YES, NURSES. Well done, you.
These vastly under-appreciated (and generally underpaid) people are always on the front lines of healthcare. Doctors, surgeons especially, do not spend every waking moment in the hospital, so when we aren't there we rely on the nurses to be our eyes and ears, seeing things we may not, listening to patients' complaints, and calling us when something seems awry. DadBastard (who, as you may recall, was a surgeon himself) taught me one very important lesson just before I started medical school, the same lesson his father, GrandpaBastard (also a physician), taught him:
Be nice to the nurses, because they can be your best friend or your worst enemy.Sager words were never spoken. However, as important as they are, not every nurse is worth his/her weight in gold (yes, some nurses are men). It is relatively easy to differentiate a Good One from a Bad One, one you can trust versus one you wouldn't want caring for your hamster, if you had a hamster of course. But who the hell wants a hamster anyway? I guess they're sort of cute, but cats are far better pets. If Mrs. Bastard weren't deathly allergic to them, my theoretical cat would totally eat your stupid hamster.
Er, sorry about that stupid non sequitur. Those responsible have been sacked.
Since this blog is about stupid people and stupid things and stupid mistakes, and since I've already verbally abused doctors, patients, lawyers, paramedics, police officers, and myself (repeatedly), it only stands to reason that, despite my esteem for them, I can't just give a free pass to nurses.
Especially nurses like Thelma (not her real name©).
When I first started my training, I heard from several of my senior colleagues (who had suffered through working with her for several years) that Thelma wasn't exactly the sharpest scalpel in the box. They told me that she needed strict, thorough instructions, and that if her instructions were explicit enough, they would be followed. No more, no less. Thelma was that literal. Literally. She was utterly literally literal. One night around midnight just as I was finishing up a last-minute assignment, my pager beeped. It was Thelma, who wasnted to tell me the results of one of my patient's blood tests. All the numbers came back normal, though the bilirubin (a normal product of red blood cell breakdown and component of bile) level was low. Though it was early in my training, even I knew that high bilirubin is a cause for concern, but low bilirubin is completely meaningless. Having been a nurse for over 20 years, Thelma should have known this, but she made sure to emphasise the low bilirubin several times. So, not yet knowing Thelma's literalness, I decided to have a little fun. I jokingly told her to give the patient 2 grams of bilirubin. Ha! Hilarious, right?
"Ok," she said and hung up.
Wha . . . wait . . . she did know I was joking, right? There's no such thing as giving bilirubin. She's been a nurse for 20 years, so she knows that . . . doesn't she? As I mulled over whether or not I should call her back, my pager went off again. It was Thelma calling me back, asking if I wanted to give the patient the bilirubin orally or through the IV.
A few months (and several more complaints) later, Thelma struck again, this time with Edward (not his real name©), one of my fellow trainees. Edward was a bit, oh let's just say odd, and by 'odd' I mean completely loony-tunes whackadoodle barmy fucked-in-the-head batshit crazy. There's a very strong chance (riiiight around a 100% probability) that he did not finish his training with us, partially (read: almost entirely) because of this episode.
One of our surgical patients, who had just had a major 6-hour abdominal surgery earlier that day, was having heartburn, and Thelma called Edward to let him know. The patient couldn't take anything by mouth because he still had a nasogastric tube suctioning out his stomach, so Thelma needed an IV medicine. Edward took a page out of the What The Fuck Were You Thinking textbook of surgery and told Thelma, completely sincerely, to give the patient hot tea through his nasogastric tube until he felt better.
"Ok," she said and hung up.
Just take a minute to let that sink in. I'll wait.
Now before you think Edward was just joking and having fun at Thelma's expense (like I had been), I assure you he was not. In the investigation that followed, he revealed that he had fully intended for Thelma give the tea, because , um, Edward reasons. The worst part (or best part, depending on how deranged your sense of humour is) to come out of this was the actual, real, I-swear-I-couldn't-even-make-this-shit-up clarification phone call Thelma made to Edward not one minute after she hung up with him:
"Excuse me Dr. Edward, you said to give the patient 'hot tea.' How hot?"