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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Hold Everything Lightly #12 {Not A Bad Start Really}

This is a re-write, of sorts, from a memorable prison episode I wrote about here in February of 2010. It has strong adult content. Click off if you cannot handle that. It is about my first day as a mental health nurse in a state prison.

 A nurse needs to choose her attitude.
 Whether to cry, laugh, or fall into the depths of despair. When I transferred to work at a different state prison it was never mentioned that I would be the mental health nurse on the weekend. I would be the only one in charge of all the psychiatric inmates. Also, I was in charge of staffing just to keep it interesting.
 The prison had four crisis stabilization beds. Which means inmates who are suicidal, unstable, or terribly mentally ill are placed there. Some of them are cutters and have been stitched up and they rip out the sutures routinely. Sometimes they are naked and tied with leather restraints to a mattress. Sometimes they are naked because they want to be (they have paper gowns). An officer checks them every fifteen minutes. The nursing and medical staff checks them frequently as well. Needless to say it is full on electrified chaos. There are an additional twelve step-down crisis beds in another building the mental health staff supervises. The mental health inmate population in this prison averaged around six hundred inmates. The weekend RN can be called to see any of them at any time.
The first weekend I had to work I did have the wisdom to insist that another RN orient me. I had never had mental health training outside of college. Any RN with as many years of experience as I had does have some mental health experience. But still......

My first day, a Saturday, a frequent flyer was there. Let's call him Derrick. He was twenty years old. White, deathly so, as he had not seen the sun in many many months. His favorite distraction was self stimulation. Most inmates do this but Derrick had achieved a special status as a master at this among the staff. Dr. Tice, seventy years old, said one day that he almost envied Derrick this ability. We laughed ourselves silly at our sweet Dr. Tice saying that. I was being oriented by Linda, a RN, a character herself. We walked back to that CSU first thing. I said hello to Derrick through the thick prison glass. He said " Shut the Hell Up You White Motherfiiing Bitch" and threw urine under the three inch space in the door onto my white shoes. I don't recall what I said to him at that moment. I did back out and clean my shoes. Linda was howling with laughter. She said that was typical and not a bad start really. Really? That was when I had to decide on my attitude. I laughed and laughed.
Then I called Joe and he laughed with me, at me, and for me.

The remainder of that day was uneventful. I learned that everything done for the mental health patients had to be written in triplicate. That right there was worse than Derrick by far. Linda and I walked out those six locked gates with satisfaction because we finished on time after that massive stack of nursing documentation and our patients did not hurt themselves, us, or anybody else. Unexpectedly Joe was sitting in the parking lot on his big motorcycle, he took off his helmet, smiled handsomely and said
"I'm here for my Bitch."

"Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts, when God pries your fingers open."
---Corrie Ten Boom 1892-1983

joy and peace


  1. Joe really is a winner - good for him.

    I, ahem, I can't imagine...

  2. Oh no, pee on the first day? I'm glad you chose to laugh. I would think if you had chosen the despair route then it might have been a long, long road that would spill out into your personal life. Better to make light of it at work and be able to come home to a smiling Joe.

  3. Dear Olive - it takes someone unique to deal with working situations like that, and also to be able to keep your own humour and sanity intact. I knew you were a special blogging friend.

  4. Bless Joe - like Melissa says - he's a winner. I used to work in a care home a few years ago. One sweet old gentleman used to pee in his waste paper basket. Of course it was my job among other things to tidy up the rooms and empty the waste paper baskets etc. The first time I emptied the basket, lifting it with gusto into the black dustbin bag I gasped in horror as the contents splashed out and soaked my open toe sandals with you know what. I was very cautious in future :)

  5. A heavy duty job, Olive. Thanks for doing it.

  6. Oh My, the stories you could tell.....I would have been too creeped out to set foot inside.

  7. Olive, Some times we have to hang tough when we want to cry. I can only imagine the agony of seeing those people and no training. I have a feeling you are one really strong lady. Smiles, Susie

  8. Olive, you are a jewel. You kept your cool, you kept your humor and I'm glad Joe was there for you.

  9. Olive, I've known and just sort of knew you were a tough cookie! You are one amazing woman with so much strength of character. Your dear Joe, a real keeper!

    Hugs, dear friend,

  10. Oh my! That sounds like one heck of a job.


  11. Gosh Olive, I certainly don't envy you that particular job! I would think that hanging onto your sense of humour would be essential, otherwise you would get quite depressed by it all. I imagine you're glad that you're not doing that job any more.

  12. Oh Honey, I'm laughing my "socks" off. Good for Joe!!

  13. You have a great attitude about the inmates..I would have fainted!!

    Love what Joe said! True love!
    Laughter really is the best medicine!

  14. Thank God there are
    courageous souls like
    yours who are willing to
    work in prison with these
    patients. I'm not sure if
    I'd have been laughing, or

    xo Suzanne

  15. You got a gem in that Joe :)


  16. Olive, I have been gone for a few days and missed this priceless post. Your Joe is fabulous! Thank God there are wonderful human beings like your hubby.

  17. Your sense of humor and your patience are gifts.

    Joe's comment when he picked you up that day cracks me up.

    I came here via Deb's blog Just Cats.

    Have a great week.


  18. Just catching up with this one. Humor will always save you and of course a handsome man on a motorcycle too. Bless you for working with these people, many who are very ill, misunderstood and frightening to most people on the outside. What a life you've lived (so far) Olive. Ann

  19. What a test that was for you. Good for Joe for laughing with you. You are a special lady.


I adore your comments. They are like finding unexpected chocolates. olive