Oh Patients, My Patience

Dumb nigger, faggot, faggot, faggot, uncle Tom, dick eater, lanky fucking faggot and wanna be white boy are just a few of the flattering comments I expect to hear from patients in the emergency department. The best part is when I’m sitting with one of said patients on a 1:1 and they’re making threats to whoop my faggot ass or catch me in the parking lot. Sometimes they make demands that I accost nurses walking by us and then grow furious when I don’t “tell shawty she got a fat ass.”

Apparently, there is a such thing as a code of conduct at Einstein but it’s up to interpretation. By that I mean it greatly depends on who is in charge of the offending patient. Sometimes, there is an attending who, at the first escalation of disrespect will warn, and then have a patient removed from the department. Other times, it may take dodging a little spit to the face or being pissed on before the decision is made. To be clear, these are not all psych patients.

However, sometimes the fisticuffs are brought out unexpectedly. In my less than ten years working in healthcare it has become normal to see nursing staff get injured, or at minimum attacked by patients even when the assault is foreseeable. In spite of this, I tend to keep my composure.

But there was this one time. This one fucking time that I came so close to crossing a professional boundary with a patient that I balled my fist so tightly that I sprained a finger. All of the expected symptoms were there, the constant cursing, the ever popular challenging of manhood, the threats, the loud rapping of shitty music. All of those things you just can’t help but grow to love, except this time the guy reminded me of my uncle. An uncle that I hadn’t seen in a very long time, one whom, like most of the men in the family spent plenty of time calling me a faggot as a kid. Stood as a representation of what it is I was expected to be: filthy, drunk, addicted, sexually dimorphic in all of the wrong ways. It was one of those rare moments where I had to admit that the reason I was so damn angry was some Freudian circumstance that I would normally invalidate with logic.

Thing is, admitting how angry I was and why really helped. As did the fact that co-workers somehow thought I had saint-like patience. I took it as a step in the right direction for concealing my rage from others, while still admitting, still beginning, to reconcile with it for myself.

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