The people you meet in the hospital, or Why I’m a nurse
When anybody asks me why I’m a nurse, I tell them, “It’s the people that you meet.” It’s true: I didn’t go into nursing with a lofty desire to Help People; I liked the science and the endless learning. I liked people, sure, but they were sort of secondary to the idea that I’d never get bored.
In 12 years, I’ve met a Nobel Prize winner, two auctioneers, a rodeo clown and a retired member of the Israel Defense Forces. I’ve met a slew of firefighters, cops, SWAT team members, a guy who worked in a confidential capacity for unnamed governments who were prepared to pay, a retired nurse who was active in both World Wars, and a puppeteer. I’ve dealt with one Russian oligarch and one patient who had armed protection 24 hours a day.
I’ve also met bikers, homeless people, veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan, college professors, architects (that was a fun one; his angio site busted loose and I had to hold pressure in his groin for half an hour), actors (including some rather famous ones; they were all twitchy at the sight of blood), opera singers, rock musicians, models, housewives, guys who sold cars, and lots and lots of ministers.
I’ve met slumlords who demanded special treatment and really, truly important people who didn’t. I’ve met people I’d happily tip out the back windows and people I was sad to see leave. I have a very nice thank-you note from the sorta-famous ex-wife of an incredibly famous person, and a number of bruises from people who won’t get their names in the paper until they die. I’ve had 3 a.m. conversations with folks who were afraid of dying and spent hours in the middle of the day with folks who weren’t afraid, and who made that choice themselves.
One of my coworkers is an electrician in the hospital. He also makes wedding cakes on the side—beautifully decorated, modern pieces of edible art. We trade tips on frosting. Another coworker is the son of a man who wants to eliminate certain ethnic and religious groups from the planet—a more thoughtful, introspective person I have never met. Then there’s the joy of being the only native-born American chick in my unit, and learning more about Indian, Pakistani, Korean and Filipino food and culture than I ever thought I would. You should see our Christmas parties.
So, yeah. There are friendly people in your neighborhood, and you’re likely to meet them all if you work for a few years as a nurse. It’s the people that keep me coming back.
That, and I am never, ever bored.
Agatha Lellis is a nurse whose coffee is brought to her every morning by a chipmunk. Bluebirds help her to dress, and small woodland creatures sing her to sleep each night. She writes a monthly advice column, "Ask Aunt Agatha," here on Scrubs; you can send her questions to be answered at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Agatha Lellis