Spock had pointed ears, Kirk was a ladies man (he also liked hot alien chicks), and McCoy was a kindly country doctor. Then there was Nurse Chapel. Like nurses around the galaxy, Nurse Chapel could do anything. Every week the crew of the USS Enterprise found themselves in danger, but no matter what happened, Nurse Chapel always delivered superb patient care.
Nurse Chapel is my Starfleet role model. She was a loyal coworker, so I’m sure she didn’t engage in lateral violence against other nurses on the Enterprise. That’s one of my pet peeves. Nurses aren’t going to get ahead as a profession until we stop beating each other up. And because she was so dedicated to the welfare of her patients, she obviously worked promoting galactic legislation that improved access to health care for all life forms. Too bad Spock, a Vulcan who squelched his emotions, couldn’t appreciate Nurse Chapel’s attributes. Poor Nurse Chapel. She really loved Spock, but a relationship with the guy just wasn’t in the cards.
One day I hope to be a super nurse just like Nurse Chapel. In preparation for becoming the perfect nurse, I am watching all six Star Trek televisions series, containing a total of 726 episodes, and all ten Star Trek movies. I am also reading hundreds of Star Trek novels, and learning how to play Star Trek video and computer games. Oh yes, there’s one more thing. I wonder how I would look as a blond.
Beam me up Scotty. I’ve got a lot of work to do.
My mother was thrilled when I told her I wanted to be nurse. I was 5 years old. To her, going to nursing school was the fastest way of finding a doctor and getting him to the alter. Yes, in 1959 being Mrs. M.D. was the American Dream. Many years later, I broke her heart when I married a furniture salesman.
After my divorce, I said I would never date a doctor. Why would I? After working all day in a hospital, I wanted to go out with someone who wasn’t in health care. But then I met an Aussie emergency room physician, Dr. Hot Stuff. He was dreamy. The blond hair, the blue eyes, his sharp wit, he was everything I was looking for in a man. And I always was a sucker for an Australian accent. My mother loved the guy. She started planning our wedding.
The nurses I worked with adored my suitor. When they called him for orders, they would ask him to repeat himself two or three times. He asked me if people couldn’t understand him because of his accent. I told him the nurses understood him; they just wanted to hear his sexy voice.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. I dumped him when I found out about his wife and six kids back in Australia. Yeah, he said they slipped his mind.
Nurses, have you ever dated a physician? Tell me your story.
What Would Mother Jones Do?
When I became a psychiatric nurse 20 years ago, many of my healthcare colleagues could only think about the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. They envisioned my unit full of ranting lunatics and joked about my working with Nurse Ratched. Unfortunately, attitudes about the mentally ill haven’t changed much over time. What has changed is the health care system. Patients are loosing access to care.
Several years ago, a patient came to my psychiatric unit from the emergency room. In report, the emergency room nurse told me he was a “frequent flyer.” She said the patient apparently complained about pain and fatigue for months, but because he didn’t have insurance, no one really took the time to figure out what his problem was and he would be discharged ASAP. Now, because the pain was stirring up the voices in his head, he was being admitted to psych. The emergency room nurse said, “Please, see what you can do for him. He looks really bad.”
When I walked into his room, my patient was in bed, curled in the fetal position, clutching his abdomen and crying out in pain. His dry skin was jaundice. His dark eyes were sunken and he was emaciated. His body was withering away. He grabbed my hand and begged me to listen. “Yes, I have schizophrenia. Yes, I hear voices. But that isn’t why I came to the hospital. I told the doctor I’m in pain, but I heard him tell the nurse ‘he’s crazy’ and to have me admitted to the psychiatric unit. Please help me.” I called our unit’s psychiatrist STAT. The patient was transferred to a medical unit, but it was to no avail. My patient died two weeks later of pancreatic cancer.
Nurses are viewed as “Angels of Mercy.” Mother Jones was viewed by her admirers as an angel and as an impious Joan of Arc. Others said she was “the most dangerous woman in America.” Mary Harris Jones (1837-November 30, 1930) worked to rid the country of child labor, and taught the downtrodden about collective power. While I know what Mother Jones would think about today’s health care system—she would despise it—I wonder what she would do about it if she were working today as a nurse. I’m sure whatever she would do, it would involve a good fight, and that she’d go down in nursing history along with Clara Barton and Florence Nightingale.
Patients need champions. What would Mother Jones do? The same thing nurses around the world do everyday. Nurses advocate and care for their patients. I dedicate Nurse Ratched’s Place to Mother Jones. I think she would have made a great psychiatric nurse.
“I am not a humanitarian. I am a hell raiser.” Mother Jones