It’s the middle of January *2006. I have been a nurse on the night shift for about six months. My patient load tonight is insane. Part of it is my fault. I ask to keep the patient at the end of the hall even though the rest of my group is at the other end. The thing is, I am worried about him. He is in room *417. *details and names are changed for privacy.*
Mr. 417 has been in the hospital for several weeks. When I first meet him, he is a cantankerous grouch. He does not like being stuck in bed with the tube snaking out of his nostril and connected to suction. He is unable to eat, so we continuously drip nutrients like lipids, glucose, and vitamins into his veins.
I am still inexperienced, and completely naive about the seriousness of his condition. Yes, he is quite old, but has always been healthy up to this point.
I dote on my little cranky man, pick up extra shifts, and ensure that he is well cared for. Mr. 417 is excessively difficult to please. Everything has to be just so, and I have our routine down pat.
It is three in the morning. I have been running from room to room all night. I am doing a bowel prep for a colonoscopy in room 405 and the patients in 402 and 407 are call light happy. I am in Mr. 417’s room about every 20 minutes to check on him, and to try to find some relief for his discomfort- all to no avail.
I am busy giving a bed bath in room 405, and unable to check on him from 0235 until 0300. When I finish my tasks I hurry to check on him. What I find is a new nurse’s worst nightmare. I run to get my charge nurse, and we get an ABG and a CXR. Obviously in shock. I have to call a doctor and get some help for my patient.
I pick up the phone and dial the number. I ask the answering service who is on call that night. When she answers, I promptly hang up and burst into tears. I am one of those annoying people who cry at the first sign of stress.
Oh, the call light is going off. My patient in room 405 has tried to get up and navigate her way to the bathroom without assistance. The Golytely effects hit her rapidly. There is a very large problem all over her room. We do not have a nurse’s aide tonight.
I have to call the doctor. Let’s call him Dr. Snape. Everyone knows that is not his real name. In my hospital, he is infamous. This is a man who does not like to be woken up. Nurses dread calling him, and almost everyone has a Dr. Snape story. His reputation is legendary. He is also known as one of the best doctors.
I beg my charge nurse to call him for me. She refuses, however we do have an impromptu practice conversation. I take notes. I gather his chart, and make sure I have current vital signs, I&Os, and lab work available.
I take a deep breath, and with shaking hands call the answering service back. I sit there and silently rehearse what I am going to say. The phone rings, and the call is transferred to me.
I ramble my rehearsed speech, my words hurried and breathless. The patient’s name, room number, admitting diagnosis, admitting physician, and why I am calling. I do not stop speaking until I get all of that out, then my voice trails off uncertainly because I do not know what to do next and I have yet to take a breath for fear that he will interrupt me.
Dr. Snape is silent on the other end for a few seconds and I am shaking with anxiety. He starts asking questions. He wants details. Not only about tonight, but about the events that have led up to tonight. Who was his surgeon? What did they find? What medications is he on? How long as he been on them? Is he fluid overloaded? Did he smoke? What did he do for a living? When was his last set of cultures drawn? What is the plan from oncology? Where is his family? What does the patient want? Does he know how sick he is? Does he have children? I am fairly certain he asked me who the man took to senior prom. (looking back, it seems that after a minute, he was testing me.)
Then, this exchange:
“What was his respiratory rate before?” I nervously double-check my notes.
I respond “Between 22 and 24.” Without skipping a beat Dr. Snape asks “Wouldn’t that be 23?”
I have been on the phone, shaking, and speaking in rapid, unsure answers for what feels like an eternity. I miss the joke. “Ummm. Yes, sir. That would indeed be 23.” The nurses are gathered in a curious and supportive circle around me. There is a titter which feeds my anxiety. I wish I were anywhere else in the world at that moment.
When Dr. Snape asks who the respiratory therapist and charge nurse are- I am so relieved. I hurriedly respond “*Nurse Ratchet, would like to speak to her?” and without waiting for an answer, I abruptly put him on hold, transfer the call, and burst into tears. I am convinced I am an utter failure. I contemplate switching careers. Then, I rush off to take care of Mr. 417. I have to transfer him to ICU. I see Dr. Snape in the unit when I am dropping off the rest of the patient’s belongings, and I avert my eyes and scurry away.
The rest of my night is a mess. I worry about my patient, and I have a ton of things to do since my routine was interrupted. I go home that morning feeling like a terrible nurse, and wondering if I am even capable of this job.
The next day, I walk into the break room at the beginning of my shift, and find this in my mailbox. *It has been edited to leave out identifying information. *Well, that is weird. What does this mean? Isn’t that my job? Oh, well I am flattered. Obviously. I still have it after all these years. It lives in a metal box. Along with a copy of the recommendation letter he wrote for me when I was applying for a fellowship after grad school.
This night is one of the defining moments of my career. It is the beginning of my relationship with one of my mentors. It took me years to get over being too intimidated to speak to him, but once I did, I was pleasantly surprised.
Night shift nursing brings about a completely different relationship with physicians than day shift. You typically only see physicians when there is a crisis. For many of them, they have been awake all day working, and this is the time they should be at home asleep. It makes it difficult to foster overly friendly relationships.
However, given enough time and exposure, you eventually do. Over time I learned how to be prepared for my encounters with them, and that made their job easier, which helped reduce some of the stress. I learned how to see them as people instead of doctors. I like them a lot more as people. Totally less scary.
One day, after I had been working closely with him as part of my clinical training for nurse practitioner school, I mentioned that night. He immediately remembered. He did not know it was me though.
He was an awesome teacher while I was learning how to be a mid-level. He sought out chances to challenge me, and he was quick to correct and to give me feedback on the job I was doing. Now, to be honest, I hit the jackpot when I chose preceptors. I picked them for their willingness to teach, and they all gave their time and expertise generously. I am so grateful for these physicians and nurse practitioners.
But, this is about Daddy Issues. How on earth does that apply to this nursing story. Well, duh… because it is my story. Remember me? The girl with daddy issues?
I started noticing a trend to my relationships with a few of my mentors. Especially with ******* (you know, Work Mommy) and the one who became Work Daddy. The two of them were the ones that I sought out for advice. I respected their opinions, and felt that they understood my goals and aspirations. The joke became that they were Work Mommy and Work Daddy. (Don’t worry- Work Mommy has a story too!)
Now, while it was initially a joke, I see how it is applicable. As I mentioned in Daddy Issues Part I, parents are our first mentors (or they should be, anyway) and when your mentor is also somewhat responsible for you as an employee, it is easy to see how mentorship could be similar to a parental role. These are the people I come to when I need help. They are the ones who offer guidance and recommendations for my future.
It is their opinions I trust. I feel like they have my best interests at heart when they offer me advice. I am never afraid to tell them when I do not know something, and I am not afraid to take chances and risk looking foolish for asking questions.
Mentors are so important in life. They are coaches who develop skills. They are people who are interested in how your career affects you personally. In some instances if you are lucky, they become friends. — although, that may change if Work Daddy finds out I called him Dr. Snape.
***I would like to point out that Alan Rickman is a very commanding presence. Also, Professor Snape did kinda turn out to be a hero in the end- He always looked out for Harry, and tried to protect him. This is where the pseudonym came from.
One last thing, I am so grateful for the experiences I have had with my mentors, and I would not trade any of it for anything. Quite basically, I am a lucky girl.
*** update. Work Daddy is no longer my employer, however he remains a treasured friend and mentor. ~10/29/2015 ♥️LQ