Tuesday, August 28, 2007


If you tell a joke in the woods and no one is around to hear it -- was it still funny?

I have a problem. Well, I have a lot of problems, but one in particular will drive this post.

I really like my job. Like, I really like it. I like it in the way they make movies about people who really like their jobs. My only complaint is that my coworkers, by and large, though wonderfully giving, talented and skilled professionals -- lack any semblance of a sense of humor. I tell jokes, I get confused looks, crickets chirping and then the pity laugh. This could be all about THEM -- in that they have no sense of humor. Or, I'm big enough to suggest that it could be all about ME -- in that I'm not as funny as I think I am. But let's be honest, that's not possible. I'm pretty damned funny.

However, in the few months that I have been at work, I have made hospital-humor jokes that have fallen on deaf, unfunny, PITY LAUGH ears. I have learned to curb my jokes -- which is kind of like holding back a sneeze. It doesn't come out as hard as it would have, but it hurts and your nose gets tinglie.

So I turn to you, my blogging buddies. I have to let out the funny. Please, don't feel obligated to laugh on my account.

1) The majority of my patient-load is geriatric. And when you've lived a long time, your body starts to show the wear of the years and the scars of your past adventures. Like most industries, things come in phases. Some weeks it's all about the poorly controlled diabetics. Or it's patients who don't speak a lick of English. Or it's poo. For the past few weeks, completely regardless of diagnosis, my patients have, for the most part, been missing all of or part of a single finger. Seriously. I have never seen so many 1-finger-short-of-a-high-five cases in my life. And really, it's such a minor observation when, say, they appear to be breathing through two lumps of coal and cigarette ash that were once called "lungs". Details like partial digits missing gets overlooked. So I have found myself coming out of patient rooms and commenting to my fellow nurses: "Hey, did you see that he's missing his entire ring finger?" or "So he apparently lost 3 toes and most of his middle finger in a mine accident."

THE UNTOLD JOKE: "I noticed he was missing a finger. I shook out the sheets and looked under the bed for it but I can't find it. Did he have it last night at change of shift? Think he'll sue?"

2) The proper title to my floor is : Medical Telemetry with a Renal Focus. Sure does pack a wordy punch, huh. None of you have any idea what I do anymore, do you. In any case, in addition to the elder folk, we get a fair amount of transplants. Transplants doing well, transplants on the brink and the organ-formerly-known-as-a-transplant. All of these patients at the time of transplant take oceans of expensive pills everyday for the rest of their lives. One of those pills is an "anti-rejection" pill that does just that -- prevents the body from kicking the new organ out of the abdominal-party. Because I'm new I frequently find myself on the buzzer holding end of a nurse quiz show by my bosses and new hire managers. The process makes me feel incredibly awkward and so I usually try to distract them with jokes they don't laugh at. Strangely, it works. While discussing the functionality and pharmakinetics of anti-rejection meds, I commented:

THE TOLD JOKE: "Anti-rejection meds. Huh. Too bad they're so expensive. I knew a lot of kids in highschool who could have really benefited from such a pill." *insert pause, slow understanding and then a slight pity laugh*

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