On International Nurses Day an Australian nurse writes about the weirdest parts of her job

Nurses deserve some recognition today, on International Nurses Day. Photo / iStock
Nurses deserve some recognition today, on International Nurses Day. Photo / iStock

Nursing as a profession can be funny, amazing, awe inspiring and rewarding, but it can also be dirty, tragic and exhausting.

People often ask me how I deal with all the "gross" stuff, but when it comes down to it, you treat each patient the way you would want to be treated, as if it was happening to you. And you have to find the good or the funny wherever you can.

The following stories are all in a day's work.

The McDonald's incident

I remember one shift in the emergency department where it was the usual busy pace. I had not yet had a lunch break when a familiar odour began to fill the air. It made my stomach grumble and my mouth water.

I followed my nose and went in to bay 7 to greet my newly arrived patient and realised that nobody had brought me food from my favourite takeaway chain ...

But what I did find was one of its unfortunate employees.

Sitting on the bed with that familiar McDonald's uniform on, he definitely smelled good enough to eat. But that was because he had tripped over and dunked his whole arm into the chicken nugget deep fryer! The poor boy had done a decent job of cooking his right arm, and found he had many hungry staff members poking their head around the curtain.

After a good dose of analgesia, he too saw the funny side.

The weird and wacky

There is definitely a world of crazy and weird out there.

I have seen a man attempt to cut off his own genitalia and then be upset with the staff because we wanted to attempt to surgically put it back on.

A woman once came in to the birthing unit telling us she was pregnant with triplets, only to be found to be not pregnant at all - she never had been.

I've seen the power of denial in people with cancerous tumours so far advanced that they have eaten into the skin and flesh of the surrounding area, to the point where you can see the underlying bones - or, in one case, an eyeball - and yet they have not even consulted their GP about it.

People can get in to trouble with the simplest of activities. One kid had fallen from his bike, and the handle bar had gone straight in to his abdomen leaving him with a loop of bowel protruding through the hole it left behind.

And you see the results of some very dumb decisions, like second degree burns from throwing petrol on a BBQ, or breaking two wrists at once after demonstrating Cross Fit exercises on a bed after too many cocktails.

The job has also shown me plenty of tragedy. In the course of a single day you can be caring for a woman in labour who knows she will give birth to a stillborn baby, while in the room just next door there will be another woman under your care who will give birth to twins.

At times like this, I wonder how life can be so unfair. You really need to have your game face on, as you care for both families simultaneously, going from one room to the other.

As you drive home at the end of your shift reality hits you and you begin to go over the events of the day in your mind as you drive on autopilot. You relive holding the father's phone camera and taking the first pictures of that new family of four, but you also have the clear images in your mind of taking the only photos that the other family will ever have of their baby that was born sleeping.

This is when the game face falls away and with it so do your tears; tears of pain and sadness for the couple who are grieving, and tears of happiness for the family who are joyous.

The time wasters

One thing that's really annoying is when people waste our time, like the patient who presented at the emergency department at 1am on a Sunday night with a rash. When asked how long it had been there, they replied, "since three months ago." You're thinking, "but NOW was the time to get it checked out?"

Even more infuriating are the people out there abusing ambulance services and using them as taxis rather than for emergencies - apparently there is a belief that if you come to the hospital in an ambulance, you will be seen quicker. WRONG! If you are brought in to emergency by an ambulance and all you have is a simple sniffle or toothache, you are really going to make the triage nurse mad.

Just remember he or she is the one that decides who sees the doctor first.

Why would anyone do it?

Nurses and midwives do not choose the job for financial gain, and those who have met us after a night shift know we don't do it for the hours. We sure don't do it for the glamour either - there is no glamour in having every bodily fluid known to man in contact with you at some point over your career

No, we do it because as nurses we can actually say those words that so many people yearn to be able to say for themselves, "I love what I do."

Today is International Nurses Day. The author of this story has been a registered nurse since 2004 and a registered midwife since 2005.

- news.com.au

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