After waiting for already more than an hour on my hospital bed today, one of the nurses overseeing my non-tunneled central line placement today finally shows up, without even acknowledging the delay. My mom had to go ask the nurses and then a different nurse had to walk by and see me still waiting for mine to saunter over.
As soon as she pulled back the curtain, I knew I wouldn’t like her. Sometimes you just get a vibe from certain people, you know? Her smile looked disingenuous, too. It was time for me to go to the operating room, and this nurse—we’ll call her Amber—transports me and tries to make small talk.
“Are you 22? 23?”
“Oh, I was thinking ’95. Are you in school?”
“Yeah, but taking a break.”
“What year are you?”
Thinking that she must think I’m still an undergraduate, I said, “I’m in grad school. I finished one semester.”
“So you’re a sophomore?”
She then proceeds to ask me the typical: what I’m studying and what I want to do. I basically respond with a couple “I’m not sure” and “we’ll see” lines, hoping she would just back off, but she keeps on asking pointed questions, and when I reply that no, I am not fluent in “those Asian languages,” she bothers to say, “Then why are you studying Asian studies if you’re not fluent?”
Are you serious, woman? She then attempts to ask about my ethnicity, ultimately deciding on the dreaded, “What are you?”
At this point, I am already very annoyed by her pushy questioning when I thought I had made it clear that I don’t know what I want to do, and we’ll see. (Also, second languages are not that easy to master, even if I do look like someone who “should” speak an Asian language.) If I had the audacity, I would have said I don’t know because I don’t even know if I will survive, so shut up, please. Then she says, “Yeah, well I guess you still have three years of school.”
What? Does Amber not know that Master’s degrees are different from an undergraduate degree? I don’t bother correcting her and move myself to the operating table. While waiting for what felt like even longer than necessary as they set up, I could feel my anger brewing but am also wondering if it really was her problem or mine or both. I do get quite sensitive when people ask me about my future when I can’t exactly plan much of anything right now. I try to calm myself down and let it go.
When it is almost time, Amber asks if she needs to stand by me and talk to me during the procedure, to which I quickly reject. Who knows what other questions she would think to ask to pass the time?
Once the procedure is finished and the doctor steps out, she comes over again and asks, “That wasn’t so bad, right?” I say no. She prods, “Are you sure?” What, should I say that actually it was scary and the numbing part was painful and I am a big baby and should have cried in front of you?
Another nurse comes to attach the dressing on my neck, and during the entire eternity of ten minutes lying on that operating table, she and Amber are legit trash talking other coworkers. “She must have had social issues for a long time, I can’t stand her, she’s weird and tries to overcompensate when blah blah blah.” Meanwhile, in between this trashy, unprofessional, and straight-up rude gossip, I hear the nurse mutter, “I don’t even know if I’m doing this right.”
You have got to be kidding me. Already in disbelief, I am just itching to get out of there ASAP.
Although I have a great team on my case over at oncology, I cannot say the same for University of Maryland’s interventional radiology nurses. The Hopkins IR department made things go much smoother, and I think very fondly of the team that helped to put my Hickman line in. They moved smoothly and chatted professionally and warmly to each other, indicating to me that they had been doing this for a while and knew not to talk shit, period. I mean, I remember raving about what a pleasant experience it all was, and how much I appreciated the doctors and nurses for trying to calm me down.
So morals of the story: a good team is everything; bitchy nurses are one of the most unfortunate things to come across as a patient; and every hospital will have both great and dysfunctional teams.
Now to endure the pain of the line in my neck before they take it out tomorrow, following hours of apheresis and followed by my first dose of radiation.