It’s probably more than little trite to say the Emergency Department is a microcosm or laboratory of humanity, but like most clichés it has an element of truth. We see all types in the ED, the good, the ugly, and the purely despicable. (And then I could talk about the patients.) We’re human, after all. But in general, ED staff are as generous and warm-hearted as anybody anywhere. For example, when one of us is injured, or has a death in the family, or is seriously ill, we’ll take up a collection, and sometimes we raise surprisingly large amounts of money. Enough is donated, usually, to cover incidental expenses, and to keep our colleagues in need well-supplied with parking passes and Timbits while getting cancer treatment (for example) at Princess Margaret.
Well and good. Very nice. Pat on the back and warm fuzzies and Hero Medals for everyone.
A recent counter example: a colleague diagnosed a little while ago with a very serious and probably terminal illness. Fine, I said when I learned this coming into work. Where’s the envelope?
What envelope? came the reply.
“You know, I said, “the collection envelope.”
“Oh, there isn’t one.” An embarrassed laugh. “You know, Jane is really irritating and no one really likes her.”
I got it. In my ED, evidently, supporting and helping a colleague is a popularity contest. If you’re well-liked and “one of the girls,” it’s roses and wine and parades. If not, you get the proverbial lump of coal in the stocking. Jane, it seems (a little sadly) had anticipated all of this voiceless nastiness, and was refusing visitors from all but her closest friends. Yes, we aren’t that far away from high school after all, and nourishing a sense of compassion evidently doesn’t rate very high on self-improvement.
My nurse colleagues are smart and engaged and have empathy by the yard. I love them all for their exquisite skills in nursing, but sometimes I really don’t like them much at all. This would be one of those times.
Also: this only goes to prove the point that nurses aren’t angels. They can be jerks and asshats like anyone else.