it’s not me, I’ll say that I am not an annoying hospital guy. I learned early on that you catch many more flies with honey when you are a patient. Nurses are still people and people don’t like to be yelled at, told they are wrong, and generally treated as servants. Who has more of a chance of getting their call button answered – a patient who yells and screams at a nurse who didn’t bring him enough ice in his latte, or someone who says “I’m fine, just whenever you get a chance.” Guess which one I am.

It works, too, and although over-eager but well-intentioned family members may want to storm the castle as soon as the doctor you requested is two minutes late, you have to remind them that nurses are the ones who have the real power and you really, really, REALLY, don’t want to piss them off. It would be like marching into the DMV and telling everyone working there that they are incompetent morons who are living off the teat of Uncle Sam and wouldn’t know an eight-hour workday if it dropped on their heads, and then asking them to help you renew your license please. It wouldn’t be difficult to figure out why your license suddenly has “Jackass” as your middle name. Yes, that’s what the “J” stands for.

A great nurse can make all the difference – when I had c. diff it was a nurse who ordered the test on a hunch. When I had issues with my pain meds, it was a nurse who took it on as a project and got someone from “pain management” there in only four short days, which is light speed for them. I remember the great nurses I’ve had and keep in touch still, the bad nurses, well, I just hope they never touch me again. Talk soon.

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