Nursing school primes your mind to think the worst of any situation. Chest pain? Assume heart attack. Can’t breath? Consider embolism. It was a motto that our teachers used to direct our thinking to the correct answer on tests: “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” Working in the hospital solidifies this question, burning it deeper into your brain because the worst thing that could happen has already happened and now you’re trying to identify the next worse thing that could happen. It’s a smorgasbord of worse case scenarios every day, every shift, with every patient.
So you can imagine my surprise/confusion/annoyance coming to a school setting where people use the word “emergency” flippantly and before any reflection of the word’s true meaning. Let’s define it, shall we?
Emergency ~ a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.
This is very different than an inconvenience ~ trouble or difficulty caused to one’s personal requirements or comfort. And both of these things are not even remotely related to a YGFKM ~ you gottabe f*cking kidding me, which is a situation that you should never, ever bother anyone else about.
Now let’s play a little game to see what we’ve learned. I’m going to give a scenario and you’re going to choose whether this scenario is considered an EMERGENCY, an INCONVENIENCE or a YGFKM.
Teacher: “Nurse, I need to speak to you about something serious. There’s an outbreak in my classroom & I don’t know what to do.”
Me: *shit, it’s measles* “Ok. What are the symptoms?”
Teacher: leans into my ear and whispers, “Lice.”
Student: *cough, wide eyes* “I… can’t… breath…”
A text to me: “Teacher is screaming, says student’s stitches popped, blood everywhere.”
I walk briskly to the clinic to find a scab that has fallen off.
Student: *through tears* “I told them I wanted to kill myself. And then, she said ‘well, go ahead then!’ and then I came back to school today and she said ‘I thought you’d be dead today.”
Me: *internal laughter*
Teacher: “He’s saying his side really hurts so I wanted to be safe. I mean, could be appendicitis.”
Me: to the student, “Point to where it hurts.”
*student points to lower left quadrant*
Me: “Go poop.”
Teacher: “Nurse, I have an emergency.”
Me: “Is it actually an emergency?”
Teacher: “Well, he’s standing in the clinic in his own pee, so…”
Me: “………… so, no.”
Student: “Nurse, nurse, my belt broke. Teacher told me to come to you.”
Me: *silent fuming* “Do you know what a tailor is?”
See how there are only two potential emergencies out of all those examples, both of which dissolved into inconveniences in the end (short of breath = fat kid running, suicide threat = girl drama).
ANYWAY. After playing this little game I realize something — there is hardly ever emergencies in school nursing. Even when a legit emergency occurs, 911 is called and the kid is gone within 10 minutes; you don’t really have to deal with it. As a nurse, I understand this and therefore can remain calm, collected and seemingly dismissive when kids hurt themselves. But lay-persons consider anything unexpected or “different from the norm” an emergency. So lice, pee, vomit, blood and any other minor issue is the end of the world. But damn, coming from the hospital, if your shift consists of nothing but lice, pee, vomit or blood, you got lucky.