I am a nurse… But I am black first.

I am watching the protests around this country and realizing just how little people knew about the racism that black people still experience. I have sat in my department and listened to people complain about the protests without understanding what it is we are protesting.

We want justice and equality as a people!

I quickly realized that while I will always be a nurse, which I have always seen as my identity, I am black first.

My mind goes back to all those times I’ve had patients hand me their trash because they thought I was EVS, even though I wear the same ciel blue as all their previous nurses. I go back to the times where my patient assumed I was the tech and my white tech was the nurse, and looked almost dismayed when my tech corrected them. I go back to being called “n*gger” multiple times by patients who saw no issue with using the word and fully meant it as an insult. I go back to being the only black nurse on a shift and not being included in conversations.

I realize that I am a nurse but I have always been black first.

I am proud to be black.

I am proud to be a nurse.

Both of those things are a part of me, they are intertwined.

Instead of being angry at comments based on ignorance of what is really happening, I have started educating my coworkers. I am speaking on the black experience in this country. I now speak up about what police mean to black individuals. I speak on our experiences. I talk to my coworkers about racism at its core.

I don’t want to be the “angry black woman”, I want to be the black woman that educates on the black perspective.

I am a black nurse, I carry black experiences, I will not carry them quietly.

2020, AKA, The Apocalypse

It feels like the end of the world. Healthcare workers on the front lines of a pandemic having to fight for appropriate PPE, hospital administration firing staff for speaking out, medical professionals being sick and still told to come to work, it’s chaos.

They call us heroes in the outside world but we are disposable to the inside leaders. This pandemic has shown me how far some hospitals are willing to go to save money on supplies.

Employees are getting sick with COVID, and still come to work because they can’t afford to stay home.

This isn’t okay. Hospital administration needs to get up out of their plush chairs, step out of their lush offices, and come see what it’s really like out here.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a rant about being called heroes. People really want to call us heroes, and I thank everyone for that. However just know that title also includes EVS, lab techs, CNA’s, PCT’s, transporters, cafeteria workers, pharmacy, scrub techs in the OR, and everyone else that helps a hospital run smoothly.

Let’s hope administration learns to see all of us as heroes, and treat us like it.

It’s hit home

I have been following COVID-19 since December when I first heard about it, and it was still being called the “Wuhan Flu”. Reading what the CDC is saying, reading WHO recommendations, reading articles about it, and so on.

But it was over there and I am over here. I kept up with the information but it remained at a distance to me. I was curious as we nurses are, but I wasn’t yet concerned. It hadn’t hit home.

And then that started to change. First Washington state. Curiousity turned to slight concern because now it’s on home soil… but still it was over there on the west coast and I am over here safely on the east coast. Then it hit California. Now I’m following it far more closely because it’s spreading. However, somehow in my mind I was still safe. That’s when I started hearing about cases in Florida. Okay, now it’s over here but it’s states away.

I’m still safe.

And then it hit Washington DC.

It hit home.

It was only a 2 hour drive away. That’s when I began closely following everything. I’m watching the news, I’m reading all the WHO and CDC updates. I’m trying to learn all I can. It hadn’t yet hit my city though and there was still that little idea that I was somehow still safe.

That idea dissolved when I heard about the case in one of the hospitals in my area. More cases followed. Now my hospital is dealing with cases and it’s a nightmare. We are now rationing masks. We have to be mindful of how many antimicrobial wipes we use because there is a limit on how many containers of wipes we can get a day. The department I am in cares for inpatients and outpatients so our risk of exposure is high. The ER is at the front line. God bless those providers. Visitation has been suspended. People are being screened before walking into the hospital now. I’m no longer concerned, I’m officially rattled to my core. It feels like things are spiraling out of control and as a nurse that’s a big no-no! States are having to go into quarantine. We haven’t hit that yet but I don’t think it’s far away. It feels unreal, like a movie almost. People are panic buying everything. I can’t find a roll of toilet paper anywhere. I had to go to two stores to find garlic…GARLIC! Who panic buys garlic?

The panic and fear is real.

It’s serious and we need to make sure we are taking it seriously. My colleagues and I have been making sure to teach patients proper hand washing techniques. We are all trying to send each other health care memes to keep our spirits up.

It’s not been great for my anxiety.

I can only hope and pray that we start to get things back under control. I hope humanity can band together and get through this as one. I hope we see that the differences between us are nothing in the grand scheme of things. I hope we as a people come out of this better than we were before.

Just my opinion…

So today an older patient came with his grandson who was translating for him. As the grandson sat in my waiting area while his grandfather was getting his test I witnessed an awkward convo, involving another person it sounded like this:

“He looks Indian!” (referring to the patient)

“Yeah I can see that, we are from Bangladesh.”

“How do you like America?”

“😐…oh I was born here 😑. I’m 21 so America is what I know, but I like it.”

Now, the person asking about where he was from (because he just couldn’t be from here) was an older person. I know that they tend to have a very narrow view of the world. I get that. However, I really hate it when people assume that people of foreign descent weren’t born here. He literally had no accent from any other country. He spoke English as well as any “red blooded American” I have ever met. It’s a bit backwards to me to think that because someone doesn’t look “Caucasian ” or “African American” they just have to be from some other country. We are a country with a multitude of nationalities, that’s what makes things so interesting. I just wish people would maybe think before they speak.

Addiction

Addiction is rough. I witness it with patients everyday.

I encountered a patient with necrosis in the arm and it’s not a small area of necrosis, it’s pretty much the whole forearm.

They still shoot up in that arm.

The addiction is so strong that they are willing to literally risk life and limb for a high.

It’s sad and disturbing.

It makes you realize just how strong addiction is. We in the medical field often blame the patient:

“Why won’t they quit?”

“They obviously don’t care!”

“They should know better!”

“They did this to themselves.”

I’ll admit, I’ve thought that about patients. I’ve been judgmental even when it’s my job not to be. I’ve generalized and stereotyped people.

I am calling myself out for it.

It’s not my place to judge, it’s my job to treat.

It’s not my job to wonder why a person is suffering from addiction, and they are suffering.

It’s not my job to scold and belittle a patient for being addicted.

It is my job to provide the best care I can. It is my job to connect them with substance abuse counseling if they want it. It is my job to provide as much education as possible. It is my job to be their nurse. I’ve got to remember that.

Stop! Rally time!

Monday we had a gun rights rally on the Capitol. It brought back memories…

Bad ones.

I was charge nurse the night of the Charlottesville riot. Some of the people that were hit by the maniac that drove through the crowd were on our unit. Knowing that hatred could drive someone to kill, knowing that an innocent woman died because of hatred, it killed me inside. As a black woman, I know all too well what hatred can do.

I just didn’t want to see it all happen again.

Luckily, the state was prepared this time and declared a “state of emergency” before the rally. This led to increased security and a ban on weapons on Capitol grounds. So far, the rally has not resulted in any injuries. Weapons were out and people were walking around in full tactical gear. That nut job Alex Jones even made an appearance.

No one has been hurt.

That’s what I care about most of all. No one was hurt. Everyone gets to go home and back to whatever “normal” life they have.

As a nurse, rallies, protests, hell even large gatherings have a different meaning to me. I see potential mass casualty. I see potential chaos. I see potential patients.

That day in Charlottesville fundamentally changed me.

Breaking point

It happened.

Grad school pushed me to my breaking point.

I’m talking full on emotional breakdown, anxiety attacks, re-emergence of repetitive behaviors…

It got bad.

For some reason I hit a wall and could not move past it.

I went to work and functioned as if I was ok, however mentally I was losing it!

It all started with one class… Pathopharmacology. Now let’s remember, I’m in school for my masters in nursing education. I was not prepared to cross paths with this class. It hit me like a ton of bricks. The grading rubric was 5 pages long with part “A” consisting of like, 3 of those pages. I hated it. It’s not a class I have ever wanted to take. It did not interest me. I couldn’t retain the information. The paper I turned in was basically a pompous regurgitation of information that no one wants to read.

It sucked.

The sheer weight of the paper that was due gave me anxiety so I procrastinated. The procrastination made me anxious. The anxiety made me procrastinate more. The procrastination gave me anxiety.

It was the feedback loop from Hell.

I almost broke. Quitting actually started to look like a viable option. I was literally in tears thinking about the paper.

It was the beast I could not defeat… or so I thought.

I had to have friends and family really rally around me and offer support to help pull me back from the edge. They managed to get me to take a step back, breathe, and break the monster down into manageable pieces.

I have a great support system, something I don’t acknowledge enough.

After hours of research, coming up with an outline of what was needed, and taking the paper in small chunks, I completed it. I turned in 36 pages of absolutely glorious regurgitated information. It’s what they wanted, so it’s what they got.

I passed the paper and the class.

It was if a 10-ton Boulder was removed from my shoulders. I could finally breathe. I celebrated by drinking wine and playing Final Fantasy Online with my cousin. It was amazing.

I’m now in Health Assessments. It’s at least something I have some familiarity with. I know the advanced practitioner health assessment is far more involved but it’s something I can learn and retain. It’s useful information, I mean I’ll have to teach that to nursing students one day (hopefully). So, I’m nervous about the assessment I have to record. I’m nervous but not panicking. I’m learning to breathe and take things one step at a time. I finally have a plan to move forward. It’s doable.

Alpha-gal syndrome

I learn about new disorders all the time here in MRI. Normally I’ve at least heard the name of the disease or disorder before, or I know a teeny bit about it.

I have never heard of alpha-gal. At least, I’ve never heard the name.

Turns out, I have heard of the disorder before. I had a patient once tell me he was allergic to pork because of a tick bite.

Alpha-gal is a “sugar molecule found in most mammals (except in people, apes, and monkeys)” (CDC.gov, 2019). Turns out there is a tick (lone star tick) that can transmit the molecule in blood from the animal to humans. We humans don’t normally make the molecule but apparently we can make an immune response to it. If we develop an allergy then we can no longer eat meat from cow, pork, rabbit, deer, lamb, essentially the animals work hooves! The odd thing about it, and what makes it kind of hard to diagnose, is the fact that the reaction tends to take place 3-6 hours after the ingestion of meat. It’s hard for a lot of people to make the association between meat and their allergic reactions.

I found a good podcast about the disorder. Lots of information about how it works and the ongoing research around it.

One of the things I realized while looking further into the disease is how important it is to ask your patient about allergies. Alpha-gal is uncommon, however, patients with it can’t have certain medications. Heparin is typically derived from pork. Some insulin is derived from pigs and cows as well. There are quite a few medications that have porcine or bovine derivatives. A nurse would have to make sure to take this into account for their patient with this particular allergy.

Then again, when is the nurse not taking safety into account, right?

Struggling

I’m struggling. This pathopharmacology class is killing me. I have no interest in it so it’s hard for me to focus on it. I’ve been procrastinating terribly. I can’t seem to make myself write the essay that I need to complete the class.

I can’t focus.

I am so aggravated with myself for not being able to just get this class done. I hate that I am in this funk and I’m starting to feel guilty and depressed.

I’ve got to focus. I’ve got to sit down and make sh*t happen!

I’m hoping I can get over this hump…

DiGeorge Syndrome

Have you ever heard of DiGeorge Syndrome?

I hadn’t until I had a pediatric patient with the diagnosis. So what is it?

According to the Mayo clinic, it’s a genetic disorder caused by the deletion of a section of chromosome 22. Patients tend to exhibit heart defects, cleft palate, weak immune systems, developmental delays, and behavioral problems.

I had the most adorable little 7 year old with DiGeorge. She didn’t have the cleft palates that is common with the disease but she did have cardiac issues. In fact, one of her ventricles was huge! She already had cardiac surgery before and it looked like she would need to have it again. Apparently she would be dealing with this for the rest of her life.

Working in radiology I come across at least one disease a day that I have never heard of. I like to look up the disease just for my own medical knowledge. Any diseases you’ve run across that you knew nothing about?