Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bad fun on the night crew

So, I have a standing joke with one of the charge nurses who works night shift at the inpatient unit to which I am sometimes called. When I leave, and this nurse is charge, I always tell him I'm "off to Joe's (bar and grill, our imaginary local cheap bar)." I bring him greetings from the mythical Joe, and we talk about the price per pitcher of beer. He tells me how many pitchers I should drink for him. If we are with a patient who is up for it, we involve the patient in the joke. The other night, I had finished handling a death, and I told the charge nurse I was off to Joe's. A floor nurse, thinking I meant the nearby St. Joseph Hospital (called "Joe's" in the same way that the nearby St. Anthony Hospital is sometimes called "Holy Tony's By the Sea"), said he hadn't known I was on call for them. The charge and I corrected him. I said, "No, no, Joe's BAR AND GRILL." The charge nurse said, "We hang OUT together, at Joe's bar and grill." The floor nurse was flummoxed. Which, of course, made us more determined to be poker-faced. The charge nurse was actually getting off in an hour, so we talked about meeting up in an hour. I reminded the floor nurses I was still on call until morning and promised to stay relatively sober, and left them, laughing all the way to my car. It's hard to shock a crew of hospice nurses, especially a night crew, but hey, you have to have fun.

This particular night crew has lots of jokes. For some reason, a number of us have acquired imaginary names, with the last name "Suggs." I am "Reverend Suggs." Who knows why. I don't know that the managers quite know what to do with us, but that makes it even better. Since some of the more difficult deaths happen at nights or on weekends, when we have to lean on each other for support, shared jokes have a special importance... you really HAVE to laugh when a family wants an autopsy, and it's after hours, and there's no one there in the Pathology department of the nearest hospital to tell us what to do to arrange for the autopsy, and when we finally find the policy it doesn't say who pays to get the body to the hospital, and a family member says, "Well, we HAVE a van..." and all you can think of is the urban myth about the stolen station wagon with the deceased grandmother strapped to the luggage carrier.

(I should say that we got the body to the hospital without use of any private vehicle. The family negotiated a transport by the mortuary who was going to get their business for the final arrangements. One reason the family wanted the autopsy was because they suspected that hospice treatment, where we don't give IV fluids "just because we can," had resulted in death by starvation for their loved one. Our favorite mortuary driver arrived to transport the deceased to the hospital's morgue. He asked why the autopsy, and we explained we'd starved the patient to death, because we are just like that. He was nonplussed by the size of the body, the loved one having been a person of some stature. He complained, "I thought you starved this person to death, why's she so heavy?")


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