If you’re old as the hills like I am, you might remember hearing about an old radio show called The Shadow. According to Wikipedia, Walter B. Gibson created The Shadow in 1931, and the character skyrocketed to super stardom thanks to Orson Welles. He was the original actor who played the character in the popular radio series. Each show would begin with the phrase, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.” Here’s a new twist on the old trademark phase. It goes like this: “Who knows what goes on behind the scenes on a psychiatric unit at a major East Coast hospital center? The Shadow Nurse knows!”

A couple of weeks ago I started looking for a PRN position at local hospitals in an effort to subsidize the meager paycheck that I earn at Hospital X. The hospital where I was interviewing has a stellar reputation in the community, and I was looking forward to checking it out. During my initial job interview, the unit manager, who incidentally is not a nurse (this is NOT a good sign), looked at me and said, “I bet you could really give me a tough time if you really wanted to make my life rough.” I couldn’t understand what he was talking about. Yes, I’m seasoned, intelligent, assertive, and a patient advocate, but I’m not impossible to work with. I had no idea why he was being so defensive. All I did was say hello when I handed the guy my resume. He just stared at me for a few seconds, and then we chatted about why I wanted to work on his unit. After about a thirty-minute interview, he said he wasn’t sure if I was a good fit for the unit, and he said he wanted me to come back one evening so I could shadow his nursing staff. That way I could see what it was like to work on the unit, and the staff could decide if they wanted me onboard.

Two weeks later I walked onto a unit that was in total chaos. JCAHO was inspecting the unit, and one of the day nurses had been a no-call-no-show for her shift again. Things became more interesting when it became apparent that one of the evening shift nurses was also going to be a no-call-no-show for her shift, too. I offered to come back on a day that wasn’t in the crapper, but the charge nurse said that this was a typical shift and that I should stay to see what happens. I stayed on the unit for four hours. During that time, the nurses asked me their questions. Welcome to the Inquisition:

A nurse asked me if I had any restrictions on my nursing license. She explained that the last psych nurse that the hospital had hired couldn’t pass meds because of a history of drug abuse, and that they caught her shooting up Dilaudid in the med room after the Board of Nursing lifted the restriction off of her license. No, I do not have a restriction on my nursing license, thank you very much.

Another nurse asked me how I deal with patients who have personality disorders. I responded by saying that I am a disciple of Skinner, and that I use behavioral modification techniques when dealing with patients who are impulsive and self-destructive. I gave a few examples of how I have used behavioral modification techniques in the past. The nurse smiled and thanked me for the information. She said she was going to use my techniques the next time she saw her mother who suffered from Borderline Personality Disorder. She continued to tell me things about her mother that I didn’t want to hear.

Then it was my turn to ask questions. I asked if there was a place in the hospital where I could sleepover just in case I had to come in early in order to beat bad weather that was moving into the area. I explained that I lived many miles from the hospital, and that I was worried about driving in icy weather during the winter. Everyone at the nurses station just glared at me. Finally the charge nurse said, “Look, we don’t want anyone working here that’s going to make us look bad. No one comes in early, and no one stays late. Got that?”

I don’t think they need anyone to help them look bad. I think they are doing a fine job on their own. I have no plans to work on their unit, and my quest to find PRN hours goes on.