Me. And my big mouth.

I did something stupid the other week. Something I regretted doing. It wasn’t dangerous, didn’t put any patients in peril, cause mass calamity on a national scale, nor promise unlimited health-care for all, nor deny inappropriate relations with a well-connected lobbyist, or drive my car into a train tunnel, but it was just stupid, and I paid for it.

About a week ago a resource nurse who comes to our floor a lot and I were talking and commiserating on the fact she had a trio of poopers. “All I’m doing tonight is cleaning up poop. Even though one has a flexi-seal, it’s still leaking out.” she said.

“Well at least you were prepared for it…your undershirt is kind of c-diffy colored…” I came back with.

“Yeah thanks, I know Captain Obvious.” she said, “It wasn’t the best choice. I should’ve known with this floor!”

And then I said it. The phrase that would doom me into poop-servitude: “Y’know, I haven’t had a night like that in a long time.” Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. It’s like saying “q—–” on a full-moon night, or “she’s finally asleep” about the demented old lady who had been trying to climb out of bed all night. In the grand karmic wheel of nursing, I just steeped in it.

So I show up Tuesday night, flushed with excitement from a nice ride into work, changed and ready to rock. And I start looking at my assignment.

#1: “bradycardia, s/p CV“. OK, he’s a walkie-talkie, fine.

#2: “synope” Again, OK, she looks like a walkie-talkie.

#3: “s/p CABG with AVR, post-op delirium and colitis.” Uh-oh…look a little further down the sheet on him, “mulitple loose stools, (c-diff – !)”
“Yep, could be fun but at least he doesn’t have c-dif,” I thought. Then I read a bit further, “Neuro: A & O x1-2, weak, 2+ assist up, left-sided weakness (new?), strict bedrest.” Now things were getting interesting.

#4: “sepsis, due to C-DIFF.” Yes, here it was the karmic retribution for the words so casually spoken the week before. “Neuro: confused and forgetful, A & O x1-2; Activity: up with 2+ max assist. GI/GU: foley, incont. of stool, 1 loose/mucoid stool.” That’s all of the report I needed. It was going to be one of those nights. Karmic payback.

The day nurse then told me, “Yeah, I d/c’d the flexi-seal yesterday.” I nod glumly, knowing that I would be spending quite a bit of time in the room that night.

So as the night evolved, I did the nursing thing. Checking briefs everytime I head into the room. 2100: still ok. 23:00: so far so good. 24:00, “awwww, hell naw”. Blow-out in #4….I felt like paging overhead, “clean-up on aisle three, clean-up on aisle three.” and clean-up we did. Nothing like a full-bed change blow-out session.

Then #3 rings, “yeah, I ate an apple, then I shit,” he says. That’s one of the things I love about old men, they’re so…well…honest. Clean him up. I’m out of the room less than 10 minutes, “Yeah,” as I answered the call-light,”I shit again.” And on, and on, and on. Cleaned him up 5 more times that night. The C-Diff lady? Nary a time after the blowout.

Fast forward to night #2. I still think I have poop on me somewhere. Even though I have new scrubs on and showered twice since being here. I can still sense it. Not really smell it, bu it more like sensing it, just out of conscious smell range, but there, like the lingering after scent of a bad bar night.

Same peeps. New issue though. Find out #3 has VRE. In his stool. That we had been cleaning for days on end. Without gowns. OK, so make that 2 peeps on contact precautions. And still pooping. Lots.

About midnight I call up Materials, “Hey, this is Wanderer up on 4. Can you send up some more of the big blue chux and another 4 or so packs of isolation gowns and a box of the peri-wipes? We’re going through them like they’re going out of style.”

And the battle continued. I think I singed off all of my olfactory nerve endings those 2 nights because I couldn’t smell anything when I go home in the morning. After I left each room, the smell no longer lingered, it’s like there was nothing for it to linger on. They were gone. Which I guess could be a good thing.

Onto Night 3.

Charge nurse (different on from the past 2 nights) hands me my assignment and says, “I took away #3 from you, it’s just not fair to have 2 isolation patients.”

“Uh. OK, I had them both last night…but I’m not going to complain.” I said. But in fact, it was worse. Instead of having 2 poopers, that I know well, and have kind of gotten used to their unique idiosyncrasies (i.e. smell), I get one and a new cast of characters.

In retrospect, it was OK. She was just spreading the love. Out of the 6 nurses on my particular side of the floor, everyone had at least 1 isolation patient, most were contact, for c-diff. So we all had the love that night.

But what did I learn?

Yes, never, ever, open your big mouth. Karma’s a bitch. Even though you know you’re due, just don’t say it. Let it go. Maybe you’ll stay free a little while longer.

That shoe covers are this year’s must have accessory!


And that I look good in yellow


  1. People say to me, “Why don’t you go into nursing?” And I say to them, “poo.” Granted, I often spend way more time than I would like to yanking clam chowder from the back of demented old peoples mouths, but at least I don’t have to deal with them from the diaphragm down.

    You have my sympathy and my infinite respect.

    Thanks. You’re right. I’ll take lung butter over poo anyday. Just comes with the territory.


  2. You need the calf-high boots we wear in the OR on trauma/vascular cases. And the white Tyvek suits we used on the ambulance. And an SCBA pack.

    And, probably, a stiff drink 🙂

    Indeed, boots/waders are a good idea. Stiff drink in hand as we speak…


  3. Why is it that so many nurses I talk to say they’d much rather deal with poop than snot? I’ll never understand that. Anyway, I’d much rather deal with snot and leave that other end to someone else.

    If it were up to me, I’d take snot over poop any day as well. We have a nurse on the floor…30 yrs.+ in the field who nearly faints if she has to do trach care. If I had my druthers, snot wins every time. Poop is just a bonus for the job!


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