I use to work for a hospital. I’m not a doctor or someone who draws blood from the patients. I worked in the business office. But to be honest about it, I didn’t seem to have much in common with the other managers in finance. Strangely enough, I found most (not all—but most) of my friends in the patient services departments—specifically in nursing.
I love my nursing friends, really I do. But as the saying goes- they certainly are a breed unto themselves. Many years ago, I remember reading a response that Dear Abbey wrote to some person who was having a life issue. I don’t remember the name of the person who had the problem, or even what the problem was that prompted Dear Abbey’s response. But I certainly remember that response. She said: the number one reason nurses leave the profession, are other nurses. Seriously, she really said that. In print. And if you ask any nurse about that response, he or she will agree with it. I know. I’ve asked.
Nurses are unfailingly kind, empathetic and supportive toward their patients. But just as unfailingly direct (actually, make that brutally direct) with the rest of us who aren’t sick, or part of the family of someone who is sick.
One of my friends for many, many years proved this out the first time we met.
Shortly after I went to work for the hospital I attended a management staff meeting where I was introduced as a new member of the group. At the end of the meeting, one of the nursing directors approached me and introduced herself. I had barely gotten out a “hello” before she looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Are you any good at what you do?”. One type-A certainly knows another when you meet one, so I looked right back at her and said “yes”. She took me at my word and just nodded and walked off. Of course, she’s tall, and I’m tall. I think that helped. Neither one of us make comments about our shorter friends. Well.. she doesn’t make comments about it. We’ve been friends for twenty years.
I also went on a 60 mile walk for a cancer charity with a group of nurses. They were phenomenal—and truly happy to walk for this cause. After hiking up and down hills, and across 20+ miles of concrete, they would end the day by helping our fellow walkers who had major blisters that needed medical attention. I had some of those blisters. But when I pointed that out, I was handed a needle and some bandages and bluntly told to take care of it myself—while all four of them stood over me and gave me directions. Which I didn’t follow very well because I had my eyes shut.
After performing that little procedure, I knew exactly why I had never become a nurse, but also realized that telling me to do it myself was definitely a sign that I was just one of the group. They all took care of their own blisters, and thought I should do the same. I think they forgot I wasn’t a nurse. At least until they had to give me directions. It became real clear then. These things just don’t come naturally to normal people. In spite of my lack of Florence Nightengal tendencies, we’re still all friends.
I’m actually very proud so many of my friends are nurses. Nursing is a closed society. Nurses usually hang out with other nurses, and outside the job most of their good friends also tend to be nurses. Actually, among my nursing friends, I think there are a couple where I might be the only non-clinical type friend that they have. Maybe I fill their equal opportunity requirement for friends.
Despite their high stress jobs, surprisingly I actually don’t know any nurses who go to shrinks. I think that is probably because psychiatrists are doctors. And I’m pretty sure the last thing a nurse wants to do on her own time is talk to another doctor. They should get medals for working with a group of people who take intense focus and a high opinion of their intellect to new heights. Don’t get me wrong. For some strange reason, I also like doctors. But as a group—they are missing that “sense of humor” gene.
Of course I understand that no one wants their MD to be some kind of stand-up comic. But nurses have to spend their entire work day interacting with a group of people that you have to explain the punchline of a joke to. Even the people in finance aren’t that bad. Between patients, their families and the doctors, lighter moments to break the stress are few and far between for nurses.
Which might explain why they turn on each other. Who else can they talk about and back to?
Still, you have to love them. I usually follow that comment with- no idea why you have love them, you just do. But that isn’t true. I know why.
It’s my friend who meets me at the gym every week to work on our weight loss program. We probably haven’t lost 2 pounds between us for the last year, but we have a great time at the gym. And there isn’t another person I would rather roam around with in the land of great bodies and spandex. (which, by the way, neither one of us wears!)
It’s my friend who put in a 60 hour week, but still spent one of her precious days off helping me paint rooms in my house. And didn’t hesitate when I made her approve the colors first—so I could blame someone else if no one liked them. I think she was onto my motive.
It’s my friend that laughed when I went to her house for a department get-together, and came out of her bathroom asking why the hell she had 10 different kinds of towels in there and not one of them looked like you should actually use it. She just rolled her eyes when I commented that it must be a “nursing thing”.
It’s my friend who has a very responsible, impressive job, but still looks as bewildered as I feel when we exchange stories about our daughters. She didn’t know what to do with hers anymore than I knew what to do with mine. Nice to have company in the I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-doing category despite all our years of higher education.
It’s my friend who loves baseball and has season tickets, and took me to one of the games where we spent the whole time in the bar. Certainly worked for me. I think she knew that. And she still walked around with me even after I bought a sparkly baseball cap. And wore it.
All of those memories make for great stories, and great friends. So while nurses may eat their young, and have some sort of secret handshake they use when they encounter another of their kind- you still have to love them. No question about that.
With Love to All of You!