Housekeeping Blues


Now I’ll be the first to wholeheartedly agree that without good housekeeping staff, no institution functions properly. They are the backbone of any hospital, Medical Center, nursing home, etc. That being said, they can sometimes offer up humor without trying, just like any of the rest of us.

This past week in the ER, we had an interesting experience. I had a elderly patient that had an unfortunate experience in the bathroom. An enema gone wrong, and diarrhea that somehow ended up covering the walls and also the floor near the toilet.

We called housekeeping and let them know the bathroom would need a thorough cleaning. After the patient left, housekeeping came to clean and we warned them how bad it was and that they would want shoe covers and gowns.

They dressed up like they were going into major surgery. They were covered head to toe in blue throwaway gowns, caps, shoe covers, eye protection… it was like aliens were invading that bathroom. Or so we thought. We saw them from the doorway cleaning the whole room– floors, walls top to bottom, mirrors, equipment–they even took the clock down and cleaned behind it! We were so impressed they were going the extra mile –although we didn’t quite understand their reasoning, we weren’t complaining. They finished and left, and soon another nurse went to put a patient in that room. She took the patient to the bathroom in that room and handed them a specimen cup for a urine sample. Soon the nurse and patient came hustling out of the door and headed for another room. When we asked what was wrong, the nurse said “There’s diarrhea all over that bathroom!”

Completely puzzled, we called housekeeping to come back. What were they possibly thinking, meticulously cleaning the room itself and not the bathroom where the actual mess was?

It wasn’t long before we found out. And when we did, we were rolling on the floor laughing. Tears were coming down our faces– I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time!

(And remember, friends, you can’t make this stuff up. Absolutely priceless.)

When we asked the two ladies who had cleaned so diligently before and yet missed the mess altogether, here is what their response was. ” We thought the mess was in the patient room itself, not the bathroom, and since we didn’t see any mess in the room, we thought it was that kind of diarrhea that is the clear diarrhea!” Huh? Clear diarrhea?? “Yeah, you know, the clear kind!”

Omg, smh, lol. ūüėúūüėāūü§Ēūü§£

                           Nurse Ames, RN



The Circle of Life

¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. ¬†What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†–Jane Goodall

I hear the 911 call go out over the police scanner. ¬†EMS is responding to the local grocery store. ¬†A customer has passed out while paying for groceries and has gashed his head open while falling and hitting the countertop. ¬†Soon EMS encodes with information about the patient they are bringing us. ¬†My heart drops. ¬†It’s my old doctor, retired for many years now. ¬†He helped raise me–kept me healthy until I was grown, married, and moved away. ¬†I’ve moved back, and now it’s my turn to care for him. ¬†He’s 85, suffering from stomach cancer, and has a heart dysrhythmia. ¬†Still the same kind, professional doc he always was. ¬†Although I believe in giving equal care to all my patients, no matter their background, today he will be getting the gold star treatment. ¬† This man has helped shape the medical community in our small town, working tirelessly to bring about the new hospital we work in, always caring about the good of the people. Always putting the needs of others ahead of himself. ¬† So my fellow nurse and I give him the best care we know how. We joke around with him as he does us to lighten the mood. ¬†He says he is in a hurry to get home. ¬†He has guests at the house, whom he was buying the groceries for when he passed out. ¬†He doesn’t want to keep them waiting. ¬†(There’s a joke in there somewhere about always waiting on a doctor, but I keep it to myself. ) ¬†His wife shows up. ¬†He assures her he’s fine. ¬†He goes on to tell us in front of her that his stomach cancer has been asymptomatic so far. We know she has early dementia and he doesn’t want to worry her, so we nod our heads and say nothing. ¬†We don’t comment on how bad his color is, or how much weight he has lost. Or the fact that he passed out today for no apparent reason. ¬† Deep down, we know he knows the truth–he’s too good of a doctor to ignore all the signs. ¬†If only there was something we could do to pay him back for all he has done for our little town over the many decades he has served here. ¬†But we have no magic pill or concoction. ¬†I know he is a praying man, so I send up a prayer that God be with him and show him favor. ¬†I bandage his head wound and attend his other needs as kindly as I can. ¬†I give him a tetanus shot and joke with him that it’s payback for all the vaccinations I got in his doctor’s office over the years. ¬†Still, he is anxious to return home to his waiting guests. ¬†Always thinking of others before himself. ¬†Finally, he gets his discharge orders and he is clearly eager to leave. ¬†We wish him well and help him to his car. ¬†Giving him discharge orders felt rather like a joke–telling a doctor of 60+years what concussion symptoms to watch for seemed silly. ¬†He smiled graciously and acknowledged my instructions, and happily went home to his guests. ¬†Meanwhile, I discussed with his grandson (also a doctor) the implications of his fall today. What the future might hold, what course of action they might take from here. ¬†That’s just it, though. That’s the kicker. ¬†None of us know what the future holds. ¬†Just because we may have done great things doesn’t mean cancer won’t kick our butts at the end of life. ¬†Or a vicious stroke maim and rob us of any quality of life, despite our best efforts at making the world a better place. ¬†Life sure isn’t fair sometimes.

As for me, this is what being a nurse is all be able to give back to the community, to be a part of a never-ending cycle of care and support. ¬†The medical community is always evolving, always changing. ¬†But those who are fortunate enough to live in a small town know this; being a part of a tight-knit community that cares for its members through all stages of life is immensely gratifying. ¬†You’re not just a medical number on a chart, you’re the grandson of the hairdresser I used in highschool, you’re the son of the art teacher my kid had in 3rd grade, you’re the UPS driver’s wife, you’re the elementary school secretary that everyone knows and loves, or yes, even the retired town doctor. It’s the circle of life, when you think about it. A word of advice? ¬†Take a page out of the good ole’ doc’s book on life and treat others kindly because you never know when you’ll¬†be the next person in need. ¬†What comes around goes around. ¬†Karma. The golden rule..”Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.. ¬†Whichever version of the old adage floats your boat. ¬†It’s not only what being a good nurse is all about, but also a decent human being. ¬†Pass it on.¬†

                   Nurse Ames, RN


“I’m 91..I’m too young to die.”

She’s 91 years young, she drives a Mustang convertible with an epic sound system, she cooks, cleans, goes to the beauty parlour every week, and keeps her nails a beautiful deep red. ¬†She’s hell on wheels, this patient of mine. ¬† This morning her husband wakes up at 4am and finds her “different”. ¬†He waits until 7:45am to bring her to the ER. ¬†Too much time has passed for any life-saving clot buster agents to reverse the massive ischemic stroke she has suffered. So, we hang an IV drip for her sky-high blood pressure and give palliative care otherwise. ¬†Family members sit at her bedside, willing her to come back from the brink of death, to start moving all her limbs, to open her eyes and talk to them, to take a sip of water to relieve her dry mouth. ¬†Instead, she thrashes restlessly in bed, not responding to any questions, never opening her eyes, occasionally mumbling “help me”. ¬†She has lost the use of the right side of her body, although she does not appear aware of this. ¬†We tell the family as kindly as possible to expect the worst, but that only God knows what lies ahead for her.

Life has a way of kicking you in the seat of your pants. ¬†Strokes are one of the final ways it does so for the elderly. ¬†It’s particularly unkind–robbing you of quality of life, and then of life itself. ¬†As for my little powerhouse of a patient, her days of driving her Mustang convertible are over. Her red nail polish is already removed so we can get accurate oxygen readings. ¬†She has cooked her last meal for her sweet husband, and the cleaning will be done by someone else hereafter. ¬†She now resides in that realm somewhere between this world and the next while her family looks on with sorrow.

Remember this when you consider whether you have time to visit a loved one this weekend.  Go to them, enjoy time with them, hug them and tell them you love them.  Teach your children to do the same, so someday they will come visit you.  Life is fleeting, live it well.

 Nurse Ames RN

grayscale photography of patient and relative holding hands
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