Waiting in Line at the Post Office, Yet Again

Yet again, I’m waiting in line at the post office to mail packages. Frequent readers of JParadisiRN are probably thinking, “Holy carp. I thought she said she’s a nurse. She spends more time at the post office than in a hospital.”

The White that Binds (Pinnning Ceremony) jparadisi 2010

The White that Binds (pinning Ceremony) jparadisi 2010

Actually, I don’t, but I do mail packages at the post office throughout the year. This is the penalty of an ambitious child who moved far away from some of the people she loves most in the world to follow her dreams. Mailing gifts acknowledges the birthdays I am not present to celebrate.

I’ve noted similarities between hospitals and post offices before. Today’s line is much shorter than they are at Christmas. Regardless, the seasonal change does not remedy all the coughing and runny noses among those waiting.

The worst cough belongs to a woman already standing at the window loudly questioning the clerk about every conceivable option available for mailing the midsized envelope she clutches. Her hair is held by a twist-tie in a messy ponytail, revealing a rash on her pale face, which is positioned 18 inches from the postal clerk’s face. The woman coughs often, in a peculiar fashion: She lifts her face to the ceiling and covers her mouth with her fist while turning her entire body 180 degrees. This creates the effect of a Rain Bird sprinkler, spraying fat water droplets (or, in this case, respiratory droplets) upon the clerk and throughout the lobby.

It gets worse. After 20 minutes of asking the clerk questions and coughing, the woman ends the exchange by saying, “Thank you.” She replaces the envelope into her tote, and leaves without mailing it. I fear the people in line in front of me may knock her senseless, but she leaves unmolested.

At the very same moment, a second clerk returns from a back room, scrutinizes the long line, and says to the first clerk, “You certainly fell behind while I was on break.”

Exasperated, the soggy clerk responds, “I had a person asking a bazillion questions.” She beseeches those of us in line for support. One customer says, “You were very kind.” The others nod and mumble in agreement.

What does this story have to do with nursing? Directly speaking, not much. Yet I can’t help but connect the similarities between the postal clerk, nurses, and the special skills required to work with the public, sometimes at the risk of our own health. Topping off this encounter with criticism from a coworker who is unaware of these special qualities after a particularly stellar performance dampens the spirit, like water from a Rain Bird sprinkler.

The lessons learned: Our jobs are hard. Be kind. Look for the positive in coworkers and in yourself. Don’t wait until Nurses’ Day to recognize staff and colleagues.

It’s That Time of the Month Again: JParadisiRN’s Post for Off the Charts

Yes, it’s that time of the month again. Before you go thinking JParadisiRN is giving out Too Much Information, let me say that I’m referring to my latest monthly post Who Will Watch the Watchers? Consider Nurses for Off the Charts, the blog of the American Journal of Nursing.

In this latest post I contrast nurses’ accountability to protect the privacy of our patients while maintaining their privacy under the oversight of HIPAA, against the current debate over personal privacy versus national security, and who should have oversight of the NSA and the information they collect.

Read the post at Off the Charts and leave a comment. We’d love to know your opinion!

Nine Fictional Clinicians I’d Like to Meet (Yeah 9 Not 10. I’m Picky)

In nursing, where years of working long hours can leave us feeling at times as if the tumor always wins, finding meaning is essential to happiness. People find meaning in different ways — some through spiritual practices such as meditation, others at a church, temple, or faith center.

photo by jparadisi

photo by jparadisi

When I can’t make sense of life by other means, I find meaning within inspirational themes of literature and art. Sometimes that meaning surfaces by way of humor. It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine. Maybe, at its finest, humor becomes a place where science, humanity, and art converge.

With humor in mind, last year, Scrubs magazine posted a list of “Top fictional nurses and docs YOU want to get trapped in an elevator with.” Getting stuck in an elevator would cause me the same escape anxiety that makes a wolf chew off its paw to escape a metal trap. However, the article did make me think about my favorite fictional nurses and doctors, and what I would say to them if I ever met them.

Here’s my list of clinicians and what I would say to each:

  • Dr. Frankenstein: In light of your previous laboratory experiments, what is your position on stem cell research?
  • Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, RN ( M*A*S*H, TV version ): Thank you for evolving from a rule- and sex-obsessed stereotype into a nurse comfortable with being compassionate, smart, and sexy. TV audiences would have been satisfied with just sexy.
  • Alex Price, RN ( An American Werewolf in London ): Exercise caution if you’re going to date your patients.
  • Phil Parma, RN ( Magnolia )You are an unsung hero, the home health nurse. You take on the pathos of the dying and their families alone. Without judgment, and through unorthodox means, you found a way to fulfill your dying patient’s last wish.  And when no one is looking, you grieve.
  • Hana, RN ( The English Patient ): Make more time for self-care and fun, instead of dating guys who are as self-destructive as you.
  • Gaylord Focker, RN ( Meet The Fockers ): Dude, if you were my coworker, we’d be BFFs.
  • Dr. Hawkeye Pierce ( M*A*S*H ): What time is happy hour?
  • Catherine Barkley, RN ( A Farewell to Arms ): Have you ever felt, like I do, that your dialogue is written in a way that sounds as if Hemingway never spoke to an actual woman?
  • Jenny Fields ( The World According to Garp ): You are the fictional nurse I’d most like to meet, despite your shortcomings. Your fierce independence is both a blessing and a curse. Despite this, you are a true healer, demonstrating profound love of humanity in all its diversity, weaknesses, and beauty. You inspired me before I knew I would be a nurse. I pray to have a heart as open and generous as yours someday. I think of you often.

Which favorite fictional doctors or nurses would top your list?

I Wish I’d Said It

I wonder why the Frisbee keeps getting bigger.

Then, it hits me.

-greeting card wisdom.

Happy Happy Joy Joy

by jparadisi 2012

When my stress level rises at work, the first thing I notice is that I start accidentally dropping things: blood pressure cuffs slither out of my hands, and alcohol pledgets jump from the torn foil-lined packets to their deaths on the floor. On these shifts, I jokingly confide to coworkers, “The real reason I left pediatrics is because I kept dropping the babies.” As their jaws drop wide open I reassure them, “I’M KIDDING!”

The second thing I notice is I chew sugarless gum* like fiend. Although I rarely chew gum at home, at work I qualify as a chain-chewer. My weekly habit costs as much as a gallon of summer vacation-priced gasoline.

So imagine my happy happy joy joy (Ren & Stimpy reference: The Happy Helmet episode) while reading in a Time Healthland article that chewing gum has several benefits.

According to David Tao, author of the article linked above, chewing gum has six known benefits, which I paraphrase:

  1. It boosts brainpower
  2. Offers stress relief
  3. You can fix things by using chewed gum to plug leaks or as an adhesive. Disclaimer:  Using gum for either in a health care facility may get you fired, and is certainly not condoned by Infection Control, The Joint Commission, or the author of this blog.
  4. Curbs hunger
  5. A vehicle for caffeine. This might not be a good idea for me. The caffeine might make my hands shake, and as noted above, by this point I am already dropping things.
  6. Catch fish. I cannot think of a nursing application for this. Apparently, some people use chewing gum as bait for catfish.

As if all of this weren’t wonder enough, Medscape (password required) published an article Gum Chewing Quickens Bowel Recovery After Liver Resection suggesting chewing gum may benefit a certain patient population:

June 7, 2012 — Results of a Korean study support the use of a relatively inexpensive intervention to hasten bowel function recovery after liver resection for hepatocellular cancer: gum chewing. In the study of 42 patients published online June 2 in the Journal of Clinical Nursing, patients who chewed gum 3 times per day showed faster recovery in postoperative bowel function than those in a control group.

What’s not to like about chewing gum? It’s good for me, good for some patients.* *

Happy happy joy joy!

*For the prevention of dental caries, I prefer sugar free gum.

Another Disclaimer: **This blog post should not be interpreted as medical advice. If you seek medical advice, consult you licensed medical practitioner.