Thursday, September 09, 2010

I met my Nurse Rached today

Nurse Mildred Ratched is the main antagonist from Ken Kesey's 1962 novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, as well as the 1975 film.

A cold, sadistic and passive-aggressive tyrant, Nurse Ratched has become the stereotype of the nurse as a battle axe. She has also become a popular metaphor for the corrupting influence of power and authority in bureaucracies such as the mental institution in which the novel is set.


In the novel

Nurse Mildred Ratched is the head administrative nurse at the Salem, Oregon State (Mental) Hospital, where she exercises near-absolute power over the patients' access to medications, privileges, and basic necessities such as food and toiletries. She capriciously revokes these privileges whenever a patient displeases her. Her superiors turn blind eyes because she maintains order, keeping the patients from acting out, either through antipsychotic and anticonvulsant drugs or her own brand of "therapy", which consists mostly of humiliating patients into doing her bidding. Her greatest success is the stuttering, suicidal Billy Bibbit, who is so terrified of her that he does whatever she says.

When Randle McMurphy arrives at the hospital, however, her dictatorial rule is nearly toppled: he flouts her precious rules with impunity, and inspires other patients to follow. Her attempts to cow him into submission — at first with threats and mild punishments, then with shock therapy — are unsuccessful, serving only to fuel his defiance.

Eventually McMurphy sneaks his prostitute girlfriend into the asylum, and encourages her to relieve Billy of his virginity. Ratched threatens to tell Billy's mother about the transgression. Since Billy fears his mother as much or more than he fears Ratched, the threat frightens him into committing suicide. Enraged, McMurphy attacks Ratched, and nearly chokes her to death.

In retribution, Ratched has McMurphy lobotomized. Another patient, Chief Bromden, the narrator of the book, later smothers McMurphy as a mercy killing. However, while Ratched's main antagonist has been removed, McMurphy has the last laugh, as her control over the other patients is gone, because he permanently damaged her vocal cords when he choked her, in effect destroying the primary tool she used to enforce her will. She can no longer speak, at least not very well, and often must write notes to communicate. With Ratched crippled, she can no longer intimidate the other patients, and the institution is saved.

It looks like I'll be moving to a new hospital today. This new one is just across the street and I have 'people' there too - it helps to work in the system. This new hospital is a rehabilitive one and I was supposed to meet with a representative yesterday to see if I qualified - too 'well' to be at this one, but not 'well' enough to go home. I knew things would be 'off' yesterday morning though when I first met the am nurse when she showed up for her shift around 6:30 shift. I adore the nurse/case managers I work for and this adoration is now spreading to the nursing staff here. They are wonderfully warm, caring people who manage to retain their dignity and patience and professionalism through some real tough times. But this nurse in particular yesterday didn't introduce herself - the first time that's happened in over the week I've been here. I knew there would be issues after the first intro:

Her: Debra, it's time to get up

Me: Actually, my name is really Kristie, My first name is Debra but I go by Kristie.

Her: But it says Debra on your chart.

Me: Yes, but I don't go by that name and if you call my by it, chances are I won't answer since I have'd used it since I was two -well over 50 years now.

Her: Well then, Kris,

Me: No, it's Kris-tie {thinking - don't fuckin' argue with me over my name at 0-7-00 in the fuckin' morning when I had about 2 hours sleep due to a patient melt down the night before that lasted most of the night!}

Anyway - later on in the morning, this occupational therapist said he would be back to see me and see how far I progressed. I pressed my call button and Nurse Rached came in and before I finished explaining that I wanted help cleaning up since I looked awful and smelled worse, muttered something and turned around and left!!

She came back about half an hour later but I didn't know was going to do this, and said, all right, let's get you clean and ready. Walk to the washroom/shower stall. (it's about 30 feet away)

Me: I haven't walked half that distance yet!!

Her: Well, your going to have to if you go to Parkwood. They won't let you just sit around.

Me: I know that, but I've been working with physiotherapists and we are just getting started. I haven't walked close to that far - it's not that I'm trying to get out of it I just haven't done it with the people I'm working with.

Her: Don't be silly. We have most of our patients walking a lot further than this by the second day.

Me: Smoke starting to come out my ears - fine, I'll try it, but I hope they don't come too soon after we are done, and I don't have the energy to show them what I can do since you've already tired me out.

I reached out for her arm to help steady myself, but she pulled it away, saying they won't allow me that kind of help at Parkwood, I manage to get on my feet and shuffle to the washroom/shower stall.

Then - doesn't she bloody stay and shower me!!! She wouldn't let me have help walking to it, but sitting down on the bench where I can do it myself, she's the one holding the shower head - and won't let go! And gets soap in my eyes.

Finally we are done, I'm back in my bare assed gown - oh - and I should say at this point she wanted us to start our journey while they guy was walking around the room picking up breakfast dishes and putting clean sheets and stuff away. These hospital gowns are BACKLESS and while a good deal of my natural dignity has had to go down the drain, that does NOT mean I want to moon the food guy!

I'm sitting, arms crossed in my gown in the bathroom and ask if she can please get the wheel chair I can get into once I walk to it - hey - I'm willing to cooperate.

Her: I don't know where it is.

Me: Well, perhaps you could look for it.

Her: They are going to make you walk at Parkwood

Me:(why are we going over this same conversation all over again???) Yes, I know - and I will be ready and willing to work, but right now I'm exhausted. I've walked twice as far as I have yet, I had a shower which took a lot out of me and I don't want to be overtired when they get here.

Her: Well, the least you could do is try it. And then if you can't make it, I'll look for the wheel chair.

Knowing this is as much as she'll concede, I say fine. About halfway there, I'm exhausted, my leg is hurting as much as it has since I've first arrived and my other leg is really starting to hurt. I stopped.

Her: what are you doing?

Me: I'm stopping. Really, I have reached the end. I can't breathe and I hurt all over.

It is at this point I realize Nurse Rached has no intention of helping me out. She is in a power game and she will not allow herself to loose. My only choices are to stand there or somehow hope I can dig deep into everything I have and make it. I have enough fury in me to make it. Then when I'm in bed, almost crying from pain she said,' see - you didn't need to get prissy!'

I thought my room mate was going to see me commit murder if I hadn't bee so exhausted. Honestly - I NEVER get that mad.

Oh - and bitch spiked my medication. She slipped me an enema pill that kicked in at the end of the day and kept me on the toilet for over an hour. Mind you, I felt mighty cleansed after.

And the physio people showed up about 1/2 an hour after Nurse Rached left the room and I couldn't do what I needed to to. Thankfully they gave me credit for the morning's workout and came back again in the afternoon and I did very well they said. The physiotherapist gave me an orange popsicle and said only her best patients got popsicles.


Bibliophile said...

At least you can take revenge by writing about her here.

farmwifetwo said...

I gave birth to my eldest son in that hospital... they are no more polite on the maternity ward... 3am (born just before midnight) after him slammed off my hip with their drugs for 8 hrs (ignorant there too) and a c-section, hooked up to IV's and catheters "Hey, kid's hungry are you going to nurse or is there milk in the fridge" WT??? The next 4 days IMO didn't improve.

They were nice in the children's day surgery for both though...

You do have to walk as much as possible. Truth is it'll hurt more in the long run... I managed until about 3pm before it started screaming and was finally civil again around 7pm when the drugs and sitting kicked in. But it does heal faster.

I can't get there this week, but if you're still in Parkwood the week of the 20th I can take her up. Next week I'm gone to NC.

Email me.

Heather D said...

Geez Kristi, I am so sorry that your nurse was so awful. You definitely have me never wanting to spend a day in the hospital!!!

LVLM(Leah) said...

Heh, I would have called her Nurse Ratched to her face. She couldn't get your name right and she was just rude. Simply. The whole time.

You can encourage people without getting nasty.

Hopefully it will be better in your new place. Lucky she was the only one. But one can be such a negative experience.

Jennifer U said...

Kristie - Please tell me you reported her to the charge nurse. I was in the hospital for 12 weeks because my twins tried to come early. About 2 weeks into my stay, I had a nurse who did not bring my medication on time, did not come to do any of the monitoring of the babies until after midnight, and refused to give me the sleeping medication my doctor had prescribed. I could hear her badmouthing me in the hallway to the other nurses when I reminded her for the fifth time about my medication. I was in tears because I was so stressed out about trying to keep my babies inside and my nurses were the one thing I could count on. I called and reported her to the charge nurse. When the charge nurse arrived, she promised never to allow that nurse near me again and gave me her cell number in case anything like that ever happened again. She told me to always let the charge nurse know if there is anything wrong with the care you receive.

I'm sorry she was so evil. I never want to wish anyone bad things, but maybe someday, the roles will be reversed and she'll find herself in your circumstances.

Wishing you a speedy recovery!

Anna Carrasco Bowling said...

I'm sorry you had to have such a downright awful nurse. Do report her to the charge nurse. If she's like that with one patient, she's like that with others.

Keep speaking up for what you need and take care of yourself.

Tracy said...

Kristie I'm so sorry to hear about your leg and the whole horrible experience! I'm glad you're on the mend.

Nurse Ratched needs a severe attitude adjustment! Sorry you have to put up with the bitchy woman!

Tumperkin said...

What a cow.

CindyS said...

What Tumperkin said.


Marg said...

I am so far behind on blog hopping I am only just finding out that you broke your leg!

And to make it worse you have to deal with nurses like this one!

Wishing you a speedy recovery, and hopefully your nurse Ratched won't have to look after you again while you are there.

Marcella said...

Let's hope she doesn't transfer to a different hospital with you! ;)
I've been in hospital quite a few times in two different countries, but luckily never came across a nurse like that.

I'd bake a cake for you or bring you flowers, but alas, it's a bit far so I just wish you strength.

Kwana said...


I have been blog MIA for a while and I'm just catching up. I'm so sorry about your accident and all you are going through. I hope you are better soon. How painful for you.
And this nurse. Yes give as good as you get and report her. Don't take any crap from her. UGH!

Feel better quick. My thoughts are with you.

nath said...

OMG, Kristie! Hopefully, you won't even see her again and the nurse at Parkwood will be more amiable ^_^;

Some ladies are just not meant to be nurses...

orannia said...

I've been offline for a bit - I think you showed great restraint. I'm with nath - some people are not meant to be in healthcare.