This Food Was Great!....When It Was Hot (and other adventures in Nursing)
If you're a parent, especially a mom, a single mom, or a dad who has to be a mom too, you are painfully acquainted with the "Cold Plate Special". You know what I'm referring to. You spend at least an hour making a home cooked meal for your family, you manage to get everyone seated at the same table at the same time, serve everyone's plate, only to watch the steam slowly fade from your mashed potatoes and the salad that you dressed so perfectly become soggy. Why? Well, the best example is in the film A Christmas Story. If you have not seen this movie, reach up out of the mossy ground, shove aside that rock you've been living under, and get to your closest streaming service. It's a classic. Mom doesn't get to sit down for more than a nanosecond before her offspring, either the ones she actually birthed or the one she married, asks for seconds, for more milk, for ketchup. It's universal.
In the field of nursing, it is no different. In fact, I truly believe nurses have taken mealtime misery to a new level. Whether you are a frugal, health conscious nurse who spends the last part of her evening putting together a colorful, nutrient dense meal to fuel her (or his) workday, or a fly by the seat of your pants, DoorDash ordering, vending machine officionado like me, if a nurse will get to eat ANYTHING during the course of their 12 hour shift is anyone's guess. I am lucky enough to work in a facility that offers lunch and dinner to staff at an extremely reasonable price, and the food is quite good. In general, though, a nurse's day is so hectic that I personally have to set an alarm to REMIND me to go get the food from the kitchen! I pick up my food, and it smells glorious, so I get back to the nurse's station (because who gets to eat in a breakroom?) and sit down to shovel in a few bites before going back to work, because I know that when I return to my meal, it will be cold. This is a fact. It is not uncommon even for those nurses who are disciplined enough to pack their lunch the night before to sit down at 4:30 in the afternoon to eat their food, if they get to at all. Now, there are a few select nurses who manage to slither away to a distant breakroom for thirty minutes, but for most of us, we eat as we chart, constantly interrupted by patients, family members, nurse's aides, therapy, and (gasp!) even management. Someone needs a Percocet right this second, only to report a pain level of 3/10 when you arrive in their room with said Percocet, short of breath and probably with a little ketchup in the corner of your mouth. Someone sees you trying to inhale your peanut butter crackers and cold coffee, saying, "I'm so sorry to bother you. I can see you're eating......BUT....", and the next thing you know you're staring at a reddened scrotum that you've already been treating, simply because they wanted to make sure you saw it. Your sweet little confused patient is shuffling her way into the nurse's station to ask you if dinner is at 5 or 5:30, and you politely tell her, as you have done every day that week, that it is at 5:30. Eventually, you just give up, throw the food in the trash, and tell yourself you could live off your own body fat for months.
There is an argument for the missed meal, however. What goes in must eventually come out. It is a well known fact that nurses have bladders the size of a saddlebag. and we are famous for working 12 hour shifts without EVER going to the bathroom once. We will also be the first ones to tell you that this is not healthy. It's a one way ticket to a urinary tract infection, and yet we do it constantly. Just for your amusement, visualize me standing in front of the med cart, one leg crossed over the other, bouncing up and down and praying the sensation will pass long enough for me to get to a bathroom. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes I make my way to the loo as fast as I can while urine basically just falls out of me. Too much info? Well, then nursing may not be for you.
We don't eat because they need to. We wait to go to the bathroom because they can't get up on their own to go to the bathroom. Or worse yet, they are completely incontinent and we can't in good conscience let them stay like that for risk of infection. We put ourselves last because it is our job to put them first. Don't get me wrong, we all have to take care of ourselves so that we can be there to take care of others, but we save that for our non-working hours. So I will leave my hot food to get that patient a Percocet, because a 3/10 pain level to one person is a 9/10 to another. I will go and assess that rash or abrasion or skin tear or other wound because I know that it is the other person's job to make sure they are able to document that they made the resident's nurse aware of the issue. And I will smile at that sweet, confused little woman and tell her that dinner is at 5:30 for the millionth time, because to her, it is the first time. And because I adore these people.
I am a nurse.