The Skeptic Gets Her H1N1 Shot

I will admit I was reluctant to get it. A couple years ago I was the flu shot nurse at a local hospital. It seemed like health care workers came from out of the woodwork to tell me their vaccination horror stories. Then, I blogged about itand heard even more horror stories in the comments. I typically am one to go by statistical evidence rather than anecdotal evidence, but I have to admit, the stories spooked me. So much so that I haven’t gotten a flu shot since then.

And I didn’t get vaccinated because I’m a nurse. I haven’t actually worked since July and don’t intend to go back to work any time soon. No, I got it because I’m pregnant.

Previously I was very reluctant to get it. My rationale was that I’m healthy and I rarely leave the house. Plus I’m one of those people that question everything, especially the safety and efficacy of drugs.

What made me change my mind? Simple. The doctor said, it’s the only way you’ll be able to transfer immunity from the virus to your babies. So I got it. Because it’s not about me, anymore. It’s about the babies.

And if I end up having my own vaccination horror story? I’ll be sure to blog all about it. Cross your fingers I won’t have to.

Gen X Nurse

I’m a Gen X nurse.

What does that mean?

In the most obvious sense it just means that I was born in 1970 and I’m a registered nurse. I try not to put too much stock in all of the generational stereotypes, but I have always felt like I was Generation X to the core. Gen Xers tend to be cynical. We’re hard on ourselves and others. We have this reputation for being slackers, not because we’re lazy, but because our standards are too high to just grab whatever old McJob comes our way.

When I graduated from college in 1992, I had a liberal arts degree and no clue what to do with it. I wasn’t interested in graduate school. At that point I was ready for the next step. I wanted to play the game. I wanted to get a paycheck.

The conventional wisdom at the time was to pick a company. (How? Based on what?) Get an entry level position (doing what?) Establish yourself and move up the ranks (to become what, exactly?) It was all so nebulous.
So I got a job in a bakery. I have always loved working with food. It was extremely low-paying but that was okay. I was happy.

I knew it was a dead end job though, so I started taking community college courses. First in psychology (I thought I wanted to be an art therapist) and then in graphic design. Meanwhile I “moved up the ranks” and became a waitress. I started to make a lot more money and it was a job I rather enjoyed.

I did this for 10 years. I traveled a lot. Bought a house. Always in the back of my mind was, “You have a college degree! You should be doing something else!” But that voice was never quite convincing enough.
Then in August of 2001, I attended the funeral of a close friend’s brother. He was a young, wonderful, hard working person who was ruthlessly killed by a drunk driver. Nothing like a funeral for a young person to send you into an existential tailspin.

I fell into a temporary despair. I desperately tried to come up with ideas for what I should be doing different, how to change my life.

And then September 11th happened. Despair turned into anger, followed by numbness. My existential tailspin was curtailed by the need to just go on living. To try and make sense of day to day things without being overcome by rage. I thought about joining the military.

8 months later I made the decision to start nursing school.

Sometimes it takes a tragedy to make you see what’s really important. And the important thing for me was to do something that I could define, something that had meaning, and something I could take pride in. Sure I could pay my dues and work for a company, sell things, market things, design things, manage things, get promoted. But nursing is different. It’s so much more simpler:

What does a nurse do?
She takes care of people when they are sick. And gets paid for it.

And that’s why despite all the bitching and moaning I like to do about cleaning up poop, I’ll probably always be a nurse.

GAME DAY! The social media sports bar

Last fall I got a little disenchanted with the whole social media scene. I blame the US election. It seems as the election got closer the tweets got meaner and stupider. And I’m talking about both sides here. It was really disheartening.

You know what saved me though?


First it was the Phillies.As they got closer and closer to winning the world series, I always turned to Facebook and Twitter so I could feel more connected to Phillies fans. As a Philly transplant, it was kind of lonely watching the series here in Maryland. Tuning into twitter was the next best thing to sitting in a sportsbar in Philadelphia, watching the Phils win the world series for the first time since 1980.

And then there was football.We have a little bit of a conflict in my household. My husband is a Redskins fan. I kind of toggle back and forth between the Ravens and the Eagles. But the bottom line is that we love to watch football; any team, any time. So last season if the Redskins and the Eagles were playing at the same time, I would use twitter to track both games.

Eventually I would have 7 or 8 search windows open so I could track multiple games. You could tell if something exciting was happening in one game because the amount of tweets would shoot up dramatically. It made game day extra fun. Again, kind of like sitting in a noisy sports bar, cheering for your team.

So I had to laugh when I read this:

Sports and Social Media: Where Opportunity and Fear Collide

Just another example of how old media just doesn’t get new media. How ironic. As the NFL, the SEC and ESPN put more and more restraints on how players and fans use social media, I am finding social media makes me more of a sports fan than I was in the first place.

My prediction is that social media and sports are already colliding in a big, messy, incredibly entertaining way and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it.

I also predict that the Ravens are going to have an awesome season.

Things to remember about nursing

This summer, I came away from my MICU contract with a renewed understanding of why I have this love-hate relationship with nursing. And I’ve summed it up in 6 simple points so when I’m ready to pick up another contract I can remember what to expect, even if months and months of super intense child rearing washes it all out of my head.

So here goes. The love part…

  1. It’s the feeling you get after the shift that is so great. You made it. You got through this grueling, back breaking, nerve wracking day. It’s a feeling of accomplishment.
  2. It’s the social interaction. The camaraderie. There is definitely a bond there among nurses. No matter how different a fellow nurse is from you they know exactly what it is that you go through. And for many of us, you can’t say the same thing about your family, your spouse, or your best friend.
  3. Then there’s just the joy of knowing a difficult job really, really well. Being able to field any curve ball that comes your way in an extremely fast paced environment. Not to mention the fact that people could die if you don’t do the right thing. While that may sound like an enormous amount of pressure, it’s also a great source of pride to know that you can handle that.

And the hate part…

  1. Night shift – Love, love, love the people who work night shift. But I hate the fact that switching from days to nights makes me feel like a human slug.
  2. Lower back pain. No need to elaborate here.
  3. Cleaning up stool. Sorry. it sucks no matter how you slice it. Some will say “Oh it doesn’t bother me at all! You get used to it.” Bullshit. You have 2 ICU patients, each stooling 3-4 times during the night in a 12 hour shift. You do the math. That means you are potentially up to your elbows in shit Q 2 hrs. AND trying to get the rest of your work done.

Surprise! I love being a nurse again.

Having trouble keeping up with my love-hate relationship with nursing? That’s okay, so am I. The good news is that I love it again. I’m almost halfway through my MICU contract and things are going surprisingly well. They didn’t quite start out that way. Here’s a synopsis: Week 1: In the weeds. All the time. Treading water. Hating life. Crossing off the days until this damned contract is over. Week 2: Getting used to it but damn, this job is hard! How does anyone do this for a living? How did I do this for a living? I’ve had it up to here with poop and sputum and agitated patients on the ventilator and I wished I were back working in the recovery room, checking pedal pulses and getting turkey sandwiches for my patients. Week 3: My confidence has officially returned and it’s starting to feel like I never left. I can kind of see why I actually liked this job, although it’s not easy. It’s still very challenging. Week 4: Wait a sec… I kind of love this job! Even after a crazy shift of codes, deaths, bleeding, confusion, and difficult patients, I walk out the door feeling great. It’s probably just the neurotransmitters. I’m high on adrenaline. I drive home with the windows down and the radio blasting, feeling like I really accomplished something. The next day I wake up very tired but still feeling good. I relax more because I feel like I’ve earned it. So now I’m loving it so much I’m thinking about returning as permanent staff. I can make this work. It’s a big pay cut to leave the agency but I love having a work home, and a work family. My MICU coworkers are absolutely the best, and this job is helping me to remember why I chose nursing in the first place. There’s just one teeny weeny little complication. Two, actually. I’m pregnant with twins. So I’m not going to commit to anything just yet. It’s one thing to put one kid in daycare, but three? You get to the point where financially you’re just barely breaking even. So we’ll see. I think the important thing for me is to remember how I feel about being an ICU nurse right now, which is that I love it. After Ben was born I kind of got seduced by that whole social media world and was tempted to migrate away from nursing altogether. But I’m wiser now. And up for the challenge of having 3 kids under the age of 5 for a few years (YIKES!).

I am still here.

I’ll be going back to the MICU for a contract that starts at the end of April. For a variety of reasons. Still twittering at times but overall have been feeling burned out on the whole social media thing. I made the mistake of following a bunch of Chris Brogan types and all of a sudden my twitter stream turned into this big circus of social media types high fiving each other all day long. After awhile I started to prefer those who tweet about what they are eating. My blog was hacked (again) while I was on vacation. This time it was because I didn’t update from WordPress 2.6 to 2.7. Needless to say, I’m not really feeling the love for WordPress. But what’s the alternative? My husband got me a Nikon D90 for Christmas! I’m really excited to get outside and start shooting away (that doesn’t sound good, does it?) but unfortunately it’s been so dang cold around here. I have been utterly obsessed with economics, politics and the Great Depression 2.0. I’ve gone from confusion to outrage to fear to bewilderment and now I’m think I’m starting to make peace with the whole idea. Hence the MICU contract. Don’t you just love it when a blog post comes full circle?

And you thought your Nursing Orientation was difficult

The other day I was talking to a veteran CCU nurse. She told me that she worked at the hospital where the first defibrillations were studied and performed. Like many health care studies, the testing was done on animals – dogs in this case.

She then went on to tell me that one of the requirements for working in her CCU (back in the 1970’s) was that you actually had to defibrillate a dog to show that you were competent in that skill! Yes, the dogs were sedated before hand, but still.

Nurses see (and do) the craziest things.

BlogHer DC Wrap-up

On Monday I attended BlogHer DC, put on by the good folks at Blogher. This was an excellent event. I’ll admit, I went there with skepticism. This whole google wordpress drama has kind of put me into a existential tailspin with regards to blogging, plus I never really got the whole “BlogHer” thing. Really the only reason I wanted to go was to get to meet Mother Jones, RN in person and to hang out with the guys from JNJ to talk about social media. As it turns out, the event itself was great. The best part of the day was getting to meet so many other bloggers and to hear about the wonderfully creative things they are doing. (Hmm… Did that sentence make me sound like a high school art teacher? I had a blast hanging out with MJ! I taught her all about Twitter and now she’s one of the regular *medtweeps.* It was also great to see Dr. Val. She has a great new site, and I’ll be blogging about it very soon. I also met a very technically savvy blogger named Roni who blogs about weight loss, food, and healthy living. She gave me some great technical help with wordpress that’s going to enable me to improve OrientedX3 and take it to the next level. I also enjoyed hanging out with Rob and Marc from Johnson & Johnson. It’s interesting to see what they are doing with social media. Some have been very distrustful when they see corporations like JNJ entering the social arena and I think they are missing the point. Expect a big blog post on that later in the week. And finally, in case you missed it, I wrote a summary of my trip to Blog World Expo and the future of healthcare blogging over at

Blogging Under the Influence: How a glass of wine (or 2) can make you a better blogger.


(creative commons image courtesy of slack 12)

One of the great benefits of attending Blog World Expo 2008 was all of the great advice and inspiration I got that will help me to keep on blogging.

Hands down, my favorite blogging advice was dispensed by Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week:

Talk to your readers the way you would talk to your friends after 2 drinks.

This makes perfect sense to me, and here’s why:

What happens when you sit down with some friends and have a couple drinks?

You start to get that relaxed, warm fuzzy feeling.

You start to loosen your inhibitions.

Your enthusiasm starts to bubble up to the top and affects what you say.

As people who blog, we all have something to say. The question is, What’s the best way to say it? And how do we write a really good post without letting all of our little insecurities and doubts get in the way? And the answer is, blog like you’re buzzed!

I think the 2-drink rule is brilliant, and I’ve already started to implement it. And what’s more, Tim Ferriss actually wrote his entire book with that rule in mind. Did I mention that it’s a New York Times bestseller?

If 2 drinks are good, wouldn’t 3 or 4 or 5 drinks be even better?

Easy now, I don’t want to encourage any lush-like behavior. At three drinks you start to take that turn where warm and fuzzy becomes silly and sloppy, and bubbly enthusiasm can turn into incoherence and long-windedness. Which is fine if you’re at the bar, or a party, or even sitting at home watching House and tweeting – Goodness, who would do that? ; ) – It’s probably just not good for your blog.

And obviously the 2 drink rule would need to be adjusted to fit your weight and tolerance. If you weigh 98 pounds, a scant glass of sherry might do it for you, but if you’re > 200 pounds, you might be halfway into a six-pack before you start getting the warm fuzzies.

And remeber, we juSt pretending we had two drinks, right? Not like we drink so much we forgette how to type an spell. And maibee even fall off out of the chair wile we are blogging.


I see you later. guys,. Got t0 go take nAp.


I like to help people. So sue me.

You are a nurse. You are out in public, going about your business and you see a person in distress, or a situation where someone has been harmed or injured in some way.

What would you do?

I had a conversation with some fellow nurses yesterday that I found kind of surprising. Someone was cursing their husband for telling her son’s little league team that she was an ER nurse. Now the coach wanted her to volunteer to run the first aid station at some of the games.

“I never tell anyone I’m a nurse,” she says.

The other nurse agreed and said that she never wears her scrubs home when taking the subway, because she would be expected to help if something went wrong.

Now, I understand where this mentality comes form. Everyone’s afraid of liability. Everyone’s afraid of losing their license if something goes wrong.

Call me naive and idealistic, but if I saw someone in distress, or someone who had been harmed, it would take wild hungry pit bulls to keep me from helping them. You see, it’s kind of why I became a nurse in the first place. Not only is there something so infinitely rewarding about being able to help someone in a crisis situation, I also consider it to be my duty. And I may not have the type of first-line emergency skills that many ER nurses and EMTs have but I’ll tell you what I can do. I can hold pressure to stop someone from bleeding. I know BLS and if there’s an AED around I can set it up, calmly and quickly. I can hold someone’s hand, talk them through the situation and try to keep the scene calm until the EMTs get there.

And if you’re still afraid, well, there is something to protect you. It’s called The Good Samaritan Law.

I’m proud to be a nurse. Sure I may do my share of complaining about all the menial stuff, but in the end, I have pride in who I am. This is going to sound incredibly corny but when I wear my scrubs out in public, stopping to get coffee before work, or stopping at the grocery store after my shift, I hold my head up a little higher. The funny thing is that people seem to treat me with slightly more reverence when I’m in my scrubs. And I don’t mind that at all.