Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Lifesaving Lunacy

Maybe all the healthcare advertising about lifesaving hospitals or nurse "writers" tall tales about nurses saving lives wore me down, but I think the final straw was Mylan Pharmaceuticals marketing their "lifesaving" Epipen. Less than 100 people per year die from anaphylaxis and there is no guarantee an Epipen could have "saved" their life. Even an auto injector syringe required symptom recognition and application of this  grossly overpriced device.

In the meantime, I need a palate cleanser from all this "lifesaving" nonsense. Nancy one of the finest OR nurses I ever worked with frequently answered inquires about her wellness with s snappy response. When someone casually asked her how she was doing, her reply was, "I'm busy saving lives."  One day I asked her, "Do you really believe that?"  She laughed and said "Of course not, but it sounds good." Being facetious is a far less transgression than actually believing you are a saver of lives.

I think some of the  present day lifesavers truly believe their own nonsense and it's time to set them straight. Dr. Slambow, my favorite trauma surgeon, had strong feelings about doctors and nurses as lifesavers. His belief was that we could repair injured anatomy and control bleeding, but the actual recovery is out of our hands. Enabling recovery is a far cry from saving a life. Don't ever let Dr. Slambow  hear a doctor or nurse claim to be a lifesaver. They would be in for a severe tongue lashing.

 Doctors and nurses who  inflate their ego with lifesaving notions put an undue burden on themselves by fostering the delusion of their lifesaving capabilities. It's a tough reputation to live up to. When a patient dies on the table it's not right to think you are a killer and when someone survives it's just as wrong to think you saved a life. It's simply too much of a burden to bear.

I was socialized into a healthcare system that never used braggadocio or swagger to self promote, heck advertising was forbidden and nurses often had a lowly self image. I can't tell you the times I've uttered, "I'm just a nurse." Our self promotion was by our action which often meant crawling out of your warm bed on a cold Chicago winter night for a 3 AM trauma case.

Rather than ego inflating tales of lifesaving nurses, perhaps it's more constructive to take a contemplative moment and realize you did your very best and the patient had a great outcome. Nothing can compare to the experience of seeing a traumatized patient arrive on a litter and walk out of the hospital.



  1. Forgive me, but I think you sell yourself short. In my experience, a trauma surgeon repaired anatomy and stopped bleeding. If he didn't save a life, he certainly beat Mr. Death into submission and ran his ass out of the room. To me that's just a good.

  2. It's great to hear from you Officer Cynical. Dr. Slambow was a very unique trauma surgeon. He used to loathe emotional situations and bragged about beating his feelings into submission as a young resident. When there was good news to relate after a successful trauma case, he often sent me to talk to the family because all the hugs and thank yous truly embarrassed him. In bad outcomes he always talked with the family. I think he disliked the "lifesaving" terminology because it conferred so much emotion. He really did save more lives than any other surgeon I worked with; just don't tell him that!

    One of his other central tenets was that trauma surgery was the only worthwhile surgical discipline. This was back in the day when the only surgical remedy was -ectomy or removal. He would be amazed at the replacement and minimally invasive
    surgery of today and would hopefully, have a more enlightened opinion.

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