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Friday, May 27, 2016

think zebras, not horses

Hi MiM aficionados,

I'm ZebraARNP, and I'm so pleased to be the first non-physician contributor here! I'm a nurse practitioner in a big hospital in a big city. I've been an ARNP for about 8 years now, and I've spent all of those years in oncology. I can't imagine doing anything else, to be honest. I live in the 'burbs with my wife, to be known here as The Wife, and our three kids, to be known here as Jaybird, Hedgehog, and Egret. More about the family in my next post.

The other day on rounds, as my team was heading out to see our first patient, we encountered a large group of petite Filipina women, dressed in the green environmental services uniform provided by the hospital. Our team greeted the group then as we passed them my (tall, white) attending said to me "They're so cute, they're all so short!" At the same time in my mind I was thinking "Dammit, they're all people of color..." and I felt a wave of...disappointment? Sadness? Irritation? Hard to find a word to describe the exact feeling. I'm not even sure that the two (white) MDs with me even noticed that the ENTIRE group of custodial staff we encountered was Filipina. All that my attending appeared to notice was that they were "cute." Sigh.

The flip side of the above experience is when I see another African-American/multiracial ARNP/PA/MD in the hospital. In those moments, time slows down, music starts to play...(Chariots of Fire, in case you're wondering. It's ok to click on it..) I want to run up to them to see if they're actually real!! Should we hi-five? Cheer? OK, no. Maybe next time...

For such a big city (although <10% African-American), and such a big hospital (>300 beds), there is a dearth of African-American professional staff. Over the years I have been mistaken for kitchen staff, janitorial staff, nursing staff, but more than that people have often looked genuinely surprised when I explain my role on their healthcare team and what I actually do on our team (admissions, write orders, take first calls from the RNs re patient issues, etc). And my point is not that any of the above mentioned jobs lack importance at all; my point is that no one assumes that I have the job that I have and mostly that they express surprise at my actual position. Food for thought. That surprise? It doesn't feel very good on my end.

Always check your assumptions....because we all have 'em. Women as surgeons. Men as nurses. Someday I hope that female surgeons, African-American physicians, male nurses, etc--I hope none of that even raises an eyebrow.



More about me, since I'm a newbie-->
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ZebraARNP is an oncology ICU ARNP with three children- school aged twins (girl, boy) and a preschooler (girl). That brief sentence vastly oversimplifies the amount of joy/pain/money /insanity/Band-Aids/love/maniacal laughter it requires to raise three human beings; it’s a doozy sometimes. Anyway, this is ZebraARNP's first public/non-academic/not Facebook writing experience, or writing that isn’t a daily progress note of a critically ill oncology patient. ZebraARNP is married to a pediatric SLP who isn’t in fact really that interested in oncology but who has acquiesced to the fact that she will indeed continue to learn about it (or at least listen to random factoids) year after year simply out of love for Zebra. Dinner time conversation in our demographically complicated yet still shockingly quotidian suburban home (interracial lesbian marriage, anyone? Can someone say “intersectionality” ten times fast?!) may or may not include how much CPR was done that day, palliative care conferences, cdiff vs VRE, who did well on his/her math test (or who did not), who will go grocery shopping next, what MRSA is, what exactly IS pus made of, what actually happens when you die, arguing over who gets the last muffin/cookie/etc, reviewing hematopoiesis, and questioning whether kid # 1, 2, or 3 really did wash their hands after using the bathroom. When ZebraARNP isn’t at work or with kids, she enjoys gardening, chicken keeping, reading books (or the NY Times), and wasting time on her iPhone (oh the Amazon app…)…and not being at work or with the kids.

12 comments:

  1. Love love love this! I had to google slp! I just found a fresh egg hook up at work so we have lots of questions going around about chicken keeping at our house (it is illegal in city limits - my hook up lives outside city limits). WELCOME!!!

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    1. Thanks Gizabeth :-)

      Illegal chicken-keeping?! Tragic!

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    3. It is so tragic! My work hook up has Americana's, Buff's, and Cinnamon Buns. Her eggs are pretty blue and brown - she said blue are Americana's. She had a breed that laid a beautiful deep blue but her mom left the dog out while she was letting them free range a couple of weeks ago and there was a massive (had 31 chickens now down to 7) chicken massacre yikes her daughter discovered and will be in PTSD therapy for life (Mom! There are feathers everywhere!!!). She's an amazing secretary (is that PC?) for the lab director. White like me - but who gives? (Obviously a lot of people, and that sucks, but not me:). Oh! And she also cans! So I've got a preserves hook up too. Last week I bought preserves with alcohol (!!!) can't wait to try. Strawberry Pineapple Margarita or something like that with tequila. Another with orange Schnapps too. That might be dangerous for breakfast!!! Maybe save for weekends.

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  2. Welcome! Brown lady "heyyyy girl!" to you. Your post rang so true because my girlfriends (MDs/Nurses/RTs/custodial) and I feel the same way in the hospital - should we wave, nod, high five, cry, scream "heyyyy girl!" It usually starts with a nod and over time we get close enough to go to the med closet and code-switch. LOL!

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    1. Mommabee and Zebra, have you read this?

      https://depts.washington.edu/fammed/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/TheNod.pdf

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    2. No, I hadn't seen that, but I LOVE it. Especially loved this bit:

      "We’re in a different era now, but there are still many situations
      where it’s easy to feel either invisible or like that speck of pepper. Given that truth, “the nod” is really just this subtle way of saying to that other lone face in the room or in that group what others’ actions sometimes neglect to say: “I see you.” Even if someone else doesn’t, I see you and you aren’t invisible".

      (And Mommabee, I just nodded at you!)

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    3. So important to be seen. Love the "go to the med closet and code-switch" -- real-world application of being seen and seeing each other in a stark white environment. Yay for nods and med closets (that sounds weird...).

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  4. Yes, we are all challenged to "see" all people, and not make assumptions. I so appreciated the post and a peek into your work world.

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  6. Love your post! Look forward to hearing more from you. PS to all: Is there a comment edit button? I just had delete as an option.

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