I made it home today.
I have a child, soon to be 2 small children who depend on me to make it home everyday.
Today, it dawned upon me in the most horrifying manner possible that me making it home everyday is never 100% guaranteed.
Today there was a shooting in the medical office building across the street. Up until last year it was a building that I frequented almost everyday. Up until 4 years ago I worked in that building.
I’ve seen it happening on the news in recent years. I even heard one of those stories about it happening at the hospital I used to work at yeeeaaarrrsss ago according to the experienced night shift I used to hang with. I got the impression it was before I was born, but I never asked. When I was single it was something that I never let bother me.
Today it does.
A dozen years ago when I started down this path, there was no discussion of patient upon healthcare giver violence. None. Zip. Zero. I myself have been physically assaulted by a patient. Did I report it or do anything about it? No. When I started: what happened on shift, stayed on shift. The culture was to keep your mouth shut. Things have changed, times have changed. Assaults have become an everyday, sometimes several times a day event for a nurse working in direct patient care. With that came the advent of training aimed at deescalating a patient. When that didn’t work lawmakers started started making assaults against us felonies. OK, but I’m not sure that it has done much to slow the mounting violence.
Then weapons became commonplace.
And now our lives are in danger in a whole new way.
We’ve been prepared for the possibility that we may come down with a disease while caring for our patients. The recent healthcare workers who have become infected with Ebola while caring for the ill are shining examples of the risks we are prepared to take everyday and shrug it off a “just part of the job.” But nursing school had no self defense class if you should be hit. And no part of any textbook I ever read addressed what to do when an irate patient created a hostage situation.
Getting shot or stabbed is not part of my job.
Nurses and doctors work hard everyday. Every. Single. Moment. To take care not just of an individual’s health, but also the health of a population at large. Everytime one of us makes a decision that may seem mean, cruel, or unpopular it usually has a good reasoning behind it. Although it may not seem it, I am working in your best interest. That is my primary responsibility. Although my company wants me to to perform at the top of patient surveys so they can be popular ultimately they take a back seat to doing what is right. I may lose my job if I don’t do what is popular but I will still get to be a nurse if I do what is right (nursing professor’s lecture still rings in my head). 99.5% of the time I get to be both. It is the 0.5% of the time that scares me senseless.
What is right is not always popular.
But that does not give patients the right to hurt us/kill us because of it.
When I tell you that you can no longer have your narcotic medication, please don’t shoot me.
When I tell you that you cannot have antibiotics for your sinus infection, please don’t shoot me.
When I tell you that your particular request has been denied by the doctor, please don’t shoot me.
When you are upset that you had to wait longer that you expected, please don’t shoot me.
When you are annoyed that I am not available to speak with you, because I am speaking with someone else, please don’t shoot me.
Please remember that I am not a mindless drone. My life does not exist 8AM-5PM and there are people outside of those hours that depend on me. 2 small people. I spend my days taking care of you so that you can be with the people who depend on you. Please allow me to make it through the day so I can be there for the people who depend on me.
Don’t Hurt Me.
Don’t hit me. Don’t bite me. Don’t throw things at me. Don’t stab me. Don’t shoot me. Please and Thank You.
It should go without saying that this same lesson applies to all my fellow workers in public health and safety (EMTs, Firefighters, Police, etc.) They work for you too. They work in your best interest to so you can make it home to the people you love. Please let them make it home to the people they love too.
To the officer that made it possible for my colleagues to make it home tonight: Ma’am, from the bottom of my heart, Thank You. It could have been me. It wasn’t. Because of you I (and everybody) made it home today.