How many personalities do you take on at work?


Have you ever felt like you’ve got a split personality at work? Do you wonder exactly how many jobs you take on during the day? I’ve worked it out: From seven in the morning to seven in the evening, I’m roughly seven people.

1. Nurse: I change dressings, start IVs, reposition patients, make beds and do all the things that we think of as nursing tasks. This takes up about half my day. The other half of the day is spread out between six other personalities and skill sets.

2. MacGyver: If there’s a pump that isn’t working or a monitor that’s busted, I’m the first person to know about it and the first one to try to fix it. From “is it plugged in?” to “can I fix it with a wad of chewing gum and a paper clip?” I know all the questions to ask about recalcitrant equipment.

3. Diplomat: I spend a surprising amount of time brokering peace treaties between doctors and patients, patients and their family members, housekeeping staff and nursing management, and random people and the vending machines (see MacGyver, above).

4. MapQuest in the Meat World: Need to get someplace in the hospital? I can help. Need directions to the nearest barbecue joint? Got ’em right here. Can’t find the patient you’re looking for, who’s actually probably in the hospital down the street? I’ve got you covered. The only thing I don’t know off the top of my head are the bus schedules, but I’ve got the brochure in my desk.

5. Housekeeper: In a world where staffing cuts are the norm, I find myself doing things that typically aren’t in a nurse’s job description in the 21st century. I can pre-clean a room like nobody’s business now, and I’m a dab hand at mopping floors. Unfortunately, these skills haven’t translated into my personal life.

6. Ringmaster of the Circus: The doctors on my primary service round as a group, and that group is large enough to make up a rugby team. Sending them where they need to go, fielding phone calls and pages, and making sure all of them don’t crowd into one room at once is akin to managing a big-top ring full of rabid elephants and hungry crocodiles. Don’t try this at home, people.

7. Cirque du Soleil Juggler: Just this week I realized that I was talking on two telephones, rebooting a computer, eating hummus with pita bread, assembling a lumbar puncture kit, telling the EMS guys where to put a patient and talking to my boss—all at once. If I could manage to do that on a unicycle with a top hat on, I could have a viable career.

How many different job titles do you need to describe what you do? I know I can’t be the only cat-herder out there.

Agatha Lellis
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

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