August 31, 2005, 4:47 am

Take This Job And…Well…Do It!

I think Nurse Cherry needs an update. What hasn’t she done? Hmmmm….

How about “Cherry Ames, Correctional Facility Nurse” or “Cherry Ames, Substance Abuse Nurse”. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area so even “Cherry Ames, Transgender Nurse” would not be impossible.

She was never a critical care nurse, an ER nurse, an OR nurse, a transplant nurse, a nursing instructor or a clinical nurse specialist.

Good grief, what did the woman DO?? Besides sitting around smiling or standing around posing.

I bet she was never burnt out.


Burn out.

It’s an empty gas tank.

Hitting the wall.

Going numb.

Losing compassion. Not caring. Going through the motions.

Dreading the next shift two days ahead. Being in tears the day of the shift.

Feeling like you should call in dead.

It’s having nothing of yourself left to give; it’s all you can do to lift one leg in front of the other.

It’s hell.

Been there, done that, wiped up body fluids with the T-shirt.

A few years ago I decided I had had enough.

It was night shift from hell at Inferior Medical Facility.

I had a demented, elderly AIDS patient who spent eight hours screaming every known cuss word in the universe and described me in ways I STILL haven’t figured out.

To sum it up, he thought I was a ‘ho.

And of course he needed an IV, a foley and an NG. After four hours of this, I actually got him to be quiet for an half-an-hour by telling him, complete with hand on hip and index finger rocking, that…ahem…”…don’ you be dissin’ me in my ‘hood. I don’ disrespect you, you don’ dis me. You in MY ‘hood now so shut yo mouth.”

This out of a middle aged woman who makes Wonder Bread look ethnic.

The poor man closed his mouth and shut right up.

I think he was shocked. I know I was. I could hear giggling at the nurses’ station.

Across the hall was a four-point-leather restrained drunk patient screaming vile obscenities that made the old man sound like Mr. Rogers.

The highlight of the night was looking over and seeing urine flowing from the bed, forming a puddle that made Lake Tahoe look miniscule by comparison.

I left the unit that morning with a mission.

I was done with nursing. I wanted a desk job. Nine-to-five. Monday through Friday. Weekends and holidays off. No more blood. No more tubes.

No more death.


I found the perfect job doing pediatric telephone triage.

My co-workers warned me that I was an ER nurse at heart and that I would be bored stiff in six months.

Yeah, right.

The job was fun, the people were fantastic, talking to the parents and guiding them through their kids’ illnesses was fulfilling.

I had my own desk, my own computer and I learned more about pediatrics in that first six months than I had in all the years before. I could wear street clothes if I wanted but after one week of nylons at 6:00 am, I was back in scrubs. I was living the life. And then it happened.

I got bored.

The slow summer season started and surfing the internet between calls just wasn’t cutting it.

All my certifications came up for renewal and working in a clinic meant I didn’t have to have my TNCC or my ACLS or my ENPC or my NRP……..but I couldn’t let them go.

I missed the ER. I wanted to go back.

Monday through Friday isn’t all it is cracked up to be. I was working a day shift when I’m a night owl so I had to make myself go to bed early. I gained 25 pounds because I was sitting on my derriere all day. There is no life working 9-5. You spend all your time on the weekend catching up on what you missed during the week.

I thought the grass would be greener on the other side, but it was more like astroturf.

Now I’m back in ER and loving it.

I’m glad I had the clinic experience; I gained a lot of pediatric knowledge.

I guess the nurse can leave the ER, but the ER never leaves the nurse.


  • kenju

    August 31, 2005 at 11:45 am

    Ha! Astroturf – that’s a good way to describe it. But think about it, if you had not walked on that astroturf, you wouldn’t know how much you really appreciate the fresh green grass of the emergency room, would ya’?

  • Kim

    August 31, 2005 at 10:23 pm

    That’s absolutely true! And I got a lot of good experience out of the experience!

  • Gypsybobocowgirl

    September 1, 2005 at 8:52 pm

    I’ve been lucky to do a little of both. I spend most of my time as a desk jockey, but then get called for fun things…like today I got to teach the critical care nurse interns how to assist with a TEE and Cardioversion. I ended up teaching one of them the fine art of stealing anesthesia out from under the cath lab. Now that’s a lesson he’ll never forget.

  • Karen

    September 10, 2005 at 6:12 pm

    I’m a total night owl. I once said to my husband, “When I finally earn my RN license, I will be all over that night shift!” He looked at me with these puppy-dog eyes and said, “But when will I get to see you?” Sigh.

    It’s so refreshing and inspiring to read about nurses who love their jobs and do them well!

    Btw, I’d love to see a “Cherry Ames, Transgender Nurse”. 🙂 I miss the Bay Area (went to college there).

  • Holly

    October 2, 2005 at 4:03 am

    Have you ever thought of compiling your stories into a book? Think the Emergency Nurses Association would sell it in the ENA Marketplace!!! I really enjoy reading your postings and have forwarded your blog address to several ED Nurse Friends. By the way, I am a nurse manager (of 1.5 years after 16 years on the “frontlines” and I loved your nurse manager posting! Thanks and Keep writing.

  • Erica

    July 12, 2006 at 5:49 am

    Your “makes Wonder bread look ethnic” passage struck me. Had much the same experience with an agitated drunk middle-aged African-American patient who kept getting out of bed & teetering around giving all of us a hard time. I finally said, with same hand-on-hip and finger-wagging, “I want you ta sit y’ass down and hush up.” He laughed, sat, and said “You sounded black just then.” He cooperated with me for the rest of the shift.

  • Canadian ER Nurse

    July 19, 2006 at 6:46 pm

    Kim, I ama 13 year vet of the ER in a large teaching facility here in Ottawa, Ontario. Funny, I googled “ER RN Burnout” and your blog came up! I love the ER, have left twice to gain experience in the management and teaching realms. I returned about a year ago as, like you I was BORED – missed the Nights, the comraderie. I am very good at what I do and usually get much satisfaction out of working the ER. Recently however,I am feeling like I can’t give anymore, cannot take one more “Is it my turn yet?” or “When will the Doctor be here!”. I am feeling physically unwell and I dread going to work. I am off on “Medical Leave” for a week – they want me off for another. Any ideas that would help me gain my love for ER back??? (and fast) I know ER is short and needs the hand

  • Sheryl

    December 8, 2006 at 9:06 am

    LOL, beat you to it! I am a Correctional Facility Nurse at a Max facility in my state. Since I’m also way post-op MTF, that would make me a very good prototype for either “Cherry Ames, Transsexual Nurse” or “Cherry Ames, Corerctional Facility Nurse.” Of course, I’d have to learn to smile and pose a lot more. Oh, and we don’t wear those little caps any more, LOL.

    BTW, I do NOT live in California; so, the “impossibility factor” is a lot more doable than you think.

  • John Fider

    January 31, 2013 at 10:21 am

    Forgive me. This following comment is a story pitch and not really a comment to your post. I did not know how else to contact you. Your Contact Me page isn’t working and this was the only avenue I could think of. If I was you, I would be quite annoyed by this, so pls forgive me. I made sure to choose an older post so as not to clutter your newer material.

    My goal is to spread the word about my website, Before you delete this comment, do visit the site. It is related to nursing. I know bec I am a nurse as well, from Harrisburg, PA. I designed the site for patients, about nurses. Its a place where patients can share their hospital experience and “express their appreciation” for their nurses.
    I do hope you consider featuring us in your blog. It would greatly help us. And if you don’t mind a little bragging, we’re quite proud of our internet start-up. Not only is it a unique idea, but also a site that brings much recognition to us nurses!

    John Fider RN

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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