A REAL Nurse

When Dad was ill, my sister went to the hospital and told everyone that she was a nurse and she'd be watching them. She is a nurse -- sort of. She's a "Gucci nurse". She comes to work in her Gucci suit and her Prada heels carrying her designer handbag and her Coach briefcase and sits in her corner office with the gorgeous view making policy for a chain of hospitals. She hasn't been near a patient in over 25 years (except for that time where her "fire most of the RNs and hire non-licensed personnel instead" policy caused the remaining RNs to strike . . . ) She arrived to visit Dad wearing $100 blue jeans, a cashmere sweater and carrying the designer handbag and Coach briefcase. I’m sure that her hair and make-up were perfectly done as well. She didn't like Dad's room and insisted he be moved closer to the nurse's station, and then wanted a cot installed for my mother to sleep on and the food on the trays wasn't appetitizing enough and . . . . Nothing, it seemed, was good enough. She was ever so polite, I’m sure, while making it excrutiaitingly obvious that no one was quite as good as she, either.

I arrived a day later in rumpled jeans and sweater and bleary eyes from an overnight flight. I got to the ICU about 6 AM and, having heard from my sister about the 24/7 visiting hours, went directly to the nurse's station to ask if it was a good time to visit my father, Mr. Farmer. "WHO is your father?" asked the nurse rather strangely. "Mr. Farmer," I said. "My sister said he was in CCU."

"Oh," she said. "I'll get your father's nurse."

And so the nurse came hesitantly out of Dad's room, peering around the corner obviously looking for my always impeccably dressed and groomed sibling and seeing only rumpled, overweight and dowdy me. "Did your sister fill you in on your Dad's condition?" he asked. "She says she's a nurse."

I laughed and said, as I always do when asked about what my sister does for a living, "She's a Gucci nurse." This guy didn’t seem to require the explanation about the Gucci suit, designer accessories and corner office with a view.

Dad's nurse began using layman's terms and a gingerly manner, to fill me in on Dad's MI. Turns out it was The "Big One." I asked questions, he provided answers and before either of us quite realized how it happened, he was giving me a nurse-to-nurse report using the big words and everything. For the first time since my mother’s frantic phone call that Dad had chest pain and she was driving him to the hospital, I had a clear idea what was going on. I sat with Dad until physician rounds started and then, out of courtesy, I got up and started gathering my things to leave. My ICU didn’t encourage family to stay for teaching rounds, and I wasn’t going to expect “professional courtesy.”

Dad's nurse surprised me by telling me I should stay for rounds. And then he introduced me to Dad's doctor. "This is Mr. Farmer's other daughter, Ruby," he said to the group. "This one's a REAL nurse."

I never got invited to participate in rounds again -- I was never there at the inhospitable hour of 6AM again. But Dad’s doctors made a point of seeking ME out for the “family updates” and more than once, when my sister was highly visible on the unit, called me to their offices for a private conversation. It was probably far easier to talk to me, a CCU nurse who actually understood what they were saying than to either my mother -- who was probably already sliding into dementia -- or my sister the Gucci nurse. I’ve often regarded that introduction -- as “a REAL nurse” -- one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever recieved!

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