Happy New Year! This is an example of the very important issues I had to deal with as a charge nurse a few years ago and this tale of workplace crazy was first published summer of 2012. I’m considering a different job and re-reading this has me convinced even if someone would hire me as a charge nurse I would be stupid to take the job.
To clarify the creamer is not psychotic but a co-worker is psychotic about creamer. I couldn’t resist using that title despite it’s a grammatical mess. Much like this post will be. Anyhow, when we aren’t practicing the art and science of physical medicine and rehabilitation we are fighting over little cups of creamer.
Or so it would seem.
The Creamer Files*
June 10–Bill the Cat tells me we have a crisis: no tiny cups of creamer for the patient’s coffee and because I am entrusted to solve all the problems on our unit I call the kitchen. Seven hours later (yeah, they are that efficient) we have a small plastic bag of half-n-half. This is like the twentieth time he has pointed this out to me because the poor dear is either too old to know how to use a non-rotary dial phone or can’t remember how to call the operator to ask for the kitchen. And somehow something more important like crashing blood pressures or bloody wounds beat out a dearth of creamer. Every. Time.
June 11–Bill the Cat** again approaches, the creamer is gone! Oh. My. God. Call the authorities, call the state board call CMS the governing agency over Medicare so they can immediately revoke our license to practice the art and science of rehabilitation! THERE IS NO CREAMER FOR
HIS THE PATIENT’S COFFEE!!!!!eleventy
June 12–I’m thankfully not at work and can be found lounging about on a chaise in my back yard reading
The Education of Lady Emily Reardon a lengthy Scientific America article about the latest theories in Quantum Physics.*** Meanwhile Bill is probably whining to Fern about the creamer situation.
June 13–Back to the salt mines and at exactly 0715, Bill the Cat is standing at my desk demanding justice, freedom, and creamer for all with a speech so impassioned I wanted to stand up, “Sing This Land Is Your Land”, tear at my clothing, run away to Height-Asbury, and protest the Vietnam War. Because I’m pretty sure that’s the same speech he used at a protest back in ’69.
June 14–Rather than lolling around reading the exciting conclusion of my Quantum Physics article but I’m in our comfortably appointed cafeteria at a staff meeting where one of our awesome night nurses who is the impossible love child of Mother Theresa and Gandhi is complaining about Bill the Cat:
“So I take a patient’s family member to the refrigerator and I find a note that says: ‘NIGHT NURSES! STOP DRINKING ALL THE CREAMER! IT’S NOT FOR YOU IT’S FOR THE PATIENTS!!!–Bill the Cat’ I have to say I was a little embarrassed. And just so you know, none of us drink coffee from work much less coffee with creamer.”
I look over at my co-worker who is the impossible love child of Ellen DeGeneres and Don Rickles; bad behavior is telegraphed between us. This is war. And this war has the possibility of being hilarious or career ending. I can see the wheels turning behind little Ellen Rickles bright eyes and feverish repose of prank planning overtakes us both. And then I started to laugh but I couldn’t laugh so I just sat there sucking the insides of my mouth and hoping no one noticed I was laughing and just thought I was super angry because they knew Bill the Cat had been haranguing me about his god-damned creamer for weeks.
June 17–It’s early in the morning and I am–again–woefully understaffed and am facing a sixteen hour day which will include a leisurely lunch during the elevator ride between the cafeteria and my unit. After I get report on the patients. Little Sister Theresa Gandhi annouces:
“By the way, all the creamers in the ‘frig had holes pricked in them when I went to get one for Mr. Bladity-blah in room mumbltyfour.”
Ellen Rickles and I look at each other. This thing is on. Muthafuca it is on.
“You mean they were opened?”
“No, I mean little holes were poked in the tops. Like with a needle.”
One of my elfin (I swear everyone but me and Fern stands on their tippy-toes to break five feet) co-workers who once upon a time in the ’80s was a punk rock groupie–so we’re gonna call her Ruby Tuesday–pipes up:
“I was wondering why Bill the Cat asked for a needle yesterday. And then someone brought the needle to me, saying they found it in [insert completely inappropriate location for a random needle which is like anywhere but the cabinet where needles are stored or the sharps container] .”
I took a deep breath. Because if I hadn’t taken a deep breath I was going to have a little nervous breakdown and it was only 0730, much too early for my morning breakdown. I had penciled that in for 0952. Instead, I put on my charge nurse cap and asked all the appropriate investigatory questions that must be asked if a needle is found in an inappropriate place and if some psychotic moron tampers with food. (both of which were unique and possibly the most bizarre situations I’ve dealt with in a long time. If not ever. It made the goat in the ICU waiting room look normal) I also asked if someone had photographed the creamers. I love my co-workers because they are always at least five steps ahead of me thereby making me look like an awesome Rock Star Nurse. Of course photos had been taken and would be available to our manager on Monday.
Meanwhile, I could hear the wheels of a finely oiled prankster machine turning in Ellen’s head. Too bad they couldn’t drown out the cacophonous wheels, which rattled and smoked in my head. I was angry and wanted revenge and my crazy train voices were almost as bad as Alex Forest’s (Fatal Attraction rabbit boiling lady). Fortunately we had thirteen hours to concoct our revenge which ranged from holding the creamer ransom (Ellen); to standing around, talking to him about the weather and mundane stuff as we sip creamer from the little cups (me); to holding him down and forcing him to drink all the rancid creamer at once. (Me again. But I didn’t say it out loud because I just thought of it as I sit here writing, enjoying my cup of cream-less coffee.)****
*names and dates have been changed to hide the identity of the guilty. This is a true story. I promise. Just like the goat thing in the ICU waiting really happened. Luckily I was a new grad nurse and barely able to take care of myself and five patients much less twenty so I didn’t have to deal with the King of the Gypsy’s goat.
**for some reason this guy reminds me of Bill the Cat. I’m sure I remind him of Cruella DeVille or Medusa or maybe Satan’s baby sister who is menstruating and has just come down from a big night of crack, meth, and tequila shooters.
***not a real book title but it would be an awesome title for a Madeline Hunter series, dontcha ya’ think?
**** Bill the Cat was dealt with but frankly not harshly enough because I believe his actions constituted violence in the work place. We didn’t play any pranks because we have families to support. Plus the idea of trying to get a job without an advanced degree feels like a hideous chore and akin to drinking spoiled milk products.