By Jessica Press, REDBOOK
Ever wonder is being a nurse is anything like the juicy drama on Grey's Anatomy? You gotta hear these on-the-job secrets shared by a 34-year-old R.N., name withheld!
Being a nurse isn't all that it seems.
THE JOB: Helping post-op patients with pain management as a registered nurse in the anesthesia department of a large city hospital
SALARY: $62,000 a year ($33 an hour)
THERE'S DRAMA. But it's not exactly like Grey's Anatomy. "The ER staff may see some crazy things, but it's unlikely that they'll see five extremely rare cases in one day. That said, when I worked in the ER, I saw things like a mentally-ill patient who tore out his own eyeballs during a hallucination--he showed up with them in a Ziploc baggie. There's no way you can prepare for a situation like that."
AT-WORK ROMANCES ARE COMMON. "I used to date an ER tech, and I know two nurses who married paramedics and one who married a doctor. Most couples keep things professional at work, but after a storm, when no one could leave the hospital, I found empty condom wrappers under a stretcher!"
GERMS ARE RAMPANT. "Patients can be contaminated with antibiotic-resistant bacteria that nurses and doctors carry on their hands. Some staffers don't wash up as often as they should, and it's estimated that 1 in 20 patients gets a hospital-acquired infection. So before anyone touches you, ask if their hands are clean."
DOCTORS CAN BE JERKS. "I see patients mostly in orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery, two specialties that tend to have male physicians with big egos. They sometimes treat nurses with an air of condescension. Once, a doctor was so impatient waiting for me to administer a sedative before a painful procedure that he did it without me--or the sedative! I can still hear that patient's screams in my head. I should've reported him, but I was too new at the time to have the guts to do it."
YOU GOTTA LOVE THE FLEXIBILITY. "One of the biggest draws for this field is that most nurses work three 12-hour shifts a week. I know colleagues who only work weekends so they can be around for school carpool and Little League with their kids. Plus, there are many opportunities to make extra money. If a unit is struggling to find fill-ins, they'll offer incentives like an additional $500. It's been a great option when I want to go on vacation: I picked up three extra shifts to pay for a week in Cancún."
MY ADVICE FOR HANDLING DIFFICULT TYPES: "Just listen! Often, frustration from patients or family members stems from their feeling helpless or not being heard. I usually let them get everything off their chest. Sometimes I apologize for things I didn't even do, since I'm a representative of the hospital. And I make sure they're okay with the next steps, even if that simply means re-toasting a piece of toast that was 'too light.'"
HELPING PEOPLE FEELS AMAZING. "There are times when I'm having a rough day, and then I get to work and am helping a patient who's my age and recovering from a mastectomy or the removal of a brain tumor. It puts everything in perspective. Just the other day, I helped a patient who was in tears after ankle surgery. I grabbed a box of tissues and listened to her. When I came back in to check on her, the pain had subsided and she asked if she could give me a hug. She told me she would never forget my kindness for really taking the time to sit with her. Those interactions mean the world to me." --AS TOLD TO JESSICA PRESS
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