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I was sitting in the lounge eating lunch when the vice principal approached me, “Nurse, so you tell me what I should do.  Let’s say you have a student, her nose is bleeding, has been bleeding and keeps bleeding and…”

I stop her, “Wait.  Is this happening now or is this a what if?”  She looks sheepishly at me, “You’re at lunch, I don’t want to interrupt you.  It’s a 4th grader in the bathroom.  We’ve tried to stop it but it won’t stop!”  Isn’t that nice?  People who actually avoid interrupting you during lunch?  I laughed and got up, following her to the bathroom.

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I walk into a bloody scene, a panicked student and over-interested classmates.  I announce, “Unless you have to poop you need to leave the bathroom now.”  Embarrassment is always a room clearer.  I take the old, bloodied napkin from the student and press a bundle of paper towels over her nose, squeezing so hard she tears up.  She tries to grab the napkin when I say, “I know it hurts but if you don’t press hard enough, up high enough it’ll just keep bleeding.”  She cries, I reassure, she yelps, I reassure.  I glance at the vice principal who is witnessing the scene.  She shakes her head, “This is why we need a nurse.”

Working with the general public without any other healthcare professionals around I have realized an important fact: I don’t care if you’re in pain.  It is not my priority.  Nurses say it’s a priority and sure, it is on our check-list of items to address.  But it is not THE priority.  The priority is safety & stabilization — at all costs.  Oh, I’m sorry, are you crying because you have to eat dry cereal since you have a severe reaction to milk?  I really don’t care.  Aw, are you sad that you can’t play with the other kids in gym because you have a cast on?  Life sucks sometimes.

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I have spent a lot of time being overly sensitive to people’s pain, even as a child.  Sometimes, thinking about all the pain in the world weighs me down to the point of depression.  But when there is a physically acute issue at hand, I have absolutely no guilt whatsoever —  I am willing to inflict as much pain as possible if it means you keep breathing.  I didn’t realize I had this “ability” to ignore pain until working around non-healthcare professionals.  Most people feel such guilt, even for the smallest thing like pinching hard enough a kid cries during a nosebleed.  I’m not sure what gene I possess that allows me to disregard it so easily but I am grateful I have it.  Caring about everyone else’s pain is no way to live.  In fact, it will cripple you.

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