Am I old yet?

A coworker of mine reminded me recently that 2012 will mark my tenth year at Sunnydale General (Healthcare for the Hellmouth). Reader's Digest called me a "long-time" nurse. Doctors refer to me as "experienced."

So am I an Old Nurse?

I would argue not, and this is why: Old Nurses are people who still know how to work stuff you only heard about in nursing school, and who remember techniques and tricks (and are willing to teach them to you!) that you've never even considered.

Take Wendy, one of the nurses I work with. She's not an old nurse, having been a nurse for only slightly longer than I have--but she's an Old Nurse. She can count drip rates and work them out to milliliters per hour, having worked in rural hospitals. She can make a mean hot pack. She knows how to access the really bizarre permanent catheters that we sometimes see. She doesn't remember the days when pneumocephalus was induced as a diagnostic tool, but she's done stuff--like reducing dislocated shoulders--that I've only read about. In fiction.

On the opposite side of the coin, I was a New Nurse with eight years' experience under my belt when I went to the CCU. No matter how good you are at one thing, if you move to another, you're automatically a novice. That's not a particularly comfortable role to inhabit, but it does do wonders for an overblown ego and a sense of entitlement. At the same time you're being humbled, however, you're being encouraged to ask "Why?" (That is, if you don't work in a bad environment.) "Why?" is one of the most important questions we can ask on a daily basis; it's the only one that leads to changes and improvements in care.

So, no, I'm not an Old Nurse. Not yet. At this rate, I may never *be* an Old Nurse. Although, I will say--my willingness to get post-op patients up out of bed without waiting for physical therapy has gotten shocked, admiring reactions from CCU nurses.

If I ever do get to Old Nurse status, I want to be asking "Why?" still. Those are the best sort of Old Nurses to have around.