The Field Trip When my MD Could Not Fill the Shoes of an RN

It reminded me of the time, some years back, when I inadvertently found myself “impersonating” a nurse for a school field trip. And soon found myself in way over my head.

Years ago, our family was new in town. When my child’s teacher found out I worked in health care, she asked if I would help out on the three-day, out-of-town, multi-class field trip. “We need someone to act as the nurse for the trip.”

I cringed inwardly, thinking of all the “four times daily” inpatient medication orders I’d blithely signed off on over the years. Note to self: always try to find an alternative with a less frequent dosing schedule if possible.

Finally, at the end of the first day, we arrived at our destination for the night. The kids would set up with their sleeping bags in the gym, and, bless them, the community center had provided cots for the parents and teachers.

Oh, right. I was the “nurse.” I had another moment of inward cringing as I recalled all the times on rounds I’d summoned a nurse because of emesis and then moved on to see my next patient.

I followed the teacher into the bathroom and tended to the child, who thankfully appeared well and told us she felt much better now. I took her temperature and sent her back to bed before retreating to my own cot. But mere minutes after my eyes had closed, there was a parent at my bedside. “Nurse…”

In the end, I realized the only thing my physician training helped me with was my ability to function the next day on little sleep.

I kept to the schedule in the binder and administered the medications, checking off my boxes. Another skill I had learned in internship.

You see, back at introductions the morning of the trip, I had identified myself to the other parents as “the nurse.” In my head, the words had quotes around them. It would turn out the other parents hadn’t picked up on this, as, in general, air quotes aren’t audible.

After a few minutes on the phone, my colleague assured me the child was likely fine, and this wasn’t an initial presentation of childhood lymphoma. I hung up and turned back to the child and their parent. But before I could say anything, they were halfway back to their tent.

“I didn’t appreciate enough everything that nurses do.”

While this story is a lighthearted anecdote, my larger purpose is to honor the wisdom, caring, and leadership of our highly skilled nurse colleagues. May 6 marked the start of National Nurses Week, so I hope this story served as a reminder to take extra time to recognize our nurse colleagues, many of whose daily work goes unsung.

originally published on Doximity’s Op-Med



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