Nurses Commuting by Bike

I got this comment on my Scrubs are My Uniform post and thought it needed a full post to reply:


I found your blog when I was searching for nurses who commute to work via bicycle. I am considering giving this a try. I live 2.5 miles from the hospital that I work at, but I am concerned about riding in my scrubs. (I guess this post is somewhat on topic of your blog entry). I don’t think it would be very smart to ride in scrubs seeing as how they are my professional attire and I don’t want to damage them. What would be best to ride in? I don’t want to show up at the hospital in tight spandex… but I need something that will help me sweat less.

Thanks for your help!

I’ve never felt qualified to give advice on my blog, it’s an aversion to taking a stand maybe.  But on this topic I have more than a little experience.  I’ve been commuting by bike for the last 4 years.  While it hasn’t been full time for the last year, it’s been rather frequent.  A caveat here though:  I do not bike the entire ride to work.  I’m not going to ride 13+ miles then work a 12-hour shift on the floor, just not that fit.  Yet.  I ride anywhere from 1-3 miles (depending on weather, how I feel etc.) to catch a light rail train then a mile or so on the other end.  But I’ve done it in every kind of weather.  Rain, snow, howling winds, >100 degrees <10 degrees, have suffered through it all, and loved it.  Enough of my cred though…

Yes, riding in scrubs is a bad idea.  They are not built for athletic excursions and depending on weather conditions, not very versatile either.  This doesn’t mean you have to go full on spandex kit either.

Full kit and Hardcore.

There is nothing wrong with plain old shorts and a t-shirt.  During the summer months it’s what I ride in.  I do wear bike shorts underneath the regular shorts to alleviate chafing and add a little extra padding which is especially nice when I decide to go for a ride on the way home.  I stay cool enough in that and don’t end up looking like a superhero.  Winter/Fall commuting is a whole other can of worms which deserves a full post as well.

There are complications though.  First, sweat.  Starting the shift sweaty isn’t the best, in fact it really sucks.  In the depth of the Summer when it is 80+ I sweat heavily.  Let’s face it:  I’m a big sweaty guy.  There are wipes out there that some folks use, but I use water and paper towels in the restroom at work.  And I carry deodorant in my bag.  Second issues is hauling your stuff.  I started using a backpack, graduated to a messenger bag, back to a back pack and now use panniers.  Besides a sweat issue where the bag meets the back, the bags did a number on my back that went away when I started using a pannier.  I abused the Banjo Brothers Waterproof Pannier into submission and ended up replacing it with ones from Ortlieb.  There is enough room to carry my scrubs, wallet, keys, cell phone, afore-mentioned deodorant, lunch with room to spare.  I use the restroom to change on arrival, so I have to build in extra time for the commute to allow for this.  With clean scrubs, a quick towel off and a swipe of deodorant you will smell better than 99% of your patients and maybe some of your co-workers.

The benefits of commuting by bike outweigh the complications.  I get exercise.  I get some alone time before and after my shift.  Sure you get that in a car, but you’re dealing with traffic, right?  I have had absolutely heinous shifts where I’m ready to quit nursing and by the end of my ride home, I’m decompressed and OK with the world and my job again.  I highly recommend it.

Here are some other links about bicycle commuting:

Commute by Bike.  Great site, has a Commuting 101 series which is a great read for those starting out.

Bike  Another site dedicated to those giving up the car commute.

Both of these sites have extensive sets of links for even more information and community building.

Yehuda Moon and the Kickstand Cyclery.  A funny webcomic to keep things light.

Lastly, just go for it.  Try it and see how it goes as that is the only surefire way to know.  Have fun!

For the Ears and the Squishy Organ Between Them

I like podcasts, but it seems like I don’t have enough time to listen to them.  Call it an inability to plan well, structure my time well, or more that I just like to listen to music when I exercise/commute.  When I do sit down to catch up, I flagellate myself to “keep up” but that doesn’t last for long.  The great thing about podcasts is the ability to learn whilst doing nothing.  Yes kids, learn.  Y’know, ingest, digest and evaluate new information to improve one’s knowledge thereby increasing our abilities.  Now there are podcasts not of that sort and are pure entertainment, which are just as good, but I like the ones that impart new information.

Here’s a short list of what I’ve been trying listening to.

Mark Crislip, “because the world needs more Mark Crislip”.  He’s an ID doc within my hospital system and is downright hysterical, but informative.  He has 2 that I really recommend in his media empire.

First, Gobbet o’ Pus.  Brief snippets about infectious diseases with a certain twisted sense of humor.

Second, Quackcast.  Yup, a dissection of alternative medicine.  He has no qualms about calling people dumbasses, especially here.

He’s my favorite right now.

Here are some other worthy contenders:

ICU Rounds.  Dr. Jeffery Guy’s series about ICU patients and what ails them.

Nursing Show Online.  by Jamie Davis the Podmedic. Nursing stuff, brief bites.

And I just found this one thanks to iTunes:  Freakonomics Radio.  Take the ideas from the book and make a podcast out of it.  Brilliant.

That’s all for now.  Happy listening!

Five for Friday

This Friday it’s five songs that have been in heavy rotation on my iPod.  Enjoy!

Dada – Dizz Knee Land.  Too funny, 8 years after the sing originally came out we were still singing “I just flipped off President George!”

Cake – Sheep go to Heaven, Goats go to Hell.  Guess I’m a goat…

Less Than Jake – Johnny Quest (Thinks We’re Sellouts!)  I think I have 3 versions of this song on my iPod right now for some reason and each one is different.

Cherry Poppin Daddies – Irish Whiskey

But instead I’ll
Hang in there and suffer with the rest
I’m a drunk and a sentimental man, so –
Dust us off a bottle of your best
Irish whiskey and drink with me
To departed friends…
To departed friends…

Bad Religion – Let Them Eat War

Great song, great band.  I always get extra pumped when this song comes on while riding.

At least this will take my mind off of things when I visit the GI doc…

The Couch That Nearly Killed Me

Look at it.  So comfortable.  It’s just sitting there beckoning you into its well worn cushions.  “Come, sit with me.  Be a lazy bum.”

Well that’s what I did.  I listened to it.  I plopped my ever-expanding ass right on it.  Remote control or game controller in hand I spent more time here than just about anywhere in the last 7 months.  Sure, I went to work, did household chores and lived life, but always ended up back here.  I knew that it wasn’t the best choice, but it was the easiest.

We get our post-open heart patients up and moving about on post-op day 1 and many times they are dangling at the bedside 18 hours post-surgery.  We get total hips up in the same manner.  Why?  It has been shown that muscles lose mass within 7 days in a hospital setting.  And we all know that the typical sedentary lifestyle of the American public causes obesity, fecal incontinence, diabetes, heart disease, loss of value on one’s house, cancer, impotence, heart attacks and all sorts of other bad things.

Prior to January of this year, I commuted by bike and train everyday.  It wasn’t a lot of riding, but enough to help me feel better and lose some weight.  I had been doing it for almost three years and was feeling better than I had felt in years.  Then I got sick with a nasty winter cold and worse, got a new car.

I felt like crap and I could drive to work.  How was this a bad thing?  And at the worst part of the year.  No riding in pouring cold windy weather.  Getting home and being in bed by when I used to only get home.  This was a good thing.  I dismissed the idea that this might not be best for me physically, that the riding had kept me somewhat fit.  And as the scale rose with each successive doctor visit, I played it off as something else.  It was the steroids, or the anti-depressants, or the buffet I had gone to the night before not realizing the lack of true physical activity as I drove  everyday.

Today I threw a leg over the old steed to take back a movie.  It was a short easy ride, something I would have done before without any stress.  Not today.  Legs and arms were burning, short of breath, side-ache and plain old miserable.  I could hardly walk upstairs to the main floor when I got back.  And it’s not like I was riding balls-out trying to set records.  I was way out of shape.  Call it an eye-opening moment of realization, self-awareness.

Now I know I need to get back on the bike.  Continuing to live like this will turn me into my father (who looks like Santa) and in the long run, kill me.  I can’t let that happen.  I’m not going to let the couch win this time.

The Work Week in Quotes

Some weeks are better than others.  But what can turn a bad week into a decent week is the things patients and your co-workers say.

“So is this one of them vibratin’ beds” asked the extremely odd dude being admitted.  “No sir, we don’t have Magic Fingers in the hospital.” replied his nurse.

“So, is he in sinus?” asked the nurse on getting report on a patient who is known to be in atrial fib after being told that the rate is in the 40’s.  “Yes,” replied the other nurse, “he’s in sinus, but it’s really irregular.”  Patient comes up in afib.

And my favorite for the week…

“Sorry, we’re all out of Dilaudid.  How about a lollipop?”  What we wished we could say to the obvisouly drug-seeking patient who thought they were staying at the Hilton and we were nothing but Pez dispensers of IV pain medication.

Forget much?

I have to admit, if I had to choose between an asshole drunk and a pleasantly confused elder, it’s a no-brainer.  Yeah, they may be forgetful, even a bit daffy, but those pleasantly confused LOLs crack me up.  They’re a hoot to work with, and like kids, they say the darndest things…

The other night a colleague of mine had taken one of our LOLs to the bathroom.  They definitely were in the pleasantly confused arena, but like many folks with dementia had moments of true lucidity that shock you.  He gets her to the bathroom and reminds her to pull the call cord when she was ready to head back to bed.  She looks him dead in the eye and says, “I’m going to forget to do that, you know.”

Sure enough, she did.

New Guilty Pleasure

Let me preface by saying that I’ve lived in towns where Walmart was pretty much the only place to shop and I derived hours and hours of enjoyment while sampling their fine, low-cost, American-made products.  Further more, I find it amusing how there are a great many people in the People’s Republic of Portland who would rather die that shop in Walmart (actual quote folks).  They have obviously never lived where there is not much of a choice.

One thing I always enjoyed about the store was the never-ending parade of WTF? moments.  Seriously, I’ve never seen so many weird/odd/straight out fucked up people as I have while shopping at Walmart.  Hell, that’s half the fun some days!  In the same vein as “Look at this fucking hipster” and “This is why you’re fat” I present my newest guilty pleasure:  The People of Walmart.

It’s only funny because it’s true.