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Thank you, Nurse J (Why I’m grateful I had a male nurse)

August 17, 2011

So yesterday was a busy day. I saw my GP, Dr. Fabulous and got a refill on my tegretol, got some errands done in the morning and got the stink eye from a cop, and ended up spending most of the night in the ER fast track for some very sudden and troubling symptoms. I’ll write more on that later, but first I want to write about the nurse I had the pleasure of meeting in fast track. This is going to be exceptionally long because there are a lot of things I want to say about him.

A lot of people (particularly elderly women) are uncomfortable with having a male nurse. People unfairly assume things about a male nurse that they wouldn’t assume about a female nurse (ex: he’s only a nurse because he failed medical school, he’s incompetent, he’s not caring enough, he’s rough, etc.). I’m trying to remember a time before last night when I had a male nurse and nothing is coming to mind. I had it in my head though that I would be uncomfortable being cared for by a male nurse. I was guilty of making assumptions, mainly due to the attitudes of some of my old classmates who happened to be male (“dude I wanna get a new mom as a patient, breasting feeding and all that, YEAAAH TITS!”). I have had wonderful nurses in the past, but the nurse I had last night blew all the good nurses out of the water.

After a different male nurse triaged me and sent me into fast track, I was greeted at the entrance to the fast track section of the emergency department by the wonderful nurse J. I was petrified when I went into the ER last night; I was genuinely concerned that the problem I was experiencing was potentially fatal. It took every ounce of willpower I had to not burst into tears and beg for help.

Just having nurse J greet me and guide me into the exam room was calming. He’s just that damn good. He exuded calm, caring, and confidence but never came across as cocky and I never got the impression that he did not take my situation seriously. He was “the duck”. Calm on the surface, but running like mad under the surface. When talking to patients, he always had a soothing smile, was understanding, maintained eye contact, and genuinely listened to everything the patient was saying. When not talking to patients, he was running like hell all over the department to get everything done for everyone. The only time I saw him stand still was when he was charting. When the other nurses showed up and stood around gossiping, he didn’t blow his top and tell them to get back to work. He just kept focusing on doing whatever he could to make the patients more comfortable.

As soon as I was in the exam room and huddled up on the bed, he knelt down to my level and asked if I wanted anything for the pain. “I could get you some tylenol if you want”. I refused because I was extremely nauseated (if I had taken the tylenol, I probably would have thrown it up). “Are you sure you don’t want anything for the pain?” He looked concerned. I told him no, it was ok, no thank you, nothing for the pain, but thank you anyway. I have never been offered anything for pain in the ER before a diagnosis before last night. He gave me a little “I know it hurts, but it’s going to be ok” smile before leaving the exam room. That smile alone did more for my comfort level than any medication could have.

At first I was in my own little world because of the pain and nausea, but I kept noticing a blur flying past my door. A blue blur. I know that blur was him running back and forth because he was the only one wearing blue scrubs. He hovered around my exam room, peeking in every now and then, as I was examined by the doctor so he could keep an eye on me, occasionally disappearing with a stack of linens or an IV pump in hand to go help another patient. Once the exam was done, he popped back into the exam room. He still had that “it’s going to be alright” smile. He had a sterile specimen jar in hand, giggled a little and wiggled it around when I eyed the cup and let out a groan with a little grin on my face, and let me know that I would be getting blood drawn in about 15 minutes and that they needed a urine sample. “Don’t worry about the urine sample right now though, they’ll be here in about 15 minutes to take your blood. It’s fine if you don’t have to go right now, don’t worry about it, just do the sample when you can and come find me when you’re done, ok? The bathroom is right over there when you’re ready”. Another little smile and off he went.

He was dead on with the time. 15 minutes later, my blood was taken and I was ready to go pee in a cup. He saw me go into the bathroom, and made sure to stay nearby so he would be easy to find when I came out. “Ahh! there we are! Just what I was looking for, thank you!” I’ve never seen someone so happy to receive a jar full of urine. “Alright, well you can go relax in the waiting area while we get the tests done. Take a load off, get comfortable, and just lay back and watch some TV ok?” I timidly asked if it would be ok if I went outside to have a smoke. I didn’t even get past the word “outside” when he gave me an “Aha, yes, I see, totally understandable” type nod. “Sure, not a problem at all, go outside, enjoy, just when you come back in, go relax in the waiting area and watch some TV, ok? I’ll come get you when we have the results.” Suuure, not a problem. Every time I talked to him, it was a reassurance that I was going to be alright, and if something did go wrong and I suddenly got worse, I knew I had someone there that would catch it immediately and make sure I would be ok.

A lot of health care professionals will hassle patients for smoking, and I understand why. It’s terrible for your health, and hey if you’re healthy enough to walk to the curb and light up, why are you in the ER, right? He seemed to understand that it’s more than just having a smoke for a patient. It’s a chance to get away from being a patient (which is terrifying) for a few minutes and to call relatives and friends to let them know that you’re ok (especially if you’re like me and actually turn your cellphone off before going into the hospital). I’ve never asked a nurse or doctor if it was ok for me to go outside for a few minutes to have a smoke, I’ve always waited until I was discharged because of how poorly it looks on me as a patient and if I’m sick enough to be in the ER, I’m just not in the mood to listen to a lecture. Last thing I want at times like that is to feel like the person who is supposed to be looking out for me is judging me. Nurse J didn’t judge me at all, or if he did, he made sure I didn’t know it. The fact that he felt comfortable with me leaving his sight reassured me that I wasn’t in as worse shape as I had originally feared.

After my phonecalls, text messages, and “inhalation therapy”, I went back in and curled up in the waiting area. My nausea was subsiding, and my mouth was drier than King Tut’s arsecrack. I’m familiar with this particular area of the hospital because I did a placement in a nearby unit. I knew there was an ice machine in fast track, but I didn’t want to bother Nurse J because well damn, the man was busy enough! So I got a bottle of water out of a vending machine and just sipped on that (it helped quite a bit with my stomach). A little while later, he came out, perky as ever. “Hey! How are you feeling? We’ve got the results ready for you, so come on back. You can have a seat over here and once the doctor is back he’ll give you your results. He’s going to be about 15 minutes because he had to run over to trauma.” I’ve never had a nurse explain to me why I would be waiting for my results. All my previous ER visits have consisted of hurry up, sit here, shut up, you’ll get the results when we’re ready to give them to you. Even during my previous ER visits in which I was treated extremely well, no one ever took the time to say “hey, I know you’ve been waiting a while for test results, it’s going to be a bit longer because ___” It ended up being over an hour before I got my results, and as he was walking over to me to explain why it was taking so long, I overheard “MVA” (multiple vehicle accident) on their radio. I gave him a little “aha, I get it” look, he nodded then went off to take care of someone else.

So I sat there sippin on my water, looking around cause I was a little bit bored. From where I was, I could see most of the unit, and since I’m a nosey little emergency nerd I started looking around. Interesting layout. A decent amount of beds. Not bad. I distinctly got the impression that this unit belonged to nurse J. There were two female nurses that had floated in from trauma to “help” him. They did nothing but stand by the nursing station and gossip. Every now and then one of them would do some mindless busy work task to look like she was working (ex: move a SARA lift from one side of the hall to the other, then back again, or nose around in the supply closet while gossiping but never taking anything out). One of the nurses changed a bed twice and handed a visitor a pair of gloves when the visitor helped a patient to the bathroom. That was the most work either of them ever did. How infuriating.

At one point, as nurse J was buzzing past the nursing station, one of the lazy trauma nurses told him “hey uh you know it’s your break time. That’s why we came here, I’m replacing you for your break, so go!” He responded with “really? Oh thank God, I haven’t even eaten yet!” He went back to the supply closet to put away what he was holding, and just stood there. He eyed the other nurses, looked around the unit at the occupied beds, looked down, shook his head a little, then went right back to work. He knew they wouldn’t do anything, and even though everyone was stable and 95% of us were ambulatory and completely with it cognitively, he skipped his break for us. All of us could have waited 15 minutes or half an hour so he could have went to sit down and rest his poor feet and get something to eat. But he didn’t. He just kept on moving. Running back and forth, back and forth.

“How are you feeling, sweetie? Are you cold? I can get you another blanket”

Off he went to get another blanket.

“How are you doing now hun? Tummy getting a little better? Would you like to try to eat something? I could get you a drink, or some crackers, or some jello, anything you want, I’ll get it for you. Jello? Ok, sure, I’ll be right back”

Umm…..the cafeteria is closed dude. And they don’t keep food in this fast track. He either bought it out of a vending machine with his own money, or he went up 3 floors to to minor surgery to beg and barter for it with the nurses up there. He was REALLY fast though, so I’m putting my money on buying it himself.

“I’m so sorry, this was the only flavour I could find, is that ok? I brought you something to drink with it too, I’ll come back and check on you to make sure it goes down ok, alright?”

Off he went again. Back and forth, back and forth, grab a chart, call the lab, back and forth. The poor man never stopped. A blood pressure monitor starts beeping. Lazy nurse rolls her eyes and takes two steps towards the monitor, but the beeping stops because Nurse J is already there taking care of it.

The look on his face when he’s not talking to a patient is priceless. It’s the look that says “I have 50 things to do and they all need to be done RIGHT NOW!” None of these things needed to be done RIGHT NOW though. No one would have died or gotten worse if he didn’t do them. All of it was just keeping everyone extra comfortable. He finally stops, charts, calls lab again, then a blank moment hit him. He had that “uh oh what was I supposed to do?” look on his face. Then whatever it was he wanted to do, it hit and he took off with such urgency you’d think there was a code blue he forgot about.

What was it? It was Jello lady.

“Hi! How was it? Feeling a little bit better now? Good! Is there anything else I can get for you? Crackers? Suuuure, not a problem! I’ll get those for you right now. Do you mind if I take this away? I’ll be right back”

Off he goes again with an empty jello container in hand. He headed off towards the complex/palliative care unit and came back with crackers for her. I did my placement in the complex care unit. HOW THE HELL DID HE CONVINCE THEM TO LET HIM TAKE CRACKERS?! They treat every tiny thing in their unit like it is made of gold and the entire world will vanish into a blackhole if anything is taken out of the unit. He must be one hell of a smooth talker (or stealthy like a ninja).

Eventually someone I knew from my first response days came in to track down a pair of backboard straps. She saw me sitting there and came over to say hi. One of the lazy nurses gave her a dirty look and started to walk towards us like she was about to tell my friend to bugger off. Nurse J gave lazy nurse a look that should have burned a hole in the back of lazy nurse’s head and distracted her with an interesting x ray so I could have a little chat. I didn’t have any visitors with me, I was alone for the entire visit so he must have felt a little bad for me.

After I had gotten my results and was ready to leave, I wanted to say thank you and goodbye to Nurse J. I saw him near the exit of the unit and was about to say “thank you” to him, but by the time I had opened my mouth he had vanished again, off to someone else’s bedside.

So, thank you Nurse J. You are kind, compassionate, gentle, caring beyond words, and remarkably soothing. Thank you for being a shining example of a fantastic nurse, and thank you for showing that the stereotype of the lazy, stupid, incompetent male nurse is so very, very wrong. If I can manage to be half as good a nurse as you are when I finish school, I will have many very happy patients. Now GO TAKE A BREAK!


From → Journal

  1. Krausie permalink

    He’s an amazing man

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