Monday, August 8, 2016

Secret Hiding Places to Avoid

I tried to think of a catchy title for this post, but had one of my frequent brain freezes. Oh well, clarity is better than smart alecky titles. I really meant to include this with my last post, but better late than never.

With the corporatization of health care, I suspect it is getting more challenging to find a suitable secret hiding place (SHP)  to renew your  nursing spirit. These contemporary hospitals view every square foot of space as a money maker and have little in the way of wide open spaces.

Old hospitals had many unused areas. One hospital I worked with had an entire floor of patient rooms that had been abandoned in the 1940's. It was a really cool place to visit. The thing I liked best were the ornate old wooden wheelchairs with the big wheel in front and the tiny pivoting wheels in back. Maybe they could not cure anybody, but the wheelchairs sure were classy.

Nurse's lounges sound like an appealing secret hiding place, but they are actually terrible places to hang out. If the dense cloud of cigarette smoke doesn't kill you, the endless jaw-jacking and mouth flapping will. Supervisors used to plan their personal attack strategies after their nurses' lounge visits. I once heard one of the meanest of them planning an assault, "Let's go after that nurse Jan on the ortho ward, she had the temerity to secure her cap with black bobby pins instead of the required white ones." Stay out of the nurses' lounge at all cost.

Meetings sound like they might be a nice break, especially in the Summer when the only air conditioned section  of the hospital is the administrative wing. As a na├»ve  young nurse, I volunteered to represent the operating room at the head nurses meeting. It was one of the worst mistakes of my nursing life. Imagine a cage at the zoo filled with angry howler monkeys at feeding time and you are locked in. That head nurses meeting was simply unbearable and I quickly deduced which head nurses would make good bar fighters; all of them. As a general rule of thumb for bedside nurses; AVOID  MEETINGS AT ALL COST.

Medication rooms are readily available on all patient care units and at first blink might appear to be suitable for a SHP. Med rooms are poor choices for secret hiding places for a couple of reasons. When they asked Willie Sutton, the notorious bank robber why he robbed banks he quickly replied, "because that's where the money is." When they asked a nurse with a drug problem why she was always in the med room, the answer was, "because that's where the drugs are."

Another issue that makes medication rooms a poor choice is because every nurse knows that med rooms are ground zero for releasing embarrassing intestinal gas. I really don't like crude language but one med room I worked in had a huge sign reading "The med room is not your personal fart box."  We all ignored the signage, but some foolish jokester posted an additional sign cautioning "NO OPEN FLAME"  It was advice well worth heeding. The best policy regarding med rooms was to prepare the medication, pass gas, and quickly depart while slamming the door shut to contain those nasty vapors.

Unoccupied patient rooms might look like a tempting SHP. The problem is that every hospital department from dietary to housekeeping environmental services knows the location of every vacant patient room. These hiding places with a tempting bed to stretch out on are not very secret. Every loafer in the hospital knows about these not so secret hiding places. This SHP quickly surrenders it's charm when you come to the realization that you might have to give a big burley janitor the boot before you can use the room for a SHP.

Although somewhat different than the SHP strategy the mental reframing of the hospital sometimes works if you really dislike your job and need to buy some time before finding something different. I really disliked working in psych and came to view the psych unit just as a place to rest between bike rides. It worked well in the Spring and Summer when I could bicycle to work and when Winter came I was back to the OR which was my first love.

Thanks for indulging in more of my foolish tales!


  1. My favorite SHP place was the cemetery across the street from our old hospital. I was out of the reach of speakers and pagers, it was quiet, peaceful and cool under all the trees, and it was full of bird song.

  2. My SHP was a couch in a disused lounge behind the hospice wing nutrition room. The hospice patients seldom needed much in the way of snacks, and the families who came to visit seldom stayed long enough to want to use the lounge. We had mandated minimum staffing (never ever bitch to me about nursing unions), even on night shift, so on the rare occasions when minimum staffing was overstaffing, we'd take turns on who's night it was to be on nap-standby. If the shit hit the fan, we knew where to find you, and if the shit didn't hit the fan, then it's my turn next.

  3. That sounds like a gem of a secret hiding place. When I worked nights we were allowed to "rest" but not fall asleep. I found a great way to rest by "studying" on the couch. Sit with your legs flexed up toward your chest with an open book (the bigger the better)resting in your lap. Now you can get some light shut eye and if anyone approaches it looks like you are studying. Thanks for reading my foolishness.

  4. My first hospital as a brand new nurse used their top floor as a sort of storage area for outdated hospital equipment. It was dark and quiet and just a little bit spooky. My favorite bit of history was the iron lung machines. I could hardly believe people would spend months (years?) in one of those things! A good place to get away from it all for a bit.