Who is Nurse Jackie?

We all know that nothing on TV is real. Even those ubiquitous so-called reality TV shows, game shows,  documentaries, not even the news. *sigh*

Everything is just so easily manipulated and crafted to make you believe what you want to see and hear and feel. What the public wants, the public gets. If you want blood, you get blood and gore. If you want sensational news, you got it! However, sorry, this is not going to be a political or a current events post. My blog is not the platform for that kind of nonsense. You all know me better than that.

For the past couple of days, I have been compelled to write about a TV series I discovered on Netflix that I have recently watched and felt a strong connection to. Let’s get it out in the open first. I rarely watch TV. In fact, I’d rather read or be on my computer than sit in front of that wide screen absent-mindedly flicking channels with the remote control. That is my hubby. He can be mesmerized by a TV ad, stop mid sentence and forget that I am in the same room with him while I am a totally non-TV person at all. Yes, we are complete opposites.

So what is this fascination about a Netflix TV series?

I don’t “Netflix and chill” like most young people do these days. (Errr, or is it just young people?) You have to click on the link if you don’t know what Netflix and chill means!!! I admit I misunderstood its meaning at first until a 15 year old boy corrected me. Oh dear…

Anyway, I got addicted, so to speak, to the TV series Nurse Jackie. I have heard of this show sporadically from nurses and friends, but I didn’t really take a keen interest on it that time. I had it grouped together with the likes of Grey’s Anatomy or House MD, which I watched the first few seasons of and then lost all interest.

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To make this long story short, Jackie is a seasoned ER nurse in New York City who is battling drug addiction. She is a really great nurse but sucks in all other aspects of her life. Her husband, children, co-workers, lovers and friends are all victims to her lies and manipulation. Boy, does she make one really good liar! I am not an expert in addiction so I am leaving out my opinions and just telling it like the TV show does. So I binge watched all seven seasons in just about two weeks. How is that for addiction! Ha!

In several episodes, it shows her caring greatly for the homeless, the drunk and the drug addicts. She bathed a homeless and alcohol-abusing former nun and in the last episode of the final season, she washed the feet of a heroine addict. There’s lots of allegories here but of course, this was not without her gaining anything from doing these things. You can almost say that she was selfless and selfish at the same time. Well, I would say mostly selfish.

But what am I getting at? I have been a nurse for almost ten years. I have seen, heard and done stuff that most of you would not want to see, hear nor do. Blood, sweat, tears, urine, poop, mucus , vomit do not faze me anymore. I will take that than dealing with homeless people, drug addicts and ETOH’ers anytime.

Why do I say that? Aren’t nurses supposed to treat everyone equally with compassion and respect? In a perfect world, yes. The truth is, being in this profession can make you jaded and cynical and tired after seeing and dealing with these kinds of people. They know the system. After being in several different hospitals countless times, they know how to manipulate and make the system work in their favor. They know how to push your buttons (not just the call button). They know how to make your shift hell. And I am ashamed to say, I was becoming that jaded, cynical and tired nurse.

I stopped looking at them like persons. I stopped listening to them. As long as they got their drugs as ordered by the doctor, tried my best to make them happy by giving them food and warm blankets (with patient satisfaction scores in mind), I was okay with that. In the end, I stopped caring.

But Nurse Jackie undid all of that for me. I know it was just a TV show and I told you in the beginning that they aren’t real. Yet, somehow, it stuck in my subconscious. I recently had a patient who was a polysubstance abuser and a “frequent flyer” (one who likes to visit the hospital frequently) and instead of going through my usual motions when dealing with these kinds of patients, I realized I had a breakthrough moment when I was talking to him. I empathized with him, thought about his situation, gently and thoroughly applied ointment to his leg wounds, kindly offered him snacks the way I would with my other patients and actually looked him in the eye! I was so surprised at myself that night! I couldn’t stop and think about what Nurse Jackie would do in this situation. I know, it is just a TV show…

One that actually influenced me to change my behavior to a positive one. One that made me realize how everyone’s story is different and that we have no right to judge. One that unsuspectingly dismantled my cloak of cynicism and refreshed my tired jaded eyes. Yes, I am that much affected over a TV show.

In a good way.

Have you?

 

 

 

A Nurse’s Conundrum

You graduate from nursing school. You pass the board exams. After all those long hard years of toiling away, studying and cramming, sleepless nights and the lack of a proper social life, this is it… you are now officially an RN!!!

You can’t wait to work in a hospital. You get hired and all the paperwork that comes with it. Hospital orientation comes and goes. You start on the floor wearing brand new scrubs, squeaky clean nursing shoes and a Littman around your neck. Fresh from your books, you think you know everything. You are ready to conquer the day!

This is harder than you thought.

But first, a couple of months of floor orientation is required before they let you off by yourself to take care of patients. So you shadow a more experienced nurse for the meantime, learning the tricks of the trade, getting the know-how and the lowdown of the unit and hospital, the ins and outs of dealing with five to six patients and demanding doctors, the feel of not being able to eat lunch on time or holding your pee for six hours. This is different than you first thought. Harder.

Once you are done with orientation, you are good to go. Finally, you are free from your preceptor’s clutches and can now independently take care of patients. That doesn’t mean your nursing life is a breeze though. Three months does not give you enough experience to know the subtle differences between a patient who is in true pain and one who is merely drug seeking. Or if it’s okay to call the doctor at 2 AM for anti fungal powder or wait until the morning. Or who do you attend to first, the patient who is mad because she is hungry and in pain, the family member who has a question, the pharmacy on hold, or that bed alarm ringing from a patient that is trying to get out of bed. That’s why it is good to have a mentor around, one that you can trust and feel comfortable with, for moral and emotional support and back up. And even more better, good teamwork from staff. Much, much harder than you thought. 

On becoming a mature nurse.

As the years pass, your skills grow and your confidence develops. You’re definitely more knowledgeable now than when you first started. Your scrubs are wrinkled and have that distinct hospital smell. Your nursing shoes have all sorts of stains known to man and have probably stepped on various bodily fluids that you wouldn’t even want to know. Your original expensive stethoscope, if it didn’t get lost or stolen, is now replaced by those cheap yellow disposable ones. You have dealt with emergency situations but can never find it easy to let family know that their loved one has passed away. But you are more wiser now. More organized, more efficient.

And so with being a staff nurse comes the numerous meetings and hospital politics. First, you don’t seem to mind. You try to help and get involved as much as you can without sacrificing your precious day off. Of course you want to be a part of the team. More and more changes and policies come. Managers and assistant supervisors come and go. Instead of being beneficial to the staff to make the workload easier, it gets more and more ridiculous and time consuming. They demand more and more from you. They don’t seem to listen to your needs. You get frustrated. You start to get jaded. It’s not about the patient anymore. It’s about scores and reimbursements.

Burnout.

To add to that, the acuity of patients being admitted get more and more severe, the patient to nurse ratios get higher and higher (except in states with mandated nurse-patient ratios like California) and some people just repeatedly abuse the healthcare system with staff receiving little to no support at all from administration leading to increased burnout and high turnover. All these lead to huge nursing shortages in most parts of the country. Nurses are leaving the bedside to either work in clinics or a non-hospital setting or to simply stay away from nursing. With this exodus, the already worn out staff gets stuck with more and more patients. More patients mean sub par care. It’s a vicious cycle.

Travel Nursing.

Some nurses leave their full time jobs to do travel nursing. That seemingly “glamorous” world where nurses work for 13 weeks (more or less) at any state of their choosing, where they play and explore on their days off and then pack up their bags and move on to the next adventure. Free from staff meetings and hospital politics. Free to go wherever you want to go. Sounds easy? NOT!!!

Travel nursing isn’t for the faint at heart. It definitely is not for everyone. There is so much more into it from getting a good recruiter to negotiating for your pay packages to looking for safe and affordable housing close enough to the hospital to packing light (or not) to traveling to your assignment to adjusting to your new environment. At the end of your contract, you have to do it all over again, either extend in same hospital or elsewhere. Or you can take a month long vacation overseas, how cool is that! That my friends is travel nursing in a nutshell.

Conundrum.

So what is a poor tired nurse to do? Stay as hospital staff and just pretend to ignore all the BS involved? Have job security but no freedom to go on longer vacations? Or jump into the exciting but uncertain world of travel nursing where hospital politics are not your concern, and contract cancellations may happen any time? Where everyday is an ongoing adventure?

Dreams or reality?

What would you do?

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Week Fourteen: Don’t Rain on my Parade!

Our last week in Asheville. And it’s raining.

Looking back when we first started out here, we have definitely come a long way, both professionally and individually. After all the initial stress and adjustments we had to do, I can’t believe we made it all the way still standing strong and with our sanity intact. And its not even officially the end of this contract yet because we like it here so much that we are extending for seven more weeks!

That’s right. Seven more glorious weeks in Asheville. In Autumn. Do you see where I’m going next?

The Leaves. The North Carolina mountains are famous for the fall leaf color show that they turned it into a whole different kind of science with leaf forecasts and predictions, which area goes first and which one goes last. Oh, the photos I will take!

Here is a sneak preview of what is soon to come. It is only September and the leaves are already changing.

In the meantime, we drive back home to Florida next week for a couple of days. Packing has already commenced and our cozy little rental is already a mess of luggages, clothes, boxes, books, paperwork, kitchen stuff.

We were supposed to have our last hike last week but then it started to rain. And rain and rain. And it never stopped raining and weather forecasts predict rain until next week. No outdoor activities for this nurse! What a bummer! So I was stuck at home for three days on my day off doing nothing. Not really, but you know what I mean. I was never a rain and cloud kinda girl. It gets me depressed and lethargic and moody. Gloomy weather never did me any good. My hubby thinks I have seasonal affective disorder, whatever, so what, I need my sun and blue skies. Going home is the perfect remedy.

Our last week in Asheville and it rained.

Week Thirteen: We are on our final stretch!

We have been in Asheville since July and now, our work-vacation is almost over. Technically, our travel nurse contract is only for 13 weeks. But for purposes of blogging our travel nurse (mis)adventures, I started posting weekly updates a week before our contract actually started so it will be 14 weeks total (and that means next week will be the last!) of working, living and playing in Asheville.

I do this to force myself to write and keep up with the blogosphere. Sometimes, it is so nice to just forget about “That Traveling Nurse” and go on with the real world but I have invested so much time and effort into this blog that to leave my baby is unthinkable as of the moment. Not saying that this isn’t my real world too because my stories and photographs are all a part of my experiences, of my existence. Without my real world, there wouldn’t be this blog to begin with.

But I digress. Yes, our 14 weeks in Asheville is now coming to an end. We are ready to head back home to Florida and have some beach time!!! I really do miss Florida’s crazy warm weather with the 30 minute afternoon thunderstorms, the (shark infested) beaches, the fresh seafood and most of all, my bed. And the dishwasher. And dare I say it, cable TV. Ack!

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You really don’t know what you’re missing until you go away. The little insignificant things you take for granted become such a big deal for you now. The feel of sand in between your toes, the easy access of having two vehicles, working washing machines, super fast wifi, bug-free homes, the list is endless.

But you know what? All these seemingly minor inconveniences bring out the best (or worst) in us. It brought us together and our marriage closer. We learned how to live simply for less with all our belongings that we needed for three months squished into the back of our Honda CRV. We learned how to improvise, how to make do with what is available. We learned how to entertain ourselves on our days off without involving electronics and gadgets. We learned some more on how to work with our differences, that you can still love each other even if you are annoyed to no end.

Professionally, we both grew as nurses. Travel nursing is a whole different kind of nursing. We still take care of sick people but we have to learn to be independent almost right away and be expected to hit the ground running. If you’re lucky, the staff will like you. If you’re not, then be prepared to work alone for 13 weeks. Every facility, every place is different. And you are expected to adapt otherwise you drown. It pushes you to your limits sometimes and then you question why. Why did I leave my comfortable job back home? Why did I leave my safe bubble? Why did I leave everything familiar?

One more week to go and I guess I can then completely answer those questions in my next post after some deep soul searching. Only until then can we both find out if this “gig” is truly for us.

See you next week!!!

“My 12 Hours as a Night Shift Nurse” ~ Week Twelve: Where is my doctor’s stethoscope?

This post is inspired from the recent controversy regarding certain TV hosts who made “brash” comments regarding a Miss USA candidate’s talent show performance. It so happened that this particular beauty representing Colorado is also nurse. Now, I don’t care much for beauty pageants and such but the context from which this whole post is about is personal to me.

As Miss Colorado stood on that glittering stage sticking out like a sore thumb in her nurse’s scrubs, she delivered a powerful monologue about nursing and how it impacted her life. I am not going to critique her as to her performance because I am no talent judge but her story and her words deeply touched me, maybe, because I am a nurse too.

The following day these talk show host ladies (I’m not even mentioning the show and their names because I think they’ve been overexposed already as a result of this ruckus) bashed this poor nurse’s performance saying she was “reading from her emails” and “what was she doing with that doctor’s stethoscope?”.

I believe that last statement was tactless and ignorant. They claim it was made all in jest and that “we” weren’t listening well – after they made a public “apology” on their show when they got blasted all over social media by at least 3 million nurses in America. I never knew we were that many!

Lesson of the day: Research first before opening your mouth and making opinions or comments about something specially when in the media. But then again, some people just love controversy, don’t they? Any kind of publicity is good publicity, right?

Lastly, don’t get the nurses mad. We decide what size foley catheter or IV catheter to put in you. Seriously speaking, we can help save your life. We don’t ask for much. We work long hours, get beaten up, kicked at, spat on by confused patients, clean up your mess and sometimes rarely get a pee break! We don’t steal doctor’s stethoscopes, we have OURS. In fact, it is the other way around. They steal ours (sometimes).

This is an old post that I am reviving for this week’s travel nursing weekly updates. It is somewhat lengthy but I am proud to show you a little bit of my world.

That Traveling Nurse

I’ve been blogging mostly about my travels and personal life but never really touched much about my work. Well aside from HIPAA* laws that prevent us from revealing and divulging our patients’ private health information, I haven’t really found the urge to write about it (my work, not my patient’s private health information, I don’t want to get fired, thank you!) until now.

Welcome to my boring nurse life!

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1600 – My alarm goes off. Time to wake up!

1630 – Done showering and changing into half my scrubs.

1630-1700 – Dinner with the hubby.

1700-1730 – Finishing up, getting ready for work. Top scrubs donned, after brushing my teeth (of course I do not want my top to be smeared with food or toothpaste).

1730-1745 – Getting my lunch food/snacks ready, and my hubby’s too, if he is also working. Playing around with Facebook, WordPress and/or emails while waiting.

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Week Eleven: Gatlinburg in a Day

If (assuming) you all have been following my weekly travel nursing updates, you would have known that we have played tourist guide to three different groups of guests. It’s only been two months and it seems like everyone is flocking to come see us here. And we aren’t even originally from Asheville! I don’t blame them. Asheville is just so pretty (I know I have probably repeated myself in this blog several times already) and us being here is just the perfect excuse for people to visit.

And we gladly oblige.

We move around our work schedules just to make sure to accommodate everyone as much as we can. This time around, my husband’s cousin from the Philippines is coming to stay with us for a week. He came to visit his mother in California and is here in the country for a couple of months, so we simply just invited him over. Remember my previous post about being “connected”? Yes, family.

Aside from the usual Asheville favorite hang outs we have (see Asheville in Four Days), we decided to take our guest out of state. The nearest one we think was fun and touristy enough was Gatlinburg in Tennessee. It was a close to two hour leisurely drive from Asheville. Following winding roads with beautiful mountain scenery, certain spots were picture perfect for the out of towner.

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We really didn’t have a definite itinerary in mind. I have researched things to do and places to check out in Gatlinburg but nothing really stood out. To tell you the truth, Gatlinburg really isn’t one of my favorite places. We have been here twice and nothing screams garish and kitschy like this town. The whole “strip” reminds me of Las Vegas country version. There’s no flashy casinos or glamorous shops but it has lots of restaurants, ice cream shops and an assortment of odd attractions. There’s LOTS of tourists though. I don’t know. There are just certain places that doesn’t hit you in the right spot. But, in all fairness, I can easily tell myself to go with the flow and enjoy when in the company of other people, otherwise if it was just me and my husband, we wouldn’t come here in the first place.

Since we had a first timer, garish and kitschy it shall be.

Before we got to Gatlinburg, we drove through the Foothills Parkway which is a part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

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I was being lazy and didn’t bring my big camera with me so the pictures here are all enhanced and edited.

When we got to the main “strip”, bathroom and coffee was the first thing on my hubby’s mind and ice cream on ours. We found this new-ish (we don’t remember seeing this one when we came last year) cute and charming village-like place with shops and eateries, aptly named, The Village. It evokes a quaint European feel with its fountains, narrow brick alleyways and unique old world designed shops.

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Bladders emptied and bellies warmed with coffee and cooled with ice cream a few minutes later, we continue on our sight seeing. Luckily, it wasn’t so crowded that day.

What do we spy next? Moonshine!!!

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There are lots of moonshine distilleries in Gatlinburg and most all of them offer free tasting. Hey, if its free alcohol, why not?! That first shot we had, the clear bottle on the right of the photo was pure fire running from my throat down to my stomach. Arghh!!! It made my eyes water and I just had to smack (lightly) the guy beside me on his arm – because he was laughing at my reaction.

After the boys had a few more shots of different flavored moonshine, with the cousin literally walking away from the bar because he thinks he has had too much, we walk out feeling warm and fuzzy in our insides. Ice cream and moonshine do not mix well.

Hoping to get some more fresh air and make our insides feel better, we tried out the Skylift. 1800 feet high up the mountain, the Skylift takes you on a slow and scenic ride where you get to see the Smoky Mountains and the town from down below. We didn’t get to see much at the top because it rained and most of the mountains were covered in clouds or fog or both. We got stuck at the gift shop for a few minutes waiting for the rain to subside, unless we wanted to buy $5 ponchos. No, thanks. We were able to go back down soon enough but not without having the seat of our pants soaked which was pretty much like what we were doing here today flying by the seat of our pants!

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For our next activity, we wanted to proceed to the aquarium but then decided against it since we didn’t have enough time to explore and look around the various exhibits. Ober Gatlinburg (a ski resort) was our next option, but thought the ticket was expensive just to get in for the limited things we can do up there.

Then, the hubby thought of something brilliant. He remembered he once saw a video posted to his social media a mountain roller coaster ride in Gatlinburg. We asked about it and found the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster almost in the outskirts of the “strip”. There was no one in the parking lot. It was starting to rain again and we saw the ride was empty. Not a good sign. When we called earlier to ask if they operate in the rain, the voice message said they operate in rain, snow and sleet. Well here we are. Not to back out of a plan right away, we proceeded to pay for the entrance and found out that this was a self controlled ride. A what?! I wanted to ride tandem with the hubby if thats the case.

Suffice it to say, what started as me complaining about the fact that we were out here getting wet in the rain ended up with me screaming my lungs out till the end of the ride. “Slow down,” I screamed at my hubby as he was laughing and obviously enjoying himself listening to my distress as I held on to dear life with both of my hands while my knuckles turned pale from the effort. As we rolled away from our cousin’s sight, he could hear my screams among the trees and wondering what lies in wait for him.

As we got out from the car, I was already hysterically laughing from the adrenaline pumping action that we just did. Hubby couldn’t agree more.  That was fun and totally unexpected!

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This little day excursion just goes to show that there are some things that you can do for fun and discover new ones if only you are willing to open your mind and disregard the obvious.

I stand corrected, Gatlinburg!

Week Ten: After the Gran Fondo, Now What?

I haven’t posted anything in a long time. I have been so behind on my weekly travel nursing updates that I feel like my blog has gone into hibernation. Maybe, this is just one of those “blogger’s block” spells one encounters once in a while. Maybe, because I’m just too busy with Asheville. Maybe, I’m just a lousy blogger.

Tonight, I had to literally force myself to sit down and continue writing this Week Ten post which I started a few weeks ago and was just sitting in my drafts folder patiently waiting for me to notice it and pick it up again. It is actually Week Twelve now in real time and I have been tempted to just lump it all up into one post. Will I be able to ever catch up? Is my enthusiasm to write going to last me for a few more weeks?

Looking at my stats (yes, I admit I do that as some of you may do too), it closely resembles that of an atrial flutter, nurse’s lingo here and that means that it is abnormal! Needs some sort of rapid response treatment otherwise this blog would flatline and I don’t want that to happen (yet?) so I need some quick resuscitation efforts. And I think one of which is forcing myself to sit and write. Find my space again. If not for my “Haiku Fridays”, my blog wouldn’t probably survive this lull. 

On the other hand, it is also exciting to say that our travel contract is almost over and I can see the end coming up around the bend. Woot woot! But wait, did I tell you the real reason why we chose Asheville as OUR first travel assignment together?

Let’s get back to the meat of this post.

The Gran Fondo. It is a type of long-distance road bicycle race, in which riders are individually chip timed and have the right of way at all intersections. The original race was held in Italy. Today, different versions of the original one is held all over the world. (source: Wikipedia)

I don’t know if I have mentioned in the past that my hubby is an avid road biker. His bikes are his first  second love. Notice a rivalry here now? He has biked thousands of miles in Florida, New York and Asheville.

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New York 5 Borough Bike Race

If I wasn’t limiting the number of races he would join, he would probably join ALL OF THEM! But, he has to spend time with me first and foremost. That is the deal we made when he bought his first bike. You know men when left alone to their big boy toys, they can be lost in their own world forever.

So, technically this post isn’t really about me, this is about him conquering the Gran Fondo Asheville the second time around.

The first time he did it was last year and he trained for months back home in Florida. And you know what North Carolina has that Florida doesn’t have? Mountains. So even if he biked all the bridges and causeways available to him, it still wouldn’t do to prepare himself for the real mountains of North Carolina. Don’t forget the altitude is a whole different ballgame too. Thankfully, I was able to convince him not to do the 100 miles.

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Asheville Gran Fondo, 2014

He finished the 60 miles, safely, thank God, but not without suffering from severe cramps twice that he was close to pulling out from the race if not for the poor AT&T reception high up in the Blue Ridge mountains, he would have called for help and would not have finished it. But because there was no cellphone service, he had no choice but to keep on going. How’s that for motivation!

After that, he was determined to do another Gran Fondo. So this year, he decided he wanted to do the Asheville race all over again and was aiming to do the 100 miler.

July comes and we decide to start a new life by travel nursing together and then, bam, which state should we go to first? North Carolina, of course. As luck would have it, there was also a job available for both of us. It became a no brainer. The race was scheduled in Asheville in August, what perfect time!

So he got introduced (again) and got well acquainted with the hills and valleys of the Blue Ridge mountains. He loved doing his thing that the stress of the new job and new environment didn’t affect him as much. That is why I have this love-hate relationship with his bikes. He gets recharged and de-stressed when he is on the road flying on his bike that when he comes home, he is ready to do anything for and with me. I guess the man’s gotta have his me time too!

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Minutes just before the race started. Gran Fondo Asheville 2015

He changed his mind the day before the race and decided to do the 60 miles instead. Whatever he wants, I support him all the way. Who am I to question his physical and mental readiness, much less all the bike technicalities that come with it. All I know is that I will be there with him at the starting line and will be proudly waiting for him at the finish line. No cramps this time.

And that my friends, is what marriage is all about.

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Gran Fondo Asheville 2015