A Tale of Two Nurses

I am pleased to report that I arrived home by noon on Saturday, well in time for Sunday’s Downton Abbey Series Finale. I have been recuperating on my own couch. J. has been catering to my every need while my lovely rash subsides from fire-engine red to a nice pale pink. I even managed to squeeze into a recently outgrown undergarment for the first time in a week. Normalcy is slowly returning.

My only lingering symptom is a profound lack of appetite, due not to the infection but to the antibiotics I’m on. You know how I love a good medically induced appetite loss. Bring it on!

During my hospital stay, I was assigned a range of nurses, most incredible and a few less so. I thought I might provide a comparison of Nurse Nightingale vs. Nurse Ratched, both fictional composites. Names have been changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.

Florence Nightingale with lamp in handNurse Nightingale appreciated that, even though I was not the most infirm of her patients, she could still provide support. She checked in on me more often than she needed to, kept my medication on schedule, informed me of any upcoming tests or doctor visits, let me sleep when that’s what I needed, and advocated for me with the unit’s charge nurse when necessary. She was kind and compassionate and responsive. When I said, for example, that I did not want any more saline since I had gained 10 lbs of fluid in two days from the two litres I received in the ER–I’m not kidding about the low-sodium diet–she found ways to administer my drugs with minimal use of saline. She’s the one who fought for me to stay in my single room while I recovered, and who listened on the rare occasions I needed to talk.

Head shot of Nurse RatchedThen there was Nurse Ratched. I didn’t like her from the moment I met her. She was on night shift and, on my first night in a real hospital bed, she woke me from a deep sleep by knocking loudly and barging in, turning on the brightest of overhead lights. There are other, gentler ways she could have approached taking my vitals. When she went to take my pulse by squeezing a bruise from a recently-removed IV, I asked her to be gentle because the area was very tender. She looked down and told me I was not bruised. (I bit my tongue to hold back my inside voice there.) She told me she would be infusing a small amount of saline between drug administrations. I firmly declined, insisting she change her approach to one that would require slightly more effort on her part and a lot less saline on my part. When she was a half hour late administering my antibiotic, I tracked her down, only to be told she’d get to it when she could. She then got another nurse to get to it.

Thankfully, in my years of hospital admissions, there have been 10 Nightingales to every Ratched. The Ratcheds may be highly skilled, but they lack certain critical attributes that no schooling can teach, such as kindness and compassion. But give them to me for a few days and I’ll teach them. Just don’t give them all to me, since it’s a pretty exhausting job.


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