Saturday, August 29, 2009

Conan the Barbarian

I have left Los Angeles. Moved to a smaller, more chill city. Northern city. Bought a house in the suburbs. Kind of a blue state, kind of a red state. People seem nice. A lot more white people walking round than in L.A. That's kind of weird. Wonderfully color full, diverse pockets but mostly white. It's weird blending in. I like the anonymity. Why do I notice race? I spent my High School years in a predominantly Caucasian area. Spent my entire 20's as a racial minority. It tends to give one reason to pause and reflect when racial makeups around you change as well as pervasive attitudes and outlooks.

How will I be perceived here? In L.A., some people could care less about race. Some people were openly prejudice. Some people hid their feelings until a moment arose when a preconceived notion was activated by some behavior or incident, some conflict that confirmed the belief they thought they secretly held to themselves. Some people were abnormally nice to me because of my race. Usually because they held ill feelings towards another race and would rather associate with mine. Call it racial motivation. Most people don't think that it exists. But it does. Race is the seventh patient identifier and everybody should goddamn know it. The people that did not care about race were the people that acknowledged these feelings existed in themselves and everyone around them and then simply moved on to more pressing matters. Like building a team, making a friend, finding support.

I do not think I was one of these people. I felt too vulnerable. Been attacked physically and professionally too many times cuz in the summer I look like Opie, with all my freckles and red headed step child hair. I always tried to test the racial water first, to see if the person I was talking to believed that we are all in the same boat, that sinking one, called the USS Middle Class, the one with all the working class people, of all different sexual orientations, creeds, religions, colors, hanging onto the side of the boat for dear life. If they knew this, recognized that this sinking boat also served as a trough to be tossed scraps by the uniform One Raced Management. Management is one race: How can I fuck you without telling you? race. If my coworker knew this, well then, I made a friend.

I am aware that I am damaged goods. I am prone to disgruntled status. I've been burned. Left to fend for myself. Didn't have help way too many times. What I experienced on a daily basis does not seem to happen here, in hospital of the insured land, where they want the "customer" to be happy. Everyday I realize that the abuse I took in the name of "trauma" and most likely also in the name of large corporate bonuses was wrong and hurt full to my disposition, my ability to give a shit about my patients. Right now, I'm grieving. I ache for my naivete, for my spen last honest intention, for my foolish belief that my unit supervisor actually BELIEVED IN the mission statement of the hospital. I am mourning over the days and nights my wife and son had to deal with nightmares that I futilely struggled to not bring home. The drama and the disgusting behavior, the utter maliciousness, usually in the name of an older nurses fragile ego, I brought it in right along with the MRSA and VRE, a prescence that no happy home should ever see. I am so sad that I was so right and so naive enough to think that what was "right" had any meaning or impact on policy or behavior.

I left my hospital in good standing. No official writeups or patient harm issues. I worked hard. Did my job. Got a good referral from a supervisor. Took a lot of abuse, in the name of making it through my first year as a new grad I.C.U. nurse in urban hell. I did my time. I paid my dues. Again. But with my dues came the knowledge of how to shut up, what to say and not to say and how, above all else, to keep the mind sharp and decisive despite the thunderous din that 20 A type I.C.U. nurses make as they watch you take on their workload, their trade and pride, acquired with years of experience AND NOT FAIL much to some of the bitter one's chagrin.

I feel like Conan the Goddamn Barbarian. Especially right at the end of the movie, where he sits on his throne, queitly tough from battles, everything conquered, pondering what made him hook up with Grace Jones. Nothing for ol' Conan to do but reflect on moments of war where he showed true grit but didn't even realize he was doing it at the time. Now, I've only finished my rookie year and my conquering days are far from over. I have many many more battles to fight, lessons to learn, plateaus to reach and ascend from. I'm just getting started.

But in this market, I'm a veteran. And really, I'm more embarrassed for what I went through and saw. I'd rather not talk about it. Cuz when one of the experienced nurses here tells "this one time" story it just pales, in the same way my stories paled in comparison the Old schoolers who taught me.

I don't know what nursing is now. Is it an exact field where everybody has all lab values memorized and we practice over and over the documentation and techniques required for conscious sedation? Or is it a field where you have O2 ready, make sure the patient is on monitor, have an intubation kit ready and just keep track of the fent and versed in your head while you pensively look between the patient, the monitor and the Doc? Is nursing duct tape or a text book? Is it hardcore bullshit or is being a critical care R.N. over studied, over trained, alphabet soup CCRN credentials but with insufficient application experience?

What brought all this up, you ask? During orientation a PACU(post anesthesia) nurse told her super intense story about how a 80 year old woman had to be restrained. Okay whatever. For her, it was scary. But later on, when we were talking about thorough documentation in the unfortunate sentinel event you get called to court I told a story about how my charge nurse got choked out unconscious by a crack head who was coming down and wigging out and how hospital management blamed her for the assault telling her, "You should of known better than to tell a drug addict to please keep her voice down and not go into other patients rooms." Management was mad because they had to hire lawyers to impose a permanent restraining order against the patient from ever intentionally coming to the hospital again. She got blamed for even going to court.

My new co-workers were horrified. Jaws open. I could see one guy giving me the "You're so full of shit" look. But I didn't even tell them the whole story. How the crack headed lady skillfully grabbed my balls while she scratched the face off my charge nurse, how ten nurses, male and female dove head first into a brawl with the crack heads family members who immediately accused us of HURTING HER. (Right?) I didn't tell them how the cops came, en masse, five white cops (Of course it's a predominantly African-American neighborhood) billy sticks out and mace drawn, ready to kick some ass-the offended "You pissant" look the Sergeant gave me when I told them to put their clubs away because we had finally gotten the family isolated in a room and they were going to freak when they saw the clubs. I didn't tell them how I wasn't afraid of the crack lady, I was afraid of her 20 year old son, ghetto brawler who slyly stepped just outside the room when we went in (yes you do have eye balls on the back of your head cuz it wasn't Yoda squeezing my sac) and to a lesser degree her husband, right hand in his pocket, gawd jeezuz I can only imagine what lethal weapon was going to come out of that fucking pocket.

The PACU nurse said to me, "Oh my gosh you have been hurt! It sounds like you've had a pretty rough introduction."

Yeah. I am disgruntled. I'm pretty sure I was thrown to the wolves but they only got an arm or a leg.

And I need to get over it, fast because the medical world I'm in now, it may actually be the Disneyland of hospitals. I mean don't worry, I always find a way to be horrifically outraged and crank out master rants of disgust, don't you worry, my literary scoobie snacks will prevail but- I've got to stop mentally wanking on my post scary situation bitterness.

Later the PACU nurse said some very nice, sincere things to me. She told me she was glad there was people like me in the field. She said I seemed like a good nurse. She told me never to take nursing bullshit home. She hasn't worked in five years. She's never been a critical care nurse. She doesn't know.

But she is right. She is right.

We are all here. We are all here.

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