Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Gentle Readers,

When I worked at the nursing home, long ago, I chose to work the night shift. I'm not sure why. It paid a little more. That didn't hurt. And I had done my clinicals during the day shift. I didn't care for the way the staff behaved during the day. The nurses were rude and lazy and the assistants were rude and lazy. To me they seemed far more concerned with getting their breaks than with getting their work done.

So I took the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. At first it was hell. But then this bond began to form between most of us. It wasn't something we really talked about. We just knew we wanted to provide better care and have better working relationships. So a group of us made it happen.

Staff members who couldn't get with the program soon left or were fired.

The night shift got better. The patients were cleaner and more comfortable. We cleaned out bedside table drawers and bathroom drawers that were filled with useless crap. Speaking of crap, I even found used toilet paper, and I'm talking used poopy toilet paper, in the drawer of a bedside table. A candy cane was in the drawer too. The patient was in a vegetative state. I don't know why in the hell anybody would give her a candy cane, and she certainly did not reach over after wiping her butt and put that toilet paper in her drawer.

Yes, night shift did better and better work because of our unspoken commitment and the bond we shared.

Yet, when we "got the report" from the charge nurse, she quite often told us about complaints from the day shift about how poor our work was. Supposedly, we spent the entire night sitting around reading the newspaper. A few people did act that way, but not many. We all took our meal breaks, but most of us did not take other breaks. There wasn't time. Our people needed us.

A few times when the day shift was very poorly staffed, like hardly anybody showed up for work, I went in to help and always regretted it. There I was, giving up my day off, and people treated me like shit -- treated me like I didn't do anything.

Haven't you fed so and so? Miss Snotty Ass asked me.

No, I replied. The charge nurse told me to do this so I'm doing it.

Miss Snotty Ass applauded sarcastically and walked away.

One time a day nurse noticed some bruises on my arms and asked how I had gotten them. Oh, I'm sure I just bumped into something. I bruise easily, I replied cavalierly.

Well, it looks, you know, like handcuffs, she said.

And I don't think she meant the pink furry kind.

I was appalled. I was Mrs. Lola Tweedledee. My husband was Dr. Iam Tweedledum. I was somebody around town. No one had ever spoken to me that way before. And it didn't really matter who I was. She had no business speaking that way to the lowliest among us. A friend of mine said to her, Lola is not that kind of a person.

That nurse got fired before long.

Then there was the day nurse who wouldn't get up off her ass and come to help me when I fell with a patient. The patient didn't seem to be hurt, Thank God, but I had hit my face on a table and had a black eye. More important, we needed to assess the patient and if she was o.k., we needed to get her in bed. She was very large and it would require several of us to get her in the Hoyer lift and in bed.

I went out and called to the nurse that I had fallen with a patient and needed help immediately. Then I started rounding up assistants to help us get the patient back into bed as long as she was not injured. The nurse said lackadaisically, Was it a fall or a lower? Meaning did I lower her to the floor or did we actually fall.

It was a fall.

She asked me again, Was it a fall or a lower?


The third time she asked me I lost it and shouted at her to get up and help. She finally unglued her ass from her chair and came down the hall. We checked out the patient with another nurse helping and determined she was not injured. She had no complaints of pain. When they were ready to put her in the Hoyer (mechanical) lift, I left the room and went to another floor where I knew one of my best colleagues was the charge nurse. I hid behind some file cabinets and burst into tears. She heard me and came to find out what was wrong. She called the HR person, who arranged for me to go home with the agreement that I would go to an occupational medicine clinic the next day to have my bruises looked at by a doctor.

I was so upset I could barely drive home.

The next time I worked my beloved 7 p. to 7 a., I told the night supervisor what had happened with the day shift nurse. She said, You're used to working with us at night.

There was something about being with a group of people at 3 a.m. and knowing we were all of one mind that brought out the best in us. That was my all-time favorite job.



  1. I miss night shift camaraderie. I never did get enough sleep, but it was worth it.

  2. You have a wonderful heart.

    I've never worked nights before, what a different world you must have experienced!

  3. Thank heavens for people like you and the fabulous night crew! Nothing gets my blood boiling faster than the lax attitudes of people who work with elderly or children. I don't get why these uncaring souls go into these lines of business! It should be a passion and heartfelt business of taking care of those less able than yourself but for some reason the heartless and lazy people seem to run most of these places! Irg...I better go cool my blood down...but I'm glad to hear about your heart and your passion to make a difference!

  4. It's sad but very true. Of all the times that my hubby was hospitalized and that was a lot, you could see the differences between the shifts and also the weekend crew too. This is a great story and I can't imagine you being anything but kind and caring about a patient. Hugs!

  5. The people who work at the rehab center where my nephew is are WONDERFUL. The love the elderly and making their last years as easy as they can. I have watched them when they didn't notice and all were just great. Busy, friendly, hugging and laughing. But if I get to that time and need to be in a home, I'll eat a bullet. Just setting there starring off into space, not knowing what day or time it is, is not my way of living. Oh! Wait! That's what I do now. Ummm! Where's my gun...

  6. Sadly, I can't do that work anymore because I broke my back. You can't be in health care and not be able to lift people. I was never so strong in my life as when I worked at the nursing home. I worked in a doctor's office later, but the doctor sucked and the staff was dysfunctional. It was sad.
    Suz, I admit I was tired all the time.
    Stephanie, You are so sweet. And it is a different world when you work nights. I worked Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, and sometimes picked up another shift for overtime on Tuesday or Wednesday. The hard part was having my daughter in private school and staying awake when I drove 30 minutes to pick her up.
    Padded Cell Princess, We had some people who were just plain evil. I don't know if they were like that when they started doing the work or if they became angry and jaded and didn't care anymore. I had to report abuse by another staff member once and it made me sick. I went home and cried for two days.
    Barb, Thank you so much. When I had grouchy patients, I just made jokes and laughed. A lady who was out of it threw her bed alarm at my head. I managed to catch it just before it hit me and that gave me a good laugh.
    Coffey, My kids have strict instructions not to put me in a nursing home. Anyone who has worked in a nursing home says the same thing. It's because we know how bad some employees are and how miserable most of the people are. I don't know which kid will kill me and what method they'll use, but if I come to in a nursing home, my kids had better run before I beat their butts.

  7. I work nights and days on the front desk of an inner city police station so I know what you mean about the differences. I prefer nights myself.

  8. Good co-workers mean so much. I mean, think about it, you spend a third of your life there.

  9. I've never even worked!

  10. It takes a very special person to work in a nursing home and especially to do it with pride and genuine caring. The night shift bond sounds like a cool thing.

    (I'm going to make a second attempt to get on your followers list - if it doesn't work, please come knocking & let me know, okay?)

  11. Nicki, I see you in my followers. Welcome!
    Tony, I'm a night person and I'm more comfortable staying up and sleeping during the day.
    Allen, Your co-workers can destroy your job if they want to.
    My 2 Pesos, If you are independently wealthy, I have a marriage proposal for you.

  12. I think that without the comradory of "groups" in the workplces, NONE of us would survive.

    I know I wouldn't.

    That being said, how wonderful that you gave the patients the care they deserved. Nursing homes are a VERY tough job, with a high turn rate. Go You!

  13. i imagine it is a different world working in a place like this. what a great crew.
    for similar reasons, i don't like leaving my dog (when i had one) in a kennel.

  14. Julianna, Thank you!
    Ed, I am a kennel hater too. You know the dogs don't get the attention they need.


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