A Nurse With Attitude

Where Dark Cynical Humor, Nursing Issues, and Politics Seem to Merge

Squeamish Factor


As a nurse who’s worked in the ER of a major trauma center, I’ve seen practically every kind of juicy, draining injury imaginable. My family would think that there was nothing on earth that could cause me to get squeamish. My peers that I worked with in that same ER knew better. Everyone gets the heebie-jeebies and shows a squeamish side. Yes, I mean everyone. No one is immune to it. Unfortunately, everyone that works in healthcare keeps this a deep dark secret. It can be viewed as a weakness… like the big, burley professional football player that’s afraid of a mouse. The trick is to find out what makes other people (like you) woozy and squeamish… and then exploit it. Believe me, it’s a wonderful thing when you find a really tough, veteran nurse (or doctor) and discover what they are afraid of. It’s not that I would go and abuse this knowledge, but it’s comforting.   It’s like going into battle against “Achilles the Giant” and having the knowledge that if things get really bad, there’s this little spot on his heel …

 Today I learned about Dr. Smith’s weakness. He’s was a tough old veteran who does ENT surgery. He’s kind of a jack ass to the nursing staff, and he does mostly oral, airway and neck stuff. Surgery inside someone’s mouth is not actually bacteria free, so his sterile technique in surgery is not the best. He rarely washes his hands before surgery so a bonafide surgical scrub would be laughable. Sometimes, he doesn’t even wear gloves. No one from the management team says anything to him because his infection rate is somehow amazingly low. Where we work, we have EPIC electronic documentation. Dr. Smith will finish a surgery and walk over and look up an x-ray on the nurses computer. When he’s done, the keyboard will be greasy, like someone had just been eating some KFC fried chicken. It’s a little gross. But he really doesn’t care. Like an ER nurse who’s just discovered someone’s special weakness, he find’s it humorous when the circulating nurse complains, “eww gross.”

 I was in a GYN room today. The GYN department has an ultrasound machine to check certain problems with female anatomy. There is a long probe that is used with intra-vaginal approach to scan the uterus and cervix. This machine appeared to have been used and not properly cleaned. I had gotten it ready for the case including having a puddle of KY jelly on a gauze pad on the side of the machine and I pre-lubed the probe so it would be ready to don the sterile cover when used in the surgical procedure. The doctor decided not to use this machine and, to make more room, I pushed it out into the hallway. I was walking to the pre-op clinic and observed Dr. Smith studying this ultrasound machine. As I walked by, he said, “what’s this new machine… and what’s this little phallic shaped thing used for?”   I couldn’t let a good opportunity go to waste. I had to make up a really good story. “Why Dr. Smith, that is the new urology ultrasound machine. They take that little penis shaped probe and jam it into the patient’s rectum and do a bladder scan … from the other side. He looked at me and at the probe. He made a frown like he was eating something sour and said, “but someone left it all coated with KY jelly… and nasty.” I looked and saw the little bit of lubricant on the edge of the machine. I picked up a paper towel from the sink and began to wipe it off. He shrieked, “my God, that thing is nasty… you should wear some gloves.” I saw how he was becoming alarmed, and I knew how the ultrasound had gotten left this way. I picked up the probe and started to wipe it off with a paper towel. His voice went up an octave as he became even more alarmed. “My God John, don’t touch that nasty thing with your bare hands… go wash your hands right now… yeech, I can’t believe you’re handling that thing…”   he was stuttering. I knew that I had him now and I started rubbing the probe with my bare hand “Sometimes they have to move it back and forth to get the best picture… like this…” Dr. Smith looked pale, “Yeech, you’re sick!” … and he stomped off. I laughed out loud.   I had just discovered his weakness… his Kryptonite.

 I couldn’t wait to share my knowledge and tell the rest of the nursing staff.


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