Reaching Out

It has been a little bit since I sat down to write this.  First I was going to write about fixing satisfaction scores.  Cliché at best.  Then I was going to do a more Halloween theme prank blog, but didn’t seem to fit.  So, I took a vacation.  Went to Hawaii and tried to figure out what people wanted to hear about in yet another nursing blog.  I mean, let’s be honest, there are a ton of nursing blogs and there is only so much that can be covered.  But, I refuse to give up.  I refuse to think that I am unable to come up with something that is unique.  Then it hit me this weekend.

I sat in auditorium just about two months ago listening to a presentation on suicide and PTS amongst healthcare workers. There were probably 200 people in the room when the statistic that 1 out of every 20 of us in the room has had some sort of suicidal ideation.  I looked around the room and hoped no one looked at me.  Truth be told, I have been there.  I know you are sitting there reading this thinking, not me, nursing can never make me want to kill myself.  Totally false.

Ever heard of Kim Hiatt, RN?  A nurse who made a single medication error.  Gave 1.4 g of Calcium Chloride inside of 140 mg to an 8-month-old.  She ultimately reported herself, was fired and when she couldn’t find a job, she killed herself.  Horrible for a 25-year nurse.  It does happen and can happen to you because we are human and often we don’t let others in.

To say this job doesn’t affect us, and for this statement, I am going to remove the label of RN, this is all inclusive to all public servants, EMS, Fire, Police, Nurses, Doctors…to say this job doesn’t affect us, we are lying to ourselves.   We walk away from our jobs everyday having been changed.  We have helped someone or we lost someone.

The statistics are scary when you look at them.  300-400 physicians committing suicide per year, 9.6% of all nurses having a major depressive episode in their life, know that nurses are 0.11 out of every 100 suicide deaths in the country.  It is frightening to think about it.  You sit there and wonder how did we get there.

It is no secret that I have jokingly stated that Twitter was a free therapy zone.  In truth, I wasn’t kidding.  It is that one spot for me that people that have the same issues can come together just a little bit to talk about that one patient that might have made you feel like you failed.  No nurse is safe and no department is above any other department.  I work in the ER.  I love my work there.  I see the best of humanity and the worst of humanity and everything in between.  It isn’t the drug seekers and problem patients that make the job hard.  It is that first pediatric code you work or walking down a hallway with a child in your arms as you rush him into a room hoping that you can make a save.  It is the dark things that we see that affect us the most.  It is in those dark moments that we find that we need to reach out.


Of course, there is HIPAA.  I am not saying break the law.  You don’t have to.  But know that we aren’t alone and that there is assistance and support out there.

I want to make sure that this message is said before the holidays.  That we continue to reach out to each other.  That we continue to pay attention to one another.

I cherish all of you because you are my therapy and my friends.





The Measure of a Nurse

I have been delaying this blog because, honestly, I didn’t know what to write about.  With many things in nursing, either someone has already written about it, done it, or simply done a YouTube video on it.  I was going to do it on another topic, wrote a bit, thought it sucked and shelved it.  But, I had some amazing interactions and learning sessions at the ENA Conference 2016 that gave me some food for thought.

Let me ask you a question…think hard for a moment…do you feel rewarded as a medical professional? Do you go home at the end of a shift knowing that you touched a life or does it simply feel as though you were beat up by administration and patient satisfaction or simply just by the patients?  If you haven’t felt that way, the likelihood is that you will at some point in your career.

I can’t speak for every nurse, student nurse or doctor that reads this.  Not everyone is going to agree with me, but I can tell you now, even though I love my job, I often walk away from it at the end of the shift asking myself what I am doing.  Some will look at me and say that I am burnt out.  They may be right.  My friends know that I work obscene hours.  There have been months that I have worked 21 out of 28 shifts.  Some will say working that much isn’t healthy…I can’t disagree with it.  Mentally, working that much will mess with your head.

But, there is a fundamental need to help people.  I can’t explain that or at least after I try to explain it, I am not sure that some will understand it.  You see, helping people is at my core being.  I can’t help myself really.  If someone needs advice or to talk, I am the one with the ears.  So much so with this that often I put everyone before me.  Same with my patients and coworkers.  I will put all of them ahead of me in the grand scheme.

Back to the messing with your head stuff, sadly we as medical professionals (and I say medical professionals here because this isn’t simply a nursing problem) we see both the best of life and the worst of life.  When I talk about the worst of life, I am talking about that last breath a child makes or watching a family member crumble to the floor in grief.  I am talking about those life and death situations where for a brief few minutes we shut off the emotions and do what we were born to do…take care of someone and try and save them.

You see, that is the measure of a nurse.  It isn’t in the HCAPS or some Employee of the Month award.  It is in that moment when we wipe the final tear from a patient’s eye.  It is the holding the hand of a young child as they get their first IV.  It is that moment when we hug a family member and give them that brief moment of “I got you” that they need.

I think more often than not, we forget that.  We get caught up in the administration, politics and general business of our lives that we forget what we are here for.  We are here to help.

I often struggle with depression and I find myself detaching from people.  I take my happy pills and I try to make sense of so much of what I see and feel in a shift.  I have driven home, haunted by the thoughts of the child that was lost after parents found her unresponsive and I had to be stoic and be the rock for the parents whose world just was obliterated.  I can’t help but try and make sense of it and often I can’t.  I know my role is to help.  But, there are days, where you question everything.

Don’t be afraid to question your worth.  But, always know that you are that light in the darkness for someone on your shift.  That you make a difference to both your coworkers and patients.  That you, matter.  Remember that the measure of a nurse is not your satisfaction scores, but how many lives we touch.  You may not get a thank you, a card, or a hug…but you mattered to someone when they need you.

That is the measure of a nurse.

If you do struggle with burnout or depression and are thinking of quitting nursing…please know that you are not alone and that there are resources out there.  Ways to network with friends and to find a smile knowing you are not alone in your feelings.   Do not hesitate to seek help or reach out to your friends in nursing…I promise they will understand and be there to help you.



Ask and you shall receive

Wow…I never once thought most of my silly antics on Twitter would lead me to writing about nursing.  Actually as far as things go, after nursing school, I was never really that keen on writing again. (Let’s face it…entirely too many papers.)

But here I am and here you hopefully are reading this.  So the real question now is what really do I need to write about?  Nursing product reviews??  Policy??  Opinion???  The problem with nursing blogs is that essentially we all talk about the same stuff and in the last several years, that message has been more money, safer workplaces and management sucks.

The range of topics however are both good and bad…good in the respect that I am able to rehash them all and provide my own unique perspective upon it and bad that it is a rehash of the same old same old.  But, after the poll on Twitter, over 80% of those who voted said, sure Grumpy, bring it on.

So…ask and you shall receive…

To set a better set the stage….let me tell you about my nursing journey and a little about me.

I graduated high school many moons ago…way back in 1992.  Honestly, growing up I had always been fascinated with medicine.  I had proclaimed that I had wanted to be a doctor at young ages.  But, I was always in awe of the job my uncle did.  My uncle had received his ADN and had worked in cardiac care and as a DON for the local prison.  I remember him telling us stories around the kitchen table making my squeamish father’s stomach turn.

So after high school, I joined the Navy.  Became a Navy Corpsman.  The only medical corps in the military I might add.  I had a great time and ended up stationed in Oakland, CA.   Now, I know how do you get to be in the navy in Oakland…well the answer is at the time, I was stationed at a naval hospital that had been in existence since World War II.  Those that saw my snapchats from my recent concert venue got to see the old sign.  The base itself was decommissioned in 1996 and eventually demolished in 2012.

Well, I stayed in California for a bit until the bust happened in 2000.  My new focused career into computers did not go that far.  I moved back to Missouri where I landed a job in 2002 as an ER Tech at the local hospital.  Grumpy Nurse wasn’t quite even a thought yet…I initially wanted to do ambulance work but a former paramedic turned nurse really inspired me.  So, I went to school and in 2010 graduated with an Associate Degree in Nursing.

It is at this point in this blog that I feel it is necessary for any new nurse graduate that might read this to understand the NCLEX is a pain in the butt.  It isn’t easy and nursing school truly doesn’t do a great job of preparing you.  I took my time for granted and did the Graduate Nurse work (Missouri allows the GN to work) and focused more on that than studying.  So, I will be the first to say that I failed the NCLEX the first time which was a huge defeat.  It was demoralizing.  But, I got up, picked up a couple of really good study books and passed it the second time.  The big point here is that the NCLEX, pass or fail, will never define you as a nurse to your patient.

Now that I got that said, so I  still stayed in rural America but the lifestyle and culture of Northern California eventually became too much and here I am…Grumpy Nurse in California.  Here we are. 

I love working in the ER and I love the mental challenges that come with my job.  Currently I function as both floor nurse in the ED and as a back up Charge Nurse.  I just celebrated in March, five full years as a nurse.  To that degree, there does not go a day that I try not to learn something new or to challenge my critical thinking skills.

So, now that I got that said, I am back to what is it that I can hope to do with this blog?

Short answer is that I am not sure…but we shall see what happens with it as I am going to try to come up with something fairly regularly so that healthy discussions can occur about nursing, healthcare and things that are important to both.  I am not afraid to cuss and likely I will.  That is part of who I am.  But, for all that I am, first and foremost I am a nurse who believes in nursing and  I am also a friend.

I am grateful for all of those that follow me that inspired me to try this and I will not let you down.  Hang in there, we are all in for a really neat adventure.