March 25, 2009, 9:18 am


capnoseMuch to the amusement of her classmates, Nurse Jones belatedly discovers she is allergic to her nursing cap.

If that cap was any larger, she’ d be into “Flying Nun” territory.

Aw, who am I kidding.  I didn’t have a capping ceremony, but I bawled my eyes out when I put that plain white cap on my head for the first time. It was my second quarter of nursing school.  I was nineteen, and had coveted that cap for ten years.

I wore it around the house.

And how proud I was when I could add the green stripe at the beginning of the second year lay the gold stripe under it my last quarter!

I have a pristine version of it in my closet right now.  I’d kill to wear it again.  I still get chills when I put it on.

As it is,  I just pull it out for Nurses Week in May.

My colleagues tease me.

My patients love it.

(For the record, that is a photo of Dorothy Bradley, taken in New York in December of 1949 by photographer Martha Holmes for Life Magazine.)



Don’t forget, Change of Shift will be here at Emergiblog next Thursday!

I’ve already gotten some wonderful submissions! If you send it, I will post it!

Unless you are a spammer. I don’t care how you spin it, I cannot justify the inclusion of poodle grooming, prom dresses or commiserate with you over the “bad rap” dietary fat is given.

Everybody else? My in-box awaits your submission!


Code blue.

Overhead page.


Why the hell an ER nurse has to respond to these is beyond me. Fifty thousand staff members all monitor certified and an ER nurse has to go.

Tonight, that’s me.


I grab the intubation bags.

Oh, there is intubation material upstairs but our docs like specific things.

Not a problem, they’re easy to carry.

I’m way too old to be taking these stairs two at a time.


The sole role of the ER nurse?

Monitor person.

That’s it.

The pads are always on by the time we arrive.

I stand at the end of the bed.

Watch the monitor.


CPR in progress.

Someone is intubating.

Someone is pushing drugs.

On cue, I push a button.





Lather, rinse, repeat.



The code is called.

I wrap the monitor strips into a neat little roll and hand it to the unit nurse.

Grab my (unused) intubation bags and head back to the unit.

This time I take the elevator.

And it hits.


She’s dead.

Someone just died.

Someone’s wife, mom, aunt, granddaughter, grandmother, sister.


Phone calls are being made.

Lives are being altered.


Shock. Grief.

It’s all starts right now.

As my elevator touches the ground floor.


Back to work.

Queen Bee from the wealthy part of town who decided a hang nail was an emergency is miffed by the wait.

Mr. Intoxication is screaming profanities at me.

(Whore? Hell, I’d probably make more money, but the benefits are terrible.)

The Entitlement family demands antibiotics for all seven kids, right now!

But do we have samples? You see (they say while covering up the mouthpiece on their iPhone(s), they don’t have the money to get the prescriptions filled.

Someone just died! I want to scream.

I don’t.

My god.

They have no clue.


Family members begin to arrive.

In groups of two.

They look numb.

Upstairs, monitors are unhooked

Airways are removed.

The patient is detached.

So was I.

I thought.



    March 25, 2009 at 9:57 am

    Kim –

    This is such a powerful post – thank you for sharing it. Amazing writing.

  • kris

    March 26, 2009 at 5:37 am

    great post…always thought we work in a disassociative enviroment where we witness such things and then go back to something mundane (because for a while everything seems mundane after that) as if we have a switch we can flip on and off.

  • Candy

    March 26, 2009 at 6:55 am

    I don’t think it matters how long you’ve been a nurse — death is not the objective for what you do. Very touching, and tough, by the sound of it. Thanks for sharing.

  • Maureen

    March 26, 2009 at 10:20 am

    Wow Kim, they always say less is more when writing and this proves it – You used short bursts of words and packed a whallop of emotional punch. Have I told you thank you lately for what you do? If I haven’t, THANK YOU!!

  • Reality Rounds
    Reality Rounds

    March 27, 2009 at 6:52 am

    If I didn’t work detached, I could not be a nurse. People would always ask me how I could work in a NICU with sick and dying babies, especially when I was pregnant myself. You focus and detach. Then you go home, cry, vent, laugh, anything to help cope and get through another day of seeing the best and worst of what life has to offer.

  • Lee

    June 8, 2009 at 6:16 pm

    I am not an ER nurse, but a home health nurse,
    bond with my pts, when one dies, the other one and family, want me to stay in their life, it is so difficult to say not to invites, but I do, and feel guilty..what the hell do I do with this?? anyone got any suggestions

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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