My social life takes a blow from pulling frequent night shifts, but really it is my favorite time to work. The emergency department is (usually) a bit slower and a spirit of camaraderie and teamwork is present that simply does not exist during the day. The wee morning hours lead to laughs and jokes that don’t occur among well-rested employees or when administrators are roaming the halls. Night shifters are happier, lighthearted and the designated night nurses are really good at their jobs.
While gabbing about past ER experiences last evening at work (namely best prostitute names seen in the ED and prostitutes requesting work notes excusing them from, um, their professional duties for various physical ailments) one nurse stumbled upon a company-distributed binder lying on the desk. It was an employee manual all nurses were to read and complete meant to educate about quality of care and patient satisfaction. Plastered over the front of the notebook were photos of nurses idealistically performing their duties, smiling and holding the hands of elderly individuals while patiently listening to their stories, for example.
We had to laugh. “Administration has no idea what we deal with down here”, the nurse commented. We had all just exited room 6 where the smell of urine was so rank our eyes were watering. I was currently huffing one of the scratch and sniff stickers we keep for kids in an attempt to rid my nostrils of the noxious stench.
Life as a nurse practitioner is stinky, tiring and not so picture-perfect. I often find myself pecking away on my computer charting notes to the sound of drunk men screaming or the smell of poop…usually both simultaneously. Sounds of vomiting punctuate the air and snotty kids cough on me constantly. No, my career in no way resembles the picturesque photos on that notebook. I rarely hold my patient’s hands- instead, I help clean their puke and get them into rehab for their addictions, I pull on dislocated fingers until I hear the satisfying crunch-pop of a successful reduction. I don’t care for my patients in a way that would appear on a magazine cover, reality is much messier. But, for me, this way of life is much better. It’s unpredictable and exciting. It allows me to bond with my coworkers similarly to people who have experienced a natural disaster or traumatic event together. My job leaves me satisfied and intellectually fulfilled with a hard day’s work.
Photos of me in my nurse practitioner element will never grace the cover of any employee manual- they would include too much pus. I wouldn’t have it any other way.