Even after 25 years as a nurse, it's so hard working that 7 to 7 shift at a county hospital. I take great pride in my job and I work hard. People don’t realize the physical toll it can take on your body.
That particular morning I ached all over from wrestling "Mr. Johnson" into leather restraints after his alcohol withdrawal antics became violent.
Back at work, feeling positive, and loaded with caffeine, I go in to answer a call light. I see this patient’s dressing is soaked. So I glove up. He asks if I'm going to wait for the nurse. I smile and say I am the nurse. By this time I see the blood has started to drop to the floor and I approach him and he tells me to call "the other nurse.”
It was an all-female staff that day, so it couldn’t be that I was a woman. I was the oldest person on duty that shift so it couldn’t be my age. No. After growing up in Louisiana and years of living in Texas, I knew exactly by the inflection in his voice what he meant when he said “the other nurse.”
But I played along. If he was going to be prejudice, I was going to make him say it. I take my gloves off and paged Suzy. When the Asian lady walked in, he said, “No.” Then Maria, the Hispanic nurse, he said, “No.” Anna, the Pakistani nurse? “No,” he said. “The other nurse.”
Jill, the Caucasian 25-year-old nurse, walks to the room. She looks bewildered as she proceeds to tell him she is still under training with me and would prefer that I do.
He isn’t happy about it. But he let's me change the dressing. And I do so with a smile.
They don’t teach you how to respond to this when you’re in training. But the first time this happened to me I was in nursing school. I was very upset. And when it happened again and again, I wasn’t always as calm about it. But since then, I’ve developed a thick skin. It bothers me less now. Maybe that’s because it’s simply the norm. It happens maybe once every two to three weeks, now.
The first thing that goes through my mind is, “How can people be so ignorant?” I feel sorry for them because they miss out on a lot of life by excluding minorities.
But it doesn’t only affect me. When this happened, Jill was upset. She was embarrassed. I told her not to worry about it. I do expect my coworkers to speak up. And sometimes they do. But many times they just kind of stand there and look uncomfortable.
In 25 years, there hasn’t been much of a shift in opinions and treatment. After all these years, things haven’t really changed. At this point in my life, I’ve really stopped being hurt by it. That day, I wasn't there to change his mind about how he felt about minorities. I was just there to change a dressing.