Seasoned OR nurses say they've seen it all and there's nothing left to scare them. Well, I've been on the job a long time and I've seen plenty, but there are still a few things that can trigger my tachycardia.
- A drop-in from the boss. When your supervisor visits the OR during a case (which is creepy enough because how often does your supervisor actually set foot in an OR?) and says, "When you have a minute, I need to talk to you."
- Unexpected add-ons. You finish a long afternoon of cases and finally exhale. As you head for the lounge and possibly a cup of coffee, you feel a chill in the empty corridor. You shudder as you realize that each OR you've passed is still going. Your room was the first to come down and as you draw near the schedule board, there it is [sinister organ music playing]: an add-on! Worse, it's with Dr. Dread! [Psycho stabbing chords here].
- An attorney on the gurney. You interview the patient, a mild-mannered, soft-spoken woman. You go over her consent and confirm the procedure, transport her to the OR and transfer her onto the table, cover her with blankets and secure her with a safety belt. After the time out, you chitchat with her while anesthesia prepares the induction. Right before she drifts off to dreamland, she says, "Now y'all do a good job, I'm an attorney."
- The wife of the hospital's CEO. A friend assigned to that case told me it was like something out of the Twilight Zone had sucked the coordination and confidence right out of her. Whatever it was also increased the pull of gravity, so that everything she handled fell immediately to the floor.
- Possessed equipment. There are certain nightmares of electronic equipment that I can never seem to get working. If I call another nurse for help, he carries out the same steps I've tried 3 times and, boom, we're operational. I need to warn him: It's very clearly a female demon that has designs on him.
- Uncooperative EMRs. For older nurses: You struggle to control your fear and rage, not to mention the silicon-based brain that's pushing your buttons. For younger nurses: Imagine the panic and dread you'd feel if all the computers went down and you actually had to consult 10 or 15 pages of paper charting for each patient in your care. (Aaaaah!)
An old hospital in Little Rock, Ark., where I'm from, was reportedly a hot spot for ghosts. It became a teaching facility when a replacement was built a few miles away. I went to nursing school there (so you know it was really old). We performed our clinical labs in what was once the ICU, and more than once noticed strange noises and rearranged, hidden or disappearing items.
One afternoon, while we were waiting for our instructor, some of us got to telling stories we'd heard about the hospital back when it was still in business, about the ghosts and spirits that even now wandered lost in the ICU where we waited. The instructor, who'd entered unnoticed and eagerly listened to one particular tale, stood quietly behind us for a full minute before speaking. That was the day that 20 nursing students were, just for a moment, Hollywood scream queens.