Worse Than Taking The NCLEX
By Allison Palmer, ASRN Staff Writer
It's happening again. My stomach is in knots, my heart is pounding in my chest, my palms are sweating, my mouth is dry, and I think my vision is beginning to blur. I've been struck again. No, I'm not having a heart attack, though I've often wished I could fake a fainting spell to get out of the mess I've found myself in. No, all of this is just the result of being attacked, yet again, by the dreaded "You're a Nurse. . ." virus.
The "You're a Nurse" virus is an evil little bug that just can't be stopped. It's spread in an instant becoming air born in the merest whisper of a friend of a friend who just happens to mention they know a nurse. It's the proud parent at the family reunion validating their own existence by sharing your success with anyone who will listen. It's the nosey older woman who sits on the bench behind you at church. It's accidentally wearing your uniform to the grocery store.
Then it begins. Given this new knowledge the person's eyes get a little bigger, their face might turn a little red, they take a deep breath and begin, "You're a Nurse. . . ." Next comes the complaint, quickly followed by the question. Their eyes implore you to "fix me" by imparting some golden nugget of knowledge that only you can possibly reveal.
Because you are a nurse the world somehow expects you to hold the holy grail of life in the palm or your hand and a wealth of sometimes very trivial data in your brain. So here it goes.
"You're a nurse, can you tell me why my doctor changed my medication?"
"You're a nurse, can you tell me when I should feel the baby move?"
"You're a nurse, does this rash look normal to you?"
"You're a nurse, do you think this needs stitches?"
"You're a nurse, can you tell me why my second toe is longer than my big toe?"
The list of complaints and questions go on an on. All those things no one wants to bother their doctor with, or the nurse who is getting paid to field these questions for him, suddenly come tumbling out in casual conversation with you. Hardly anyone bothers to find out exactly what kind of nurse you are. All that matters is that you are a nurse. Although, heaven help you when you run into someone who knows exactly what you do for a living; then, the questions get really tricky.
It's worse than passing the NCLEX. At least there you had multiple choice answers and you knew one of them was right. With "You're a Nurse" questions you can't study for them, may never have heard of the problem before, and you are expected to answer in essay form. Oh yeah, my palms sweat.
Sometimes you can get out of it. Sometimes you can't. Even more of a problem is this nasty age of liability that we live in. You may know the answer, but. . . What's a nurse to do?
1. Fake an area of expertise. "I'm sorry, I delivery babies. If it doesn't have to do with a uterus I haven't dealt with it since nursing school."
2. Ask for "research" time and conveniently forget to do it.
3. Move to a foreign country where you don't speak the language.
4. Answer with, "Hmm, I'm not sure but I'd suggest you see your doctor."
5. Suggest one of those awesome online answer sites where they can make themselves truly paranoid by self-diagnosing.
6. Go for med-speak and throw in a bunch of words they'll never understand anyway.
Above all else, speak with kindness and a touch of wisdom and you will be worshipped forever. Oh, and carry your own malpractice insurance in case the lady in the check out line decides she didn't like your free advice.
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