The summer between my junior and senior year of nursing school I worked as an apprentice nurse on a Med/Surg floor. One of my most memorable days on that floor was not memorable because of the patient, but rather his wife.
After report was over, I beebopped myself in to Mr. Jones' and Mr. Smith's room. Mr. Smith was downstairs having a fem-pop bypass. Mr. Jones and his wife were waiting for him to get called down for his surgery.
"Good morning. I'm Dixie. I'm a nursing student and I'm working with Nurse Ann today. Is there anything I can do for you?"
Mrs. Jones immediately lays into me.
"Yes, I want my husband in a private room. I called this hospital 3 months ago and reserved a private room for my husband. Not only did he not get a private room, he was assigned to a room with a black man!"
"I understand that you are unhappy with your husband's room assignment. The hospital does not take 'reservations' for private rooms, rather you may request a private room. If one is not available you will be placed in a semi-private room until a private room is available. I will be happy to put you on the list for a private room. Additionally, room assignments are not made based on race. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
"Not right now, just make sure you put our name on the list for a private room."
"Consider it done. I'll be back in a little while to check on you Mr. Jones."
I finish checking on patients and find Nurse Ann (who happens to be black) to give her an update on our patients and find out what she needs me to do.
"I put Mr. Jones on the list for a private room. His wife is VERY unhappy that he is in a semi-private room."
"Thanks, I'll be by to check on him in a minute. Please let him know that his surgery is scheduled for 11:00am."
So, I head back to Mr. Jones' room.
"Mr. Jones, I have put you on the list for a private room. Nurse Ann asked me to tell you that your surgery is scheduled for 11:00am. She'll be in to see you in a few minutes. Is there anything else I can do for you?"
Again Mrs. Jones lays into me.
"I walked down the hall and there is an empty private room 3 doors down. Why can't we have that one? I did call 3 months in advance to reserve a private room."
"Yes ma'am there is an empty private room a few doors down. That is an isolation room. It has a special air system in it. We are required to keep one isolation room open if possible in case we get a patient who needs it. We can not put a non-isolation patient in that room."
"But I reserved a private room............and my husband is in here with a black man......and waaaaaaaa........why can't we have that room?"
"As I explained, that room is for patients who require special isolation. It is not a regular private room. It is reserved for patients who have contagious diseases like TB or patients who have a very low immunity because of chemotherapy."
At this point Nurse Ann walks in and wants to know what the problem is. I explain the problem, and she reiterates what I have just said to Mrs. Jones.
I can see the anger in Mrs. Jones' eyes. Not only is her husband in the room with a black man, his nurse is black. I fully expect her to ask for another nurse, but surprisingly, she doesn't.
Finally around 11:00 Mr. Jones goes down for his surgery and I know that I'm going to have a few hours of peace while Mrs. Jones is downstairs in the surgery waiting room. Oh NO. She decides to wait in his room where she can see patients coming and going. Every time she sees a patients who appears to be going home she finds me and asks me if that person was in a private room and if her husband can have the room. I try to avoid her as much as possible. But, Mr. Smith comes back to the floor from having his surgery and he has to be checked on frequently.
Mr. Smith is one of the nicest, quietest patients I have ever had. He has no visitors making noise, he doesn't turn the TV on, he even speaks in a quite voice. A person could not ask for a better roommate.
I have been checking on him about every 15 minutes to check for bleeding. I go to check on him again and the bed is RED. I hit the call button and say that Mr. Smith has some heavy bleeding and I need a nurse, fast.
As I'm putting pressure on his leg to slow the bleeding I hear from the other side of the curtain, "Miss, the remote isn't working on this TV. Can you go get me another one?"
"Mrs. Jones, I am busy with Mr. Smith. I'll get you a new remote when I get a chance."
"But I want to watch TV now. Can't you stop what you are doing and get me another one."
I'm trying REALLY hard not tell the stupid racist selfish bitch to shut her pie hole.
"No. As a matter of fact I CAN NOT stop what I'm doing. You are just going to have to wait."
Luckily the calvary comes a few seconds later to help me with Mr. Smith.
The last room I go to at the end of my shift is Mr. Jones' room.
I looked right at Mrs. Jones and said, "By the way, I'm married to a black man."
It wasn't true, I wasn't even married, but the look on her face was priceless.